|Australia's most historic place is having its second most historic year
KURNELL PENINSULA, so precious within Sutherland Shire, is on a roll.
Look what's happening! .
Kurnell first, first, first
This year's April 29th Festival takes place knowing that in September the Olympic Torch will begin at Kurnell for the climactic Sydney leg of its across-the-world journey.
That will signal to the world that here the history of Australia's nationhood began.
Captain Cook's landing in 1770 and Captain Phillip's First Fleet landing in 1788 determined that Kurnell is the most historic place of the Australian nation.
The landings also saw the historic first major meetings on the continent of European with Aboriginal culture - the huge "culture clash" that quickly devastated the Aborigines who had lived here for at least 9,500 years "in tranquillity", as Cook put it, with the natural environment.
The Long Neglect
In this year 2000, the prior Aboriginal occupation is at last recognised by the official name-change, Kamay Botany Bay , linking ancient with modern.
In this year too, perceptive Australians will want to puzzle over Oz's distorted values as our politicians pour billions of dollars into rehabilitating a garbage area around obscure Homebush Bay while continuing to neglect mighty Botany Bay and its jewel, the Kurnell Peninsula.
Not for want of protest at the neglect! There have been many.
For example, this from the Sydney Morning Herald a quarter century ago: "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." (27.7.1974)
At the same time, the National Trust protested 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.
A first History this year
At last, a comprehensive history of Kurnell is to be published, telling the story of the Aborigines, the landings by Cook and Phillip, and the ensuing centuries of "The Long Neglect".
Historian Daphne Salt will launch her 160-page Kurnell, a Pictorial History , with 230 illustrations, at the April 29th Festival.
Her anger bubbles over in her Introduction: "It is beyond comprehension that the birthplace of modern Australia has been allowed to slip into relative obscurity. In any other country.Kurnell would be a shrine."
Council's bold Rezoning bid
On 21st February 2000, Sutherland Shire Council voted strongly to rezone most of the land of Kurnell Peninsula in a bid to protect it from industrial exploitation and major urban development. (State Government approval is awaited.)
The new zoning will no doubt favour rehabilitation of green areas and suitable landscaping of the remnant sand dunes, accompanied by well-planned tourism and educational facilities. The original ecology and heritage values of the Peninsula will guide the production of a Council-driven Plan of Management.
Technically, this means a change for hundreds of hectares from the current 7(b) Special Development zoning to Open Space 6(c) Private Recreation.
The zoning change is sure to be opposed by major developers, who have plans for largescale housing estates, new industrial projects, continued sand mining, and continued dumping of wastes.
Council's "Working Party"
The rezoning decision is an historic gesture. It will require the exploring of a host of legal, planning and financial implications.
So Council has set up a "Kurnell Peninsula Working Party". Interested community groups want to be represented on it.
As opposition from developers unfolds, the widest involvement of the Shire community will be essential. Shire residents have the unique responsibility on behalf of all Australians to act as stewards of this most historic place.
Other Year 2000 Activities
The Peninsula's major surviving sand dune will (probably) be protected by Heritage Listing.
A visionary but practicable plan for recreational and educational facilities will be promoted by the Cronulla Dunes and Wetlands Protection Alliance
The long-awaited upgrade of the Sewage Treatment Plant will begin to operate, ending decades of beach pollution.
Kurnell will benefit in many ways from the Year 2000 stage of the "Reclaim Botany Bay" campaign of six bayside Councils.
The peninsula's Towra Point Nature Reserve is to see major rehabilitation under the Plan of Management of a Steering Committee backed by a $100,000 Federal Government grant.
The influential Healthy Rivers Commission, investigating Georges River/Botany Bay, conducted a major site inspection of Kurnell-Towra in January and this is likely to lead to a positive report later in the year on the area's needs.
Kurnell's Historic Drive Campaign has directed months of clean-up work by volunteers on Captain Cook Drive and has also systematised the contribution of local companies to the ongoing work.
The volunteer "Friends of Towra" continue their monthly bushcare efforts toward rehabilitation of the Towra Point Nature Reserve. (Volunteers always welcome!)
The Shire's Tourism Association gives priority attention to schemes which will promote active tourism on the Peninsula, such as a ferry service from La Perouse.
NPWS, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which runs the significant educational Discovery Centre near Cook's landing place, has recently released a very positive Management Plan for the National Park area of the Peninsula.
Sutherland Shire Environment Centre will continue its weed eradication and bush regeneration around Weedy Pond on Towra. (Volunteers always welcome!)
The Environment Centre will have two comprehensive computer websites available for the April 29 Festival: (1) on Towra http://ssec.org.au/towra (2) on History of Kurnell http://ssec.org.au/kurnell A third website will be released before the end of 2000, on Kurnell Peninsula in general.