SSEC logo Sutherland Shire Environment Centre  

What do you know about THE GREENWEB?

It's the best thing Council is doing in a hundred years!

Give credit where it's due! Our often maligned Council is doing a great job on the most vital area of residents' concern - that of preserving the overall green character of the Shire. True, that character has suffered badly in suburbs like Miranda, Caringbah and Cronulla. Their bushland has been ravaged by the past century of "development".

But in most suburbs, scattered ribbons and remnants of bushland have survived, though many are struggling and isolated, endangered by separation from larger tracts.

So Council's science and planning staffs have set out to spin a "greenweb" across the Shire, to link the survivors.It will be life-giving for them and the only guarantee in sight that, despite "overdevelopment" pressures, the Shire will hang on to its green character.

What's this Greenweb?

For three years, Council has been quietly and far too modestly mapping the Greenweb.

You could define it as, An interconnected system of bushland areas, consisting of core tracts linked by slim corridors, sufficient to enable the survival of the local trees and plants and of the dependent creatures that must have room to move.

Ideally, a viable "core habitat" needs to be 3-5 hectares, while a "corridor" needs to be upwards of 30 metres wide (though narrower ones have to be accepted in some densely urbanised places).

Let your imagination move across the settled areas of the Shire. Greenweb is a simple and glorious idea: let's spin a web across the entire Shire that will conserve the green we've got and, where necessary, add helpful linkages.

A compelling idea

The Greenweb idea originated with Greening Australia's local Guide for Vegetation and Biodiversity Management (1995). It was picked up by SSROC, the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of (a dozen) Councils, which includes Sutherland Council, whose chief scientist Dr Garry Smith saw its potential for the Shire.

His Science Unit put senior biologist Ian Drinnan to work

Greeted on all sides. The profound rightness of the Greenweb concept is confirmed by support from seven directions:
  • Three surveys in the 1990s of the Shire community's values have all put environment at the top.

  • Council's "Shape the Shire" strategy repeatedly stresses concern for fauna/flora, which "requires a 'green web', a system of reserves and nature corridors" (p.16).

  • Greenweb is consistent with Council's commitment to achieve "sustainability" under the United Nations' Local Agenda 21.

  • Greenweb represents implementation of the Federal Government's Greening Australia document (1995)

  • It is likewise in harmony with the NSW State Government's Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995) and Biodiversity Strategy (1999).

  • Council, in its "Environmental Risk-minimisation Action Ranking", declares "bushland habitat loss reversal" to be its top priority ( Our Shire , SSC Newsletter, Jan. 2001).

  • Council's year 2000 Budget accepted for the first time that part of its annual infrastructure commitment shall include provision for "indigenous vegetation".

Council has work to do

Council sees the Greenweb as "a plan for longterm conservation of the Shire's key biodiversity and bushland" ( Greenweb Information Sheet ).

The map presents only the broadbrush first stage view.

The second stage will involve Council in a great deal of fine detail. The map can be read as an action plan providing pointers for the management of local areas. Clearly, Council has work to do to bring the plan to realisation, e.g. to
  • Choose core and corridor areas

  • Prepare management plans for public lands

  • Examine measures appropriate for private lands, e.g. rezoning

  • Appeal for voluntary donations of land.

Examples of work under way to support Greenweb: a significant pilot study has achieved much in the Oyster Bay area; and land acquisition has made positive gains in The Crescent area of Woronora Valley.

Soon, Councillors will consider a new zoning to enable purchase of key land links; namely 7(g) greenweb zone . (A relevant Local Environmental Plan is currently on exhibition.)

Ending two centuries of destructive 'development'?

Since the land grant of 1815 for James Birnie's "Alpha Farm" at Kurnell, the bushland of the Shire has suffered dreadfully - and with it the millions of dependent creatures, from micro-organisms and insects to birds and mammals.

The degrading of nature has continued until now. In recent decades Shire residents have been forced to realise that we too are part of nature, that damage to the natural world is also damaging to us, as our air, water, green surroundings and visual amenity are degraded.

Might the Greenweb signal a great Turning Point? That, in this first year of the new millennium, the Shire is at last turning the tide of destructive development, getting serious about the major goal-of-our-time, sustainability ? In other words, not only checking the rot but also doing some restoring: CONSERVATION of the green that has survived, RESTORATION of areas that are degraded?

Our unique Shire has been more fortunate than the rest of Sydney in that four national parks, many steep terrains and relatively late settlement have bequeathed us valuable bushland tracts. We must see ourselves as privileged, protective guardians - and increasingly environment-conscious Sydneysiders will thank us!

All have a part to play

On no account should the Greenweb be seen as entirely "up to Council". Every resident should see a responsibility for the health of the environment. Individual ways to help:

  • Join a local Bushcare group (ring Council for a contact: 9710 0192)

  • Plant more natives in the garden, to encourage birds and insects.

  • Prefer native plants to lawn.

  • Reduce impervious coverage, e.g. by using porous material on pavements and driveways.

And each developer, small or large, must ask, "Does my development application mean tree/bush preservation or destruction? Am I proposing more 'goods' than 'bads'?". The Shire community is now insisting on sustainability.