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Committee Reports 1999


by Simon Kimberley

The Kurnell Peninsula has continued to be a hotbed of environment concern over the last 12 months and the Centre’s has maintained its high level of activity on Kurnell issues through a variety of campaigns and projects.

In December 1998, the Centre played a part in the formation of the Kurnell Regional Environment Planning Council (KREPC) – a coalition of 9 community organisations with an interest in the rehabilitation of the Kurnell Peninsula. The Centre serves as the administrative base for KREPC and is currently has represented on its Executive Committee.

Meeting at monthly and quarterly intervals, KREPC has dealt with a range of issues this year from the Australand development, to dredging at Taren Point and the upgrade of the Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant.

In addition to its role with KREPC, the Centre is also now represented on a newly formed Environmental Reference group at the Kurnell Oil Refinery. The purpose of the group is to examine and provide recommendations on the Refinery’s Strategic and Environmental Improvement Plans as well as to raise concerns about the refinery’s operations. The group has had 3 meetings so far this year.

The Centre’s involvement at Towra Point Nature Reserve has been primarily project-based during 1999. Funding for the Centre’s rainforest restoration project at Weedy Pond was extended for 1999 and work has again been undertaken to remove invasive weeds to allow native species to regenerate. With the assistance of community volunteers, international backpackers, young unemployed people and Lend Lease personnel, a corridor of rehabilitated bushland has been created linking two shorelines of the Nature Reserve. The Centre has benefitted greatly from the services of Chris Brogan who has provided expert assistance and supervision for the project. The project has also provided a good opportunity for the Centre to continue it’s cooperative relationship with National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The Centre’s TOWRA-Net website continues to be accessed by an increasing number of people. We receive numerous comments via the website particularly from local school students. In addition, during July this year contact was made via the Internet with Ms Magarida Serra – a journalist from the Portuguese radio station TSF. The station was compiling a special series of reports on significant ecosystems in different parts of the world. After finding the Centre’s TOWRA-Net website, Ms Serra, who filed the report on our region, chose to visit and profile Towra Point and the activities of the Centre for the story.

The Centre is also indebted to one of our volunteers, Thai Loi who has provided tremendous assistance with all of the Centre’s websites.

Whilst I’m acknowledging people’s efforts I’d like also to acknowledge the work that has been done over many years by the Cronulla Dunes and Wetlands Protection Alliance. Through our involvement with the Kurnell groups on various issues this year, the Centre has come to appreciate the extent of the Alliances knowledge and expertise on Kurnell issues and we certainly look forward to working with them in the future.

STOP PRESS: The Centre has received a grant of $15,000 to compile a comprehensive website on the history of the Kurnell Peninsula. More details in future newsletters.
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by Malcolm Cluett

The past year has not been a particularly successful one for those hoping for more emphasis on sustainable transport in Sydney. In the past year the following events have occurred:
  • Bulldozers have started rolling on the M5 East. This project, like all privately-funded infrastructure, requires a guaranteed cashflow for its success. In this case, a large and growing number of cars & trucks on the roads, which makes a mockery of the policies of the State’s planning bodies. Tollway owners do not like alternatives to their tollroads, such as public transport.
  • Problems such as the dispersion of pollutants from the chimney stack in the Wolli Creek valley, the future of the wetlands at Arncliffe and the forthcoming traffic mayhem on General Holmes Drive remain unresolved. All of these problems stem from the M5 East Motorway
    The high-level Woronora River Bridge (now under construction) will herald a big increase in traffic volumes and the arrival of semis and B-Doubles to an area where they are forbidden at present. Pedestrian footbridges (‘cause “WALK” cycles interrupt the traffic flow too much) cannot be too far away.
  • Benefits in air pollution resulting from vehicle improvements (such as catalytic converters) are being swamped by the increase in vehicles circulating on Sydney’s roads. New subdivisions are continuing to be built on Sydney’s fringe which have little or no public transport and result in a car for every adult.
What can we look forward too during the year 2000? While the Olympics will only last for a few weeks, it will result in some forceful public-transport priority measures that should have been implemented decades ago on a continuing basis. For the first time in Sydney, the private car will not be an option for travel to wide areas of the city (though travel wholly within the Sutherland Shire will not be greatly affected). The Olympic & Paralympic period will be an excellent demonstration to Sydney residents (most of whom are not well informed of the benefits that pro-public transport policies can bring to a city in terms of the environment). It is my hope that residents will start clamouring for pro-public transport measures such as bus-lanes and transit-lanes on our overcrowded arterial roads. In the longer term, the general removal of free parking and the provision of pollution-free electrically-powered vehicles such as railed transport (in all its forms) and trolley-buses are suitable targets to aspire to.

Another thing to look forward to during 2000 is higher petrol prices, arising from the international marketplace for crude oil. However it should be recognised that in our badly-planned city many residents (particularly those in the urban fringe) have no alternative to motor cars, fuel prices notwithstanding.

What of Privatisation? Whatever one’s ideological view on this topic, it has been a major force in the urban transport industry in the past year. In Victoria, for example, there is no Government involvement in the provision of transport at all. All trains, buses, trams, etc have been franchised out. The writer’s objection is as follows. Most people will generally appreciate that some Public Transport priority measures are in the public interest. An example would be the priority measures for the 2006 Commonwealth Games. If the only body who obtains a commercial benefit was a government-owned transport provider, then people would not object (after all, it would reduce their taxes). However, if the main beneficiary was a private train company (say) then people would rightly claim that public transport priority leads to ethical issues, and that shareholders are able to make monopoly profits at the public’s expense. This argument has been hindering the expansion of Public Transport in Auckland NZ (which has the worst public transport in the developed world). Apart from the environmental benefits of increased public transport, the private train & bus companies stand to make windfall profits. The general public is rightly suspicious of public transport priority in these circumstances.

It is interesting that the past Victoria State Government has mooted the elimination of the Transport Ministry. Their view is that now everything is franchised, the public should make their complaints, grievances and suggestions to the respective private company. Opportunities for community involvement in transport issues would be severely curtailed in these circumstances.

What has Sutherland Council been up to in the past year? In recent months, Council officers went on a study trip to overseas destinations such as Amsterdam, Basle (Switzerland), Vancouver & Toronto (Canada). Sydney could learn much from all of these cities in terms of urban planning and the provision of public transport. It is hoped that the knowledge gained will be applied in our Local Government Area. Your correspondent is a SSEC representative on the Councils Public Transport Committee, which has continued to meet during the year. Some modest improvements to bus shelters and bus routes have been made, but there have been no significant improvements that would curb usage of the private car. It is recognised that the real power in planning Sydney lies not within Council, or even with State agencies such as the Department of Urban Affairs & Planning, but with the Roads & Traffic Authority. The RTA’s agenda, of course, is the self-serving provision of more roads and more dependence on private cars.
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by Neil deNett

Over the past year, the Urban Issues Committee has prepared a number of submissions on planning issues. We have worked closely with CRoSS and Council staff to minimise environmental concerns arising from development.

Today we have a Council united in its opposition to overdevelopment. It has not always been so.

Four years ago it seemed that everyone, except our politicians, could sense mounting community opposition to urban consolidation practice.

Certainly the Environment Centre and CRoSS did their best to alert Council about community concerns.

Elections, however, tend to sharpen the audiosensory capacity of politicians - the community is, for the moment, being heard.

Covering the period 1996 to 2011, the Housing Strategy charted the course of orderly development for our Shire. The striking departure from the Strategy, was flagged in a November 1998 Council Report, which included preliminary revised housing projections. The latest revision is now out for public comment, before it is submitted to the Minister of Urban Affairs and Planning.

The latest Housing Strategy allows for dwelling construction trending down toward the original Strategy levels. Population will stabilise, after peaking at 214,000 in three year's time.

The Caution

Expect pressure for greater building activity and population growth.

The Way Forward

Firstly, Council must negotiate with the State Government to accept the latest Housing Strategy document as representing residents' wishes.

Secondly, a scattering policy should be developed for all existing zones to anticipate the cumulative impact of higher density developments. The scattering policy will nominate a proportion of each street block that can be developed, and will require a new LEP.

Existing zoning practice allows every available space to be developed to its full potential in isolation of any practical measure of cumulative impact. A scattering policy will allow decisions about individual developments to be seen against a broader precinct plan.
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1999 – the Year of the Nuclear Industry?

by Michael Priceman

1999 could be described as the Year of the Nuclear Industry in Australia. There has been a confluence of the uranium miners, the new reactor project and the national radioactive waste dump. In fact Australia has become so popular that it has been earmarked by the International Waste Producers Co-operative (PANGEA) as the ideal place for the permanent storage of the nuclear waste that countries such as the UK, USA, USSR have found impossible to deal with.

The year has brought us the Environment report on the suitability of Lucas Heights as the site for a new reactor. It found that it was perfect, based on what ANSTO described as its pessimistic assumptions that the frequency of a worst case accident was one in a million per year and therefore the maximum risk to an individual developing a fatal cancer was one in 6 billion per year. Armed with those sporting odds the Insurance Council of Australia still refuses to insure the public.

There has also been a report from the Parliamentary Joint Public Works Committee which gave its approval for the funding to go ahead, using abundant quotations from ANSTO which it used, not a proponent but as the Government's chief advisor on nuclear matters. It also pointed to National Security as a major reason for a new reactor. It claimed that Australia needed its expertise on the nuclear fuel cycle so that "it could assist developing countries in our neighbourhood and beyond on the peaceful use of nuclear science". 1 assume that this refers to China, Japan, North and South Korea, India, Pakistan and of course Indonesia.

One page later it quoted from the Department of Foreign Affairs, a strong advocate for our nuclear involvement, that "it is a fact that the possession of nuclear fuel cycle technology and facilities may shorten the time required to develop nuclear weapons". Having admitted last December in the release of 30 year government papers that weapons research had been carried out here (Lucas Heights?) until 1968 how would we be seen as the messenger for nuclear weapons non-proliferation in the region?

Another recent report came from the Senate Economics Reference Committee. As this was - not set up by the Government it was severely critical of the process so far, in that it had relied, not on the recommendations of the Research Reactor Review but on thevested interests of ANSTO. It called for an independent public inquiry before the matter progressed further. Minister for Science Nick Minchin told the Committee to forget it.

There were some bright spots during the year. First was the involvement of the Peak Environment Groups in opposition to the Reactor. The ACF has sponsored for six months a paid organiser for People Against a Nuclear Reactor, based in the Centre. Kooryn Sheaves has proved a great asset and we are now working in a more structured and hopefully way. She also forced us to have an AGM last week. Earlier in the year we has two very bright students from Scotland who helped us as part of their degree studies.

The other flash of light was the Council Election. It is still my opinion that, if the previous Council had not followed its meandering Party line, our fight would have been won and 1 would have been home catching up all those unread books. From the new Council the very least 1 expect is that it reads the reports of its Chief Environmental Scientist and follows their recommendations. But there are many things that the Council can do and we will be glad to co-operate with it.

We are keeping a close eye on the new nuclear regulatory body, ARPANSA. which was born in February after a six year gestation period. At the present time it is not obvious whether ANSTO or the regulator is pushing the buttons. The first licence application was not for the existing plant and operations which have been unlicensed for the past forty years but for the Lucas Heights site as being suitable for a new reactor.
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Hacking River

by Tim Tapsell

The Hacking River continued to be a source for contentious issues and challenges during the last year.

The Centre’s focus, with representation on the Hacking River Catchment Management committee, has been on the following issues:

I’ll work my way down stream.

Firstly the continuing struggle for a high level of protection of the Hacking’s water quality through its “PROTECTED STATUS – class P” under the Clean Waters Act.

The State Government will retain the “P Class” classification in name only if it continues to issue new licences to discharge into the river.

The first licence proposed for the Water Board in order to connect Otford, Stanwell Park/Tops and Coalcliff to the Cronulla system. The licences permit the Water Board to install sewer overflows. This means a substantial amount of effluent will be brought into the catchment from outside the catchment. The potential for major discharges into the Hacking is greatly heightened. We had a major discharge last September. We are importing Wollongong’s sewerage problems into the catchment and into this Shire.

The EIS is due for release on the 4th October and will be on display at Sutherland Shire Council. We are demanding that the Water Board use alternative measures to overflows and that it does not import effluent from other catchments. This is a fundamental violation of Catchment Management Principles.

What will then follow are MORE applications for licence from other operations that currently violate the Clean Water Standard.

The Metropolitan Colliery at Helensburgh has reopened. It has been issued with a standard licence to “discharge waste into the headwaters of the Hacking. Nothing special for a protected river in the world’s oldest national park.

The Centre is asking for upgraded pollution controls on the 1,000,000 tonne p.a. operation. This mine also has had a major spill into the Hacking in the last year. The Government and the company promised such measures the last time it changed ownership. They did not occur.

The State Government also has not released detail of the new coal mining lease agreement with the new mine owners. We expect the State Government to impose a small levy on the company to, over time, build up a fund for rehabilitation of the site once the resource is exhausted in 20 years or so, depending on export demand.

Helensburgh Tip has been a source of pollution into the Hacking River. At TCM we keep the tip in the public eye to ensure that leachates are not discharged into the river system.

Helensburgh, a town of 2,000 houses discharges its stormwater into the Jacking and Royal National Park. No progress has been made in having Pollution Control Devices installed to improve its discharges. We suspect that the authorities have lost faith in claimed ability of these devices since the Department of Housing project at Frances Street was to be a model for development at Helensburgh, and have failed. The Department of housing refuses to release performance data, the EPA in return has relinquished its responsibility for inspection and action against offences relating to discharges from the ponds. That responsibility now rests with WCC which will hardly be critical of their own areas of responsibility. Can you see them prosecuting themselves?

Moving downstream, the freshwater section above Audley Weir continues to silt up, and our prediction of 20 years ago, that the river will become a “boggy marsh with a drain down the middle”, is becoming a reality. I urge you to inspect Audley weir during the next floor, or hire a rowboat to check the silt load. Still nothing is being done to stop this migration from the Upper Hacking.

The Audley FISH LADDER, despite a substantial amount of funding being allocated, is slipping from our grasp. Complications over design and disagreement between Government departments are stalling the project.

Maintenance and Dredging of Navigational channels was carried out this year and fortunately the spoils were not sidecast onto seagrass beds or into deep holes as has happened in the past.

However, the issues that generate the most rage at the TCM meetings result from the increasing competition for the estuary’s recreational resources. Issues such as jet skis, sewerage from boats, extra moorings, etc.

The motor boat representatives, in particular, display a fanatical disregard for other users of the port. They are intolerant of any ideas, which they see may restrict their activities in their territory. They have adopted a confrontational approach. Their hatred of the NPWS has lead to informal proposals to carve up the RNP into discreet areas that would lose their National Park status. In sport, they consume our energies that we would prefer to apply to the before mentioned issues.

We will continue to defend the Royal National Park, the Jacking River, the endangered species and the bushland of the Upper Hacking Catchment. We will continue to lobby the State Government for the Crown land at Helensburgh that then Environment Minister, Bob Carr, promised to you in the 1987 Bi-election for inclusion into RNP. And we will continue to oppose massive urban expansion in the upper hacking Catchment from developers who are encouraged by the opposition to overdevelopment in the Shire, believing that, if you can’t go up, you have to go out.

T.C.M. – Observers welcome.We need more active volunteers.

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by Miriam Verbeek

PUBS was formed in May of this year by a number of residents who were concerned at the continued threat to bushland in the Sutherland Shire.

Throughout Sutherland Shire, urban bushland is under threat:
  • From development
  • From neglect
  • From overuse and abuse
PUBs objectives are to:
  • Campaign actively to preserve urban bushland in the Sutherland Shire.
  • Increase public knowledge about the benefits of urban bushland to community welfare.
  • Work together with Sutherland Shire Council’s Bushcare to advance their aims.

The first activity PUBS engaged in was to protest against the development of an indoor sporting complex on the Menai B site (behind the Menai shopping centre). In June, PUBS submitted over 800 signatures (gathered from around the Shire) to Sutherland Shire Council petitioning Council to not approve the development. Although Council has voted to approve the DA, PUBS continues to petition that this is an inappropriate development.

PUBS major focus will now be to set out its processes for achieving its objectives – including registering members to its cause.

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by Lyn McLean and John Lincoln

The last 12 months has been a busy and productive time for EMRAA.

One of our main achievements has been the construction of a comprehensive web page which contains information on health effects of EMR across the spectrum.

The site contains information about our organisation, services and publications, facts sheets on mobile phones, towers, powerlines, microwave ovens and house hold appliances. It has a comprehensive section on health and a section on RF standards which contains lists of studies that have found adverse effects from radiofrequency radiation at levels below the standard.

The site is being increasingly accessed by visitors from around the globe and has attracted praise.
It was constructed and is maintained by Simon Kimberley, with never a cross word or suggestion of impatience and we are indebted to him for his help with this - and much other - work.

For much of the last year EMRAA has been actively involved in activity to devise a new standard for radiofrequency radiation.

Late last year EMRAA’s Convenor John Lincoln and member Don Maisch were appointed to the Standards Committee TE7, where they were instrumental in preventing adoption of a new standard that would have allowed increased levels of radiation exposure for the public.

As a result of that action, the Standards Committee was effectively disbanded and the standards-setting process taken over by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA). The ACA proposes to have ARPANSA construct a new numerical standard and the industry body ACIF devise a complementary Code of Practice.

EMRAA has met with the ACA to discuss these proposals and has regularly submitted criticisms to both it and ARPANSA.

We have lobbied to have our representatives included on the relevant ARPANSA and ACIF committees and await the outcome.We have continued to provide support the community with information and phone advice. John has established an in-demand part-time business conducting EMF measurements of homes and businesses.

We have written a number of articles:
  • An article called "Hi there, honey. What’s cooking?" Appeared in the Bogong Journal of the Canberra & Southeast Region Environment Centre.
  • An article on the relationship of EMR and chemicals appeared in the newsletter of the National Toxics Network.
  • "Wellbeing" article
We have written submissions as required
  • Submission on revision of Standard AS2772.1, January 1999
  • Two Submissions on “Review of Telecommunications (Low Impact Facilities) Determination 1997”, Feb.99, June ‘99
We have formed closer working relationships with other individuals and groups working on EMR. These include:
  • CEPU
  • CTN (Consumers Telecommunications Network)
  • International readers of the E-list email network
  • Australian Democrats
John and Lyn have been reappointed to the EME Reference Committee, which has moved from Department of Communications to Department of Health. This is an opportunity to represent the public and to provide suggestions.

In an effort to expand the network, we have provided information about EMRAA to subscribers to a closed rival newsletter, to other networks and to every environment group in Australia - a project being undertaken by Jim.

A highlight of the year was the opportunity to present a paper and conduct a workshop at The Mind of a Child Conference in August.

Our paper on “The Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation on the Brain was well-received and researching it expanded our own understanding of the effects of EMR.

The conference showed an extraordinary similarity in symptoms between people affected with immune dysfunction problems and those with electrical sensitivity.
We made connections with a number of researchers who are interested in the EMR-health connection.

We have interested a number of researchers in applying for research funding from the telecommunications grants scheme, for which applications close on October 8. If these applications are successful, EMRAA will be participants in the research.

For our continued operation, EMRAA is extremely grateful to the Centre and all its many workers. To the volunteers, thank you for folding newsletters, filing notes, handing the accounting, posting information, photocopying booklets - and so much more. And Simon, your ever-willing support, help and advice is invaluable and much appreciated.
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by Ruth Zeibots

During the year, August ’98 to June ’99, eight Street Stalls were held at Gymea amounting to $3261.65 in total sales. These stalls included two held at Don Shirley’s home garden in Caringbah and one at Jean Rodger’s home at Illawong. Our thanks to them both!

So far, in this financial year we have held two stalls, one taking $693 and another $444 amounting to some $1037. These two stalls have been outstanding.

Congratulations are in order to the volunteers who attend the Stalls and work tirelessly giving of their time and energies from 7am to 4pm on most Saturdays when they are held.

Our Annual Raffle made approximately $600, being drawn at our Dinner in October 1998. We also made about $600 from the dinner, held at Gymea Tradies. Our dinner is not looked to as a major fundraiser, but is supported well by our members with an attendance of some 90 guests last year.

Sponsorship from 4 local businesses towards our Container Deposit Legislation (CDL) campaign, was well supported.

From sponsorships (mainly local) we have some 52 prizes in this year’s Raffle, including 8 Resorts from as far as Coffs Harbour to Batemans Bay. We have some brochures from these resorts on hand and hope you might like to look to them for your next holiday or weekend away.

A membership drive is long overdue but steps are being taken to expand this aspect of our funding in the New Year.
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