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Presentation to Botany Bay Program Meeting

8 November 2000

Issues of Concern - Kurnell Peninsula

H1 site

The site is an abandoned sandmining pit which, since sandmining ceased on the site in the 1980s, has formed into a deep saline lake. The site is approximately 14 ha. The land is currently owned by DUAP but the future of the site has been uncertain for a number of years.

In April 2000, the RTA identified 'H1' as a possible site for creation of compensatory habitat for wetlands in Rockdale which were 'compromised' by the construction of the M5 East motorway. Under the RTA plan, approximately 2 hectares of wader habitat is being created along the shores of the lake. This involved some clearing of vegetation and some infilling of the lake's shoreline.

A new weir will allow better tidal flushing from Woolooware Bay.

Once completed, eventually the RTA would like to transfer ownership of the site to NPWS. However this is still somewhat uncertain because any transfer to NPWS as an annex to Towra Point Nature Reserve may depend on maintenance costs and on whether the area becomes a functioning habitat for migratory birds. This might not be clear for another 3-5 years.

Sharks Development

The Sharks Leagues Club will lodge a DA with Council in the coming months for a development consisting of 300 units, 60 serviced apartments, leisure centres, and commercial premises adjacent to Woolooware Bay and in close proximity to Towra. This development is of concern as it may set a precedent for the rest of Southern Botany Bay. We are urging Sutherland Shire Council to check rigorously the environmental impacts.

H6 - Australand Site

The H6 site is one of the most controversial sites on the Kurnell Peninsula. It has had a chequered history and is still the subject of widespread community and environmental concern. The site has been extensively sandmined during the last 40 years. What remains on the site is open space, a number of ponds and, whilst much of the dune system has been depleted, one large surviving exposed dune.

In 1999 owners of the site, Australand, lodged a proposal to establish 350 residential dwellings and 150 aged care units on their site as well as, we understand, a similar number of medium density units on the adjacent Breen-owned property. Australand lodged their rezoning and development applications to Council in late 1999. Council rejected the proposal and voted to pursue an alternate environmentally-focussed rezoning. Under the Australand plan an existing pond in which the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog had been observed, is to be filled under the proposal. The size and prominence of the dune will be diminished by about 8m. The development is prohibited under the zoning and, given the proximity to Towra, may trigger new Federal legislation.

The recent astonishing intervention of DUAP Minister Andrew Refshauge in stripping Sutherland Shire Council of its power as consent authority for the Australand development, and instituting a rezoning to facilitate the residential development, was done with no consultation with either Council or the community. The Minister's action will be strongly criticised by Sutherland Shire Council at the weekend's LGSA Conference.

Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant

In February 1999, work began to upgrade the plant which will improve the quality of effluent discharged at Potter Point.

The capacity of the plant will also be increased allowing the plant to fully treat 3 times dry weather flow. Sewage will be tertiary treated and UV disinfected to non-potable re-use standard. It will be complete in April 2001. The area around the outfall at Potter Point has been degraded for many years and some rehabilitation has taken place as part of the upgrade. An improved access road and car park were completed in September 2000.

There are a number of concerns however. In April 2000, work was halted on the new pipeline when it was revealed that sections of Kurnell Dune Forest had been cleared. Kurnell Dune Forest has been listed as an Endangered Ecological Community under the Threatened Species Conservation Act.

During the upgrade it was decided that the overflow pond, Keegans Lake, in which the Green and Golden Bell frog was observed, was to be filled and capped. This thereby meant that existing frog habitat was compromised. Compensatory habitat will be created but will take time to become fully functional.

The capacity has also been an issue. According to estimates the newly upgraded plant will need to be expanded in less than 10 years. This is due primarily to the rising Sutherland Shire population which is predicted to be 224,000 by 2010 and the increase in flows as a result of the connection of new suburbs such as Bundeena and Maianbar.

Towra Point Nature Reserve

Towra Point Nature Reserve is the most important wetland in the Sydney region. It is listed as a Ramsar site of international conservation significance and is one of the most important breeding sites for the endangered Little Tern on the Australian east coast.

Amongst the issues requiring attention are beach erosion, disjointed reserve boundaries, illegal access (horses, trailbikes, boats), weeds, lack of 'whole-of-wetland-system' management and lack of necessary funds and resources for NPWS.

Kurnell Landfill

Kurnell Landfill is located in the former sand extraction areas owned by Breen's Consolidated Developments. The Landfill handles thousands of tonnes of construction and demolition waste from the Inner Sydney area each year.

As a condition of consent, the Landfill is required to undertake regular groundwater monitoring and provide the results every 3 months to Council and to the NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation. According to Council reports in October, evidence of off-site migration of organic pollutants from the Landfill was detected. Movement of these pollutants was in the direction of Towra which has confirmed many people's concerns about the potential impacts of this landfill.

Sandmining

Sandmining is one of the major issues on the Kurnell Peninsula. After the election of the current Council in September 1999, and in response to community and environmental concern, moves were made by Councillors to establish a Committee to investigate the legalities of the current sandmining activities on the Peninsula. Approximately $100,000 was allocated from the Budget for these investigations which are focussed in part on whether consent was ever granted for the current activities being undertaken in their current areas by the property owners.

Current sandmining has created lakes up to 8m deep in places. This has changed the landscape of Kurnell quite dramatically and no further sandmining should be permitted on the Kurnell Peninsula. All remaining dunes should be protected. The current rate and expansion of sandmining has led to concerns about the stability of the sand body separating the Bay from the Ocean. Indeed the Healthy Rivers Commission has recommended that a comprehensive investigation be undertaken to determine exactly how much sand remains on the Peninsula and presumably how much needs to be left. Such a study is long overdue.

Taren Point

Proposed large scale residential and retirement village developments with minimal foreshore buffers at Taren Point are of grave concern and are likely to significantly degrade important migratory bird habitats utilised by an Endangered shorebird community.

Potter Point

Potter Point has suffered in part by overlapping jurisdictions between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Sydney Water which owns the section of Potter Point which is site to the clifftop sewage outlet.

Potter Point has suffered significant degradation as a result of uncontrolled access to the area. Indeed, Botany Cone, a large sand dune which lies directly east of Potter Point, has suffered greatly from the impacts of 4WD, motor bike and horse activity.

In 1999/2000 a number of management actions were implemented to help improve the Potter Point area including a successful NPWS crackdown on motor bike activity in Botany Bay National Park, major works to upgrade the Potter Point access road and construction of a new car park. These are welcome improvements but may not guarantee that illegal access will cease.

Boat Harbour

Boat Harbour's biggest claim to fame is as one of the most polluted beaches in the entire Sydney region. Of course this is due primarily to its close proximity to the Potter Point Sewage outfall. With the completed upgrade of the Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant in April 2001 will come substantial improvements in water quality from Potter Point to South Cronulla.

Boat Harbour is also the location of a 4WD park in which use of Holt's private beach is permitted. Many conservation groups see 4WD, horse and trail-bike activity on the Peninsula as incompatible with Kurnell's cultural and natural heritage values especially given that in many sections it is responsible for severe damage to significant vegetation communities.

Caltex Oil Refinery

The refinery is licensed by the EPA for many environmental discharges including air, groundwater and water pollution, noise, and sludge and for soil conditions on the refinery's landfarm.

We understand the Refinery releases effluent to ocean outfalls at both Yena and Tabbagai Gaps and also collects and disposes of cooling water in Botany Bay. The refinery's stormwater is also released into Botany Bay and during large storm events oily substances flow into the Bay often creating a minor temporary 'slick' on the surface.

The Refinery in the late 1990s moved to implement an effluent improvement plan to reduce the impact of organic pollutants from the refinery. Bio-organisms are used to treat refinery waste water and contaminants (oils and phenols) before they are released at Yena Gap. Accumulated sludge is then sent to the landfarm.

In late 2000, concerns were raised over the extent of odours detected outside the refinery's boundaries. In response, environment groups and residents called on the EPA to establish a new air quality monitoring station in Kurnell. They are currently assessing the feasibility.

Calsil Dune

Calsil Dune is one of the last remaining intact sand dunes on the Kurnell Peninsula. It rises 36m above the landscape and contains regionally significant native vegetation. This vegetation includes Kurnell Dune Forest which was, in 1999, listed as an Endangered Ecological Community under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act and is therefore of high conservation significance.

Calsil Dune is located on Crown Land and as with other non-reserved dunes on the Peninsula is constantly threatened by sand mining. Indeed sand from the dune system was used to replenish Silver Beach after serious erosion in 1970. The natural vegetation is also threatened by weed invasion.

Many community and conservation groups including the National Parks Association and Sutherland Shire Environment Centre have suggested that in order to ensure the long term preservation of the dune and its significant vegetation, it should be incorporated into Botany Bay National Park.

Endangered Ecological Communities

The Peninsula contains many EECs including Kurnell Dune Forest (on Calsil Dune), Sutherland Shire Littoral Rainforest (in TPNR, BBNP), Taren Point Shorebird Community, Sydney Coastal Estuary Swamp Forest (in BBNP, provisional listing) and Sydney Freshwater Wetlands (in Marton Park, provisional listing). Resources should be made available to NPWS for the development and implementation of recovery plans as a matter of urgency to protect these important and threatened ecosystems.

Green and Golden Bell Frog

Despite the fact that sandmining on the Kurnell Peninsula has effectively demolished the once mighty sand dunes, in the process the large lakes that have now replaced the dunes have provided habitat for the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog.

However we understand this present population is representative of a much larger remnant population which existed in freshwater ponds around Botany Bay. The frogs are known to occur on many parts of the Peninsula including the Australand and Kurnell landfill sites, the Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant and Botany Bay National Park. It has been suggested that the population could indeed be more significant than the 400 adults observed at Homebush Bay and perhaps the largest in NSW.

Loss of habitat is one of many threats to the Green and Golden Bell Frog population on the Peninsula. Much of the habitat occurs outside the Peninsula's prescribed fauna conservation areas and is under threat from development. In the Kurnell landfill site many of the lakes used by the frogs are being filled thereby forcing the frogs to move elsewhere. Residential development proposals for the Australand site will also involve filling of ponds where frogs have been observed.

The frogs are also under threat from the introduced Mosquito Fish (Gambusia) which occurs in many ponds on the Peninsula. The Gambusia 'feast' on the frog eggs and tadpoles, thereby putting further pressure on the population.

Planning

Given the fragmentation of issues and problems on the Kurnell Peninsula, a review of the existing Regional Environment Plan (1989) is necessary and/or the establishment of a integrated strategic management plan for the Peninsula. We would endorse the comments of the Healthy Rivers Commission Report in recommending a review of all sand dune and sandmining areas on the Peninsula to determine preferred end uses. Community consultation would be a crucial component of this.

Additional Comments

In addition to the items above Sutherland Shire Environment Centre believes the following measures are also required to resolve many of the problems on the Peninsula, to properly honour Kurnell's cultural heritage, and to ensure environmental sustainability:
  • Cessation of sandmining and protection of all remaining dunes

  • Rezoning most of the land to ensure environmental protection

  • Review of the Peninsula's statutory Regional Environmental Plan (1989)

  • Establishment of an independent strategic plan/management plan for the Peninsula

  • Cessation of 4WD activities on the Peninsula

  • Promotion and encouragement of all weed eradication efforts across the entire Peninsula - from private landholders to volunteer groups

  • Increased funding and resources for NPWS to manage the two 'icon' reserves, Towra Point Nature Reserve and Botany Bay National Park · Promotion of public access to the Peninsula

  • A Masterplan for the Taren Point area to protect its important habitat values

  • Support for the concept of a protected corridor of native vegetation/open space across the length of the Kurnell Peninsula.