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Committee & Campaign Reports - 2003

PUBS Report

by Miriam Verbeek

Urban Bushland

The maintenance and integrity of urban bushland in the Sutherland Shire continues to be of significant concern to the Centre. While there are opportunities for the Centre to be involved in how to safeguard specific pockets of bushland, most of the Centre’s efforts have been centred on enhancing the efforts of Council, state agencies or individuals in protecting land. The Centre has made comments on urban bushland components of Council’s LEPs and DCPs, as well as sponsored active involvements in bushland care through efforts such as the Great Kai’mia project and representation on Council and State Agency committees.
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Community Report

by Miriam Verbeek

Urban Development

Development that does not comply with controls continues to be a concern to the Centre. During the year, the Centre has expended significant effort in attempting to help the residents of Menai persuade council to enforce court agreements. Numerous meetings have been held between council, the developer and residents. Unfortunately, only small concessions have been won by the residents with council apparently unable to force compliance or arguing that the court orders are ambiguous therefore there are no grounds for requiring compliance. It is significant that neither the developer nor council are taking responsibility for the ambiguous wording of the court order, and it is residents who suffer the consequences.

Instances of destructive foreshore development continues, though council has recently shown signs of strengthening its protection of these areas.
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Representation of Local and State Government Boards and Committees

Formal representation on local and state boards and committees is a key way of ensuring that community concerns are heard. Centre staff and volunteers are represented on Sutherland Shire Council’s Integrated Environment Committee, on the National Parks and Wildlife Service Advisory Committee, on the Biodiversity Advisory Committee, on the Southern Sydney Catchment Management Board, on the Southern Catchment Management Board, and on the Botany Bay Advisory Committee.
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Urban Committee Report

by Neil deNett

Report on the Progress of Draft Peoples LEP 2003

Due to the size and complexity of the draft “Peoples LEP” document Council is to re-exhibit the plan in September 2003.
Staff have summarised and commented on the submissions received and Council has now to adopt these (or make changes) in preparation for the second exhibition.

Hopefully, the modified plan will be easier to read and comprehend than the first, so it should be a valuable opportunity to have further input. When these submissions are assessed and adopted by Council the plan will be sent to the Minister for consideration and gazettal. As this time draws closer the plan will become a more effective planning control as the Council and the Land and Environment Court are obliged to take it into consideration when assessing a development application.

Council has prepared two documents, Appendix 'A' and Appendix 'B' which list all of the submissions received by Council.

Appendix 'A' lists a multitude of issues raised by the public. There are too many to discuss in this brief report, but it is significant that the first one is " The draft is too complicated to use". Staff have responded with " a comprehensive index will be provided for the draft LEP prior to re-exhibition, and a guide on how to use the document".

Major issues addressed in the submissions are: adverse affect on property values, development controls, dual occupancy, masterplans, Ewey Creek, sliding scale-floor space ratio, foreshore building line, environmental protection and overdevelopment.
Appendix 'B' lists the submissions from many government departments and one council, Kogarah.

Some supported the plan with no objections, while others were quite critical. One major change to the plan is that SEPPS are not to be repealed. This ambit claim was a bit too much for Planning NSW and other departments. The removal of this clause will considerably smooth the path to gazettal.

The Environment Protection Authority raised concerns about noise control in residential and industrial areas and transport management, particularly in relation to promoting the use of public transport.

NSW Fisheries submitted an extensive submission relating to: biodiversity, foreshore and waterfront development, environmental risk and many others. All of their recommendations were agreed to by staff.

State Rail had many worthwhile suggestions, but there was one which could foreshadow a worry for the future. This was in connection with air space over Cronulla Railway Station. State Rail thought that the new plan reduced the Floor Space Ratio from 2:1 to 1.8:1. " State Rail strongly objects to this decrease as it is unjustified and unreasonable as it will impede on the development of the site." Sutherland Shire has been spared development over railway stations so far, but the worst might be yet to come. Have a look at St Leonards or the new "village' at Wolli Creek when next travelling by train.

The Department of Housing did not mince their words. "The Department strongly objects to the making of the draft LEP." They are concerned about the ability to fully develop their land due to restrictive controls. Council agreed to further discussions for some of the objections but in many it stood its ground.

By far the largest submission came from the Department of Sustainable Natural Resources, about a quarter of the document. All of their comments were either agreed to or noted. They covered topics such as increasing the size of allowable water tanks on residential properties to stormwater management, protection of riparian zones, waterfront development and acid sulphate soils. A most impressive submission.

A complete copy of the documents is available at the Council front desk. Should you have a few spare minutes, they make riveting reading.
Sharks rezoning. This proposal is not included in the plan. The staff answer to objectors is "The proposals for the Sharks site have not been incorporated into the draft plan. The Sharks proposal is being dealt with as (sic) separately as an amendment to SSLEP2000." Oh?
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Transport Report

by Miriam Verbeek

For most of the year, the Centre has had an active transport program, supported by an active residents group, CARTS. A significant achievement of the group was the state government’s abandonment of the F6 corridor for a motorway and a commitment to study other uses for the corridor. The transport program was also successful in bringing together Councils in the south east sector of Sydney (Wollongong to the airport) and encouraging them to meet together with state government transport agencies to begin the strategic work necessary for integrated planning in the sector.

The Centre produced a significant position paper on the issue and distributed it widely. Unfortunately, since the State government election, the reshuffle of Ministerial portfolios and the continuing uncertainties regarding urban and transport planning, the momentum generated by the Centre’s transport initiatives have been stymied.
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Environmental Education

The Centre continues to deliver formal and informal workshops to promote environmental issues in the Shire.
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Population Report

by Gordon Hocking

Overpopulation hotspots

When the Solomons Islands called for international intervention to restore law and order few people hesitated to consider the part that overpopulation has played in that country's slide into lawlessness. But the Solomons, with very few marketable or life sustaining resources, is simply overpopulated and its people are fighting over these rapidly declining vital resources. Some African countries are doing the same.

The total population of the Solomon Islands in 2002 was 479,000 but its 2050 population is projected to be 1,458,000 (United Nations Population Fund, 2002). Perhaps if we'd sent aid in the form of contraceptives and reproductive education to the Solomon's years back, we would not be sending soldiers and police now.

If one thinks of the world's trouble spots, it's hard to avoid the link with rapid population growth in those countries.
Afghanistan's 2002 population of 23.3 million is projected to reach 72.3 million by 2050, Iraq's 24.2 million will reach 53.6 million, the Occupied Palestine Territory's 3.4 million will reach 11.8 million (and outnumber the Israelis), Indonesia's 217.5 million will reach 311.3 million and Pakistan's 148.7 million will reach 344.2 million. Africa's total 2002 population of 831.9 million will reach 2000.4 million by 2050.

Fortunately, many countries have arrested their population growth, and it will come as no surprise that these are mainly relatively prosperous and politically stable. For example, Europe's 31 countries have a total 2002 population of 725.1 million, projected to decline to a more comfortable 603.3 million by 2050.

Australia has a third-world population growth rate of 1.3% per annum (ABS). Australia is a big, largely uninhabitable island, which is consuming limited resources at a rate that is not sustainable and risks becoming an overpopulation hotspot just like a bloated Solomons.
Some people argue that Australia has large inland areas that could support a larger population. Such arguments ignore Australian Aboriginal history and fly in the face of European settlement patterns too.

New South Wales' 2001 population was 6.61 million of which Sydney's share was 4.1 million. And Sydney's population is projected to reach 6.2 million by 2051 with 8.7 million State-wide. Thus, Sydney will absorb almost all of the State's population growth in the next 50 years.
What is clear is that regional NSW is expected to lose population while Sydney suffers overcrowding and the coastal strip absorbs excess population from both the inland and Sydney. It's hard to imagine that such lop-sided growth could benefit NSW.
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Port Hacking Report

by Paul Martin

Progress on Port Hacking has been slow, but there are positive signs. Sutherland Shire Council and the Southern Catchment Management Board have agreed to create an integrated implementation plan, which should pick up many of the fragmented past plans and convert them into something more binding. We hope that this will take about 12 months.

The other key issue has been the draft People's LEP with its much welcomed foreshore controls. We trust that Council will hold to a strong line, in the face of intense but poorly informed opposition.
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Nuclear Campaign Report 2003

by Mike Priceman

This is the sixth year of the campaign by PANR to prevent a new reactor being built at Lucas Heights. Time has flown by as we have checked our calendars to see what meetings have to be attended, what telephone calls are to be made, what letters or submissions are to be written. We sometimes ask each other what will we do when the campaign has been won. Is there a life after a long campaign?

The Reaction Coalition of the ACF, Friends of the Earth Greenpeace and PANR is as strong as ever. The ideas, facilities and expertise of these dedicated people from the major environmental groups (Dave, David, Loretta, Jim, Bruce, Michelle, James, Steve and Carolin) continue to be of immense help.

Main events of the last twelve months:
  • September 2002: ARPANSA approves the building of the reactor on an old earthquake fault.

  • October 2002: Lucas Heights put on highest security alert following a warning from the US of an Al Qaeda terrorist attack. Bob Carr calls for the Australian Defence Force to guard it.

  • November 2002: Bob Carr said that ANSTO had provided a reassuring briefing on security and trotted out the standard line of the ‘washing machine sized reactor that only used 7 Kg of uranium”. (He didn’t ask why the Commonwealth refuses to provide liability cover against an accident.) The Australian Local Government Association supports Sutherland Council’s call to end production of nuclear waste at Lucas Heights.

  • December 2002: Work begins on the foundations of the reactor building. Pre NSW election, Blue Mountains residents put pressure on their local MP Bob Debus, Minister for Emergency Services, to prevent transport of nuclear waste through the area.

  • February 2003: Pickets close the New Illawarra Road preventing access to ANSTO. Mayors from 6 local councils call for more effective emergency planning.

  • March 2003: Dispute between ARPANSA and ANSTO/INVAP on welding standards being applied to the 15 metre deep reactor cooling tank. The feasibility report of a health study of local residents is said to be in the Minister’s office. As of today it still hasn’t been made public and the new minister does not reply to questions.

  • May 2003: ARPANSA’s advisory Radiation and Health Committee suggested pre-distribution of stable iodine tablets was appropriate. NSW Health Department staff admitted that timely distribution after an accident was impractical and that pre-distribution was being investigated. (In June the person carrying out the investigation told us that his report was with the minister and the findings should be released “in about a fortnight”. There has been no further news.) Swiss Cheese Reactor was the headline in the Leader following the report that the local firm building the reactor cooling tank had 22 crucial holes out of 90 misaligned. The company had attempted to ‘fill them in’ with new welded plates without success. ANSTO told INVAP to advise the local manufacturer to fix the problem – as it was in charge of the project - without cost to ANSTO. The outcome is not yet clear as ARPANSA is getting advice on the re-welding option. Should ARPANSA agree to a re-welded tank then its last remnant of credibility will have gone.

  • June 2003: More problems with the critical cooling tank as ARPANSA discovered that 9 holes had been cut to take the heavy water that is used to operate and control the reactor core. These had not been included in the construction licence as they were dependent on the design of the yet to be approved heavy water penetrations. ARPANSA declined to fine INVAP, as “it had not transgressed before”. NSW Government announces an Inquiry into the Transport and Storage of Nuclear Waste. This follows a promise made during the State election. This follows the strong stands against Commonwealth policy taken by the SA and WA State Governments and the policy announced by the NT.

  • July 2003: Professor Helen Garnett ANSTO’s CEO resigned to take up a position as vice–chancellor of Charles Darwin University. She will leave in October.

  • July 2003: The reports on welding and repairs to the vital cooling tank commissioned by ARPANSA from the CSIRO and Toshiba (Japan) still not received. This series of events shows that ARPANSA cannot control and/or oversight the project. The lines of communication are too long and the number of sub-contractors complicates matter further. The problems with the crucial cooling tank were noticed possibly because it was a very local company. There is no information coming from Argentina where INVAP is building the actual reactor. It too has many sub-contractors. Who knows what is going on? Certainly not ARPANSA.

The outcome of the NSW nuclear waste storage and transport inquiry should bring many facets of Australia’s nuclear industry into the open. It is hoped that the committee brings out a realistic report and that the NSW Government will act on it by passing legislation. The first hearing of the committee will be held at Sutherland Council Chambers on 11th September starting at 9:30 am. Please come and show your interest.

Stop Press – 1 September 2003. ARPANSA has just announced that it has approved a re-welded cooling tank. If it is prepared to accept a ‘second hand’ item that is crucial to the operation and safety of a nuclear reactor what else will it accept?
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Local Education and Action for Sustainability (LEAFS)

The LEAFS program seeks to strengthen local communities by bring people together to adopt more ecological sustainable ways of living. The program provides support to community volunteers.
Community team leaders will be recruited from other NGO’s, schools, precinicts, church groups, sporting groups, scout associations neighbourhoods etc.

In partnership with Council with its many in-house experts, we want to provide input/consultation to educate local team leaders. A web-based networking newsletter will be designed to support the community as the LEAFS project progresses.

The Centre’s intent is to create numerous micro-LEAPs (Local Environmental Action Plans) for sustainability by: helping create new local action groups; facilitating support and resources to get local groups started; helping coordinate a series of activities; listening and responding to the needs of local neighbourhoods and localities; providing education and capacity building workshops; coordinating and maintaining the network and enthusiasm of local action groups (through progress newsletters, forums, meeting, Internet & Intranet website support);
Participants will commit to:
  • Objectives of local groups within the sustainability framework;
  • SSEC principles and codes of practice;
  • Identify, plan and carry out local environmental and conservation projects;
  • Maintain communication with the community coordinator; and
  • Work towards sustainability actions with equity, justice and without discrimination.
SSEC’s commitment is to:
  • Help create local teams made up of citizens, business and government;
  • Facilitate support and resources to get local teams started;
  • Help coordinate the first series of actions;
  • Listen and respond to the capacity building needs of local groups;
  • Provide education and capacity building workshops;
  • Coordinate and maintain the network and support of local teams
To achieve the above commitments the Centre will look for longterm funding for a community coordinator to lead the program.
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The Struggle for Kurnell & Botany Bay

by Bob Walshe

An intense struggle to “Save Kurnell” and “Save Botany Bay” is currently underway. If you think those are over-dramatic terms, you are wrong. Let me explain why. Sydney has long neglected its south. For two centuries the Botany Bay area – and especially Botany itself on the north side of the Bay and Kurnell Peninsula on the south side – has been treated appallingly by a Sydney that expanded happily to its north, east and inner west while its south and south-west were at best neglected and at worst abused.

Botany became the centre for industry that was often described as “offensive” or “noxious”. Scores of sheep-related industries located there to pursue boiling-down, wool scouring, tanneries and leathergoods. In 1883 the NSW Parliament declared Kurnell Peninsula to be a place for the dumping of noxious waste, for setting up of noxious and hazardous industries, and for a cemetery. (Only the distance from Sydney saved it from that fate.)

But it was the post-World War II period that saw the worst acts of environmental vandalism inflicted on the Bay area and Kurnell. Sydney Airport expanded hugely, the oil refinery burgeoned, massive oil/gas/chemical storages sprang up on the north side, while the devastation of Kurnell’s sandhills proceeded apace.

The rate of “development” accelerated from the 1970s as Port Botany became Sydney’s big container port, the oil and chemical storages around it swelled, the Airport thrust runways into the Bay, and probably 50 million tonnes of sand were excavated from the bottom of the Bay on the north side while the trucking away of more than 50 million tonnes of sand resulted in the disappearance of the Kurnell sandhills except for one large dune and a smaller one.

Efforts to stop the development juggernaut were noble – for example by environmental activists led by Nancy Hillier on the north side and Bernie Clarke on the south side. Sutherland Shire Council’s efforts were often not sustained enough to counter successfully the developers’ pressure. The developers almost always got their way.

Southern Sydney comes of age. Sydney’s neglect of its south could not go on forever. Population was rising more rapidly after about 1950 than in the rest of Sydney. In Sutherland Shire, for example, a population of 50,000 in 1950 has quadrupled in just 50 years, sweeping past 200,000 to today’s 215,000.

Similar population surges affected the Botany area, St George, Bankstown and other parts of southern and south-western Sydney. The suburb of Botany itself saw dramatic industrial and demographic change: the tanneries closed and “gentrification” (comparable to Paddington’s) has become unstoppable.

The population in the areas that had been seen in the past as “lower class” was no longer prepared to accept second class status. It was building attractive houses, turning old factories into stylish units and showing appreciation of the beauties of Botany Bay area, of the Bay itself, and not-least its proximity to the Sydney CBD. An instructive barometer, property values, rose and rose.

It was the coming of age of southern Sydney: a population no longer willing to be treated as passive and undeserving. The change was visible to sharp observers as early as the 1980s. Today it is accomplished fact – and woe-betide any politician who ignores it! Just look at the crazy proposal to extend Port Botany, with loss of Bay waterfront and huge road-congestion, and note that not a single politician is coming out ardently in support of it, despite economic-rationalist arguments that could favour it.

The Government’s dramatic promise to southern Sydney. No wonder this now large and alert population of southern Sydney – concerned for quality-of-life and environmental values – greeted with enthusiasm the announcement on 3rd September 2002 by Planning Minister Dr Refshauge that he was instituting “a major environmental study into the entire Botany Bay catchment including the sensitive Kurnell Peninsula [which will] ensure – once and for all – that development is not allowed to harm the environmental and social values of this important area”.

As result, a Botany bay Strategy Advisory Committee has been set up. It has held half a dozen meetings since April. What does it have to show the population of the Bay catchment – that is, the catchment of the Bay itself and of its tributaries, the Georges, Woronora and Cooks rivers, and of course, sensitive, sand-stripped Kurnell Peninsula – a catchment that in fact embraces 2 million people, now half the population of Sydney?
That’s the question before the Botany Bay Region FORUM which meets in Rockdale Council Chambers on 6th September. The two community representatives on the Advisory Committee will report their concerns to the gathering, which will be asked to express its views.

Will the “strict requirements” promised by Minister Refshauge be (a) formulated and (b) enforced to prevent developers from doing harm to environmental and social values?

Big question. As it should be, for the expectations of our area of Sydney have been justly aroused, will never be suppressed, and will be ignored by politicians at their peril.
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EMRAA Report

by Lyn McLean

In this, the first year it has operated with an elected Board, the Association has weathered turbulent and unpredictable seas. It has seen disappointment and success; attack and praise; attrition and support; consolidation and growth.

A highlight of the year was the launch of the Telecommunications and Radiocommunications Development Control Plan (DCP) on 26 May. A year and a half in preparation, the document was developed by a working group of Sydney metropolitan councils and the EMR Association, represented by Lex Bewley and Lyn McLean, in conjunction with a number of stakeholder groups. The document was prepared as a model DCP in order to offer councils a consistent approach to the assessment of development applications. Described by Clr John Comino, Mayor of Woollahra as "a great step forward", the DCP offers guidance for carriers in implementing a precautionary approach to siting infrastructure. It differs from previous council guidelines in requesting that carriers provide specific information about the construction of all intended infrastructure, including the short ("low-impact") infrastructure that is exempted from council control by federal legislation.

Another of its significant achievements has been the continued provision of independent information on the health implications of EMR. The Association regularly deals with phone calls, letters and emails requesting specific information and assistance. Further, its publication of the quarterly newsletter, EMR News, ensures that the public has access to the latest information on the issue. The Association - and its predecessor - have now been publishing a quarterly newsletter on EMR and health for fully eight years, a remarkable effort that has no parallels nationally and few internationally.

Akin to its role of providing information, is the more proactive role of public education. Again this year, Lyn McLean has addressed various groups and written articles that have been published in magazines. Further, the Association has provided information to journalists for stories on EMR. These include:

  • 60 Minutes (mobile phones and health)
  • Good Medicine
  • New Idea and
  • various local newspapers.

The publication/televising of stories on this topic reflects the growing interest in this issue and suggests that the EMR-health issue is about to truly come of age.

The Association represents consumers on a number of national committees. Lyn McLean attends meetings of the Department of Health's EME Reference Group and has represented the Association on the Consumer Advisory Council of the Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF).

Equally exciting are the projects that are planned or underway for the coming year. With the support of volunteers, we look forward to taking the Association to new heights in 2003-4 and invite you to join with us in this endeavour.

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