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Yes, Yes, Yes - Save Kurnell!

Shame on you, Sydney! As you pour billions into a playground on Homebush Bay, you persist in your long neglect of Botany Bay and what should be its jewel, the Kurnell Peninsula, birthplace of modern Australia.

Here, where Captain Cook landed and Captain Phillip raised the First Fleet's flag, there should be a powerful Sydney-wide or nation-wide drive to rehabilitate the Peninsula, but there isn't. Yet this most historic place could easily be made a premier attraction for 4 million Sydneysiders and countless thousands of visitors to Australia's "world-class city".

Listen to this angry voice : "The nation's birthplace [is] a smoky, smelly outpost of industry, a sand pit for Sydney's construction industry [whereas] in 1770 it was a storehouse of history containing a wealth of geological and botanical evidence of past millennia."

This anger is from the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald - in 1974! (27.7.74)

The Herald reported the verdict of the National Trust that the "national cradle" was "a landscape in distress, if not despair", heavy with "throat-catching chemical fumes" and the "stench of sewage", its soil scraped bare for factories, its dunes demolished by sand extraction, its vegetation and shoreline defiled by industrial waste.

The Herald's stridency echoed the mighty storm of May 1974 which pounded right across Wanda beach and threatened to slice through the sandy backdrop and surge into Woolooware Bay - to "cut Kurnell's throat", as the Herald put it, so that Kurnell Peninsula could well have become "Kurnell Island".

Where Are We a Quarter-Century Later?

The mighty sandhills have been carted to building sites. The industries persist. Weed infestation has hugely proliferated. An inadequate truck-dominated road is all that links proud Kurnell village with the Shire's road system.

But positives are accumulating. Our research reveals as many as twenty.
  • Six municipal Councils from around Botany Bay have joined this year in a "Reclaim the Bay" campaign to save its marine and shoreline ecosystem.

  • A 9000-sandbag Wall has been constructed, helped by volunteer labour, to prevent waves washing into freshwater Towra Lagoon, the construction assisted by a $24,000 grant from State Government.

  • A $100,000 Federal Government grant is enabling a Steering Committee to review options for checking the erosion of Towra Point, and to prepare a new Plan of Management for the Nature Reserve.

  • Opposition by community and Council to a Cogeneration Plant on Caltex land at Kurnell succeeded in preventing chlorine-polluting use of Bay water and in securing the use of tertiary-treated-effluent from Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant when upgraded by year 2001.

  • After years of community agitation, State Government will soon begin the $100 million upgrade of the Cronulla STP, with good effects for the sea and beaches around Kurnell-Cronulla.

  • Community, Council and NPWS are collaborating in moves to rehabilitate the badly degraded area around the infamous sewage discharge outlet at Kurnell's Potter Point.

  • A Coastcare grant of $12,500 to the Shire Environment Centre has helped a bush regeneration project around Weedy Pond on the Towra Point Nature Reserve.

  • NPWS is continuing effective management of a Little Tern Nesting Habitat on a sand island off Towra which is now one of the best breeding sites in NSW.

  • Birdlife habitats around Taren Point are now better protected as a result of work by the Taren Point Wetland Group.

  • The NSW Scientific Committee has made a preliminary determination to list Kurnell's Calsil Dune Forest as an "endangered ecological community" providing valuable protection from development pressures.

  • The "Friends of Towra" volunteers undertake regular bush regeneration activities in the Towra Nature Reserve and have eradicated a great number of the major weed species there.

  • Other NPWS initiatives on Kurnell Peninsula include a proposal for a major "Gateway to the Peninsula" environmental education facility in conjunction with Sutherland Shire Tourism Association 8 Regular bush regeneration activities in Botany Bay National Park 8 All major private landholders on the Peninsula have begun weed eradication on their properties on the initiative of Council's Noxious Weeds Officer and NPWS.

  • The Shire Tourism Association is working energetically to improve the appeal of Kurnell for tourists, involving plans for a national promotional campaign assisted by a grant from Tourism NSW.

  • A Council-supervised Kurnell community dunecare group is continuing work to stabilise Silver Beach at Kurnell.

  • Community activists are striving for a ferry service that would bring Sydneysiders from La Perouse to Kurnell and on to Como Pleasure Ground where a tram could run them to Jannali-Sutherland-Loftus-Royal National Park.

  • Kurnell residents have undertaken a regular monthly volunteers' clean up of the 12km Captain Cook Drive.

  • A comprehensive Towra website ( has been prepared by Sutherland Shire Environment Centre, assisted by a Council grant - the site will be extended in time to the whole Kurnell Peninsula.

Kurnell's Future?

The 20 "positives" above suggest a high level of "Save Kurnell" activity. But almost all can be sourced to local community concern, of activists like the veteran Bernie Clarke, in some cases with Council and NPWS participation.

The activities are fragmented. Certainly the Shire is involved; but we have a right to look to the State and Federal Government for a coordinating leadership, backed by funding in appropriate millions of dollars.

The investment would be bountifully returned - for example, in tourist numbers, educational activities, Sydney and national pride - within a decade of major rehabilitation.

Many Shire organisations are dedicated to a renaissance in honour of Kurnell Peninsula. A dozen of them have grouped together in a Kurnell Regional Environment Planning Council to achieve the vision. They ask readers to volunteer support. (Call the SSEC on 9545 3077)