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Feb 1995


This issue of the Port Hacking Protectorate is the first in a series sponsored by the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee to increase the awareness of residents and users of Port Hacking on issues regarding the Waterway.

In putting together this newsletter, the Port Hacking Protection Society wrote to and contacted as many groups as it could identify who regulate the use of the waterway and its catchment, seek to develop it, monitor developments or seek to protect it. Understandably, given the awkward timing of request for contributions (over the Christmas holiday period), many groups were unable to respond. Nevertheless, this issue of the newsletter will provide you with an overview of the complexities involved in managing the Port and the number of groups involved in using and maintaining the welfare of the Port.

While the articles in this issue are predominantly those which give information about the activities of Government Departments or other groups, we hope in future issues to broaden the debate and hear how users and residents of the Port wish to see the Port managed and developed or not developed.

This newsletter, therefore, continues the Port Hacking Protection Society's initiative to bring issues to the surface for discussion between all competing and complementary parties.

This initiative began with the conference A Future for Port Hacking held on 4 April 1992. You may remember that this well-attended conference was reported in The Port Hacking Protectorate, in October 1992. The noteworthy outcome of this conference was the establishment of the Port Hacking Planning and Advisory Committee. A report by Paul Martin on the progress of that Committee is included in this newsletter.

Since that conference, almost three years ago, there have been a number of significant developments. Chief among these is the establishment of the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee with its State Government backing and allocated funds. A positive step towards a more holistic approach towards viewing our environment.

Also significant is the positive approach of Government and Private concerns towards dealing with and protecting the environment. Sydney Water, Department of Fisheries, Sutherland Shire Council (Bushcare) and the Waterways Authority have contributed articles to the Protectorate which outline their approach and activities.

1994 has been a full year for many parties involved in issues around Port Hacking. Some, such as development proposals at Helensburgh have been contentious, others, such as the strategy for housing density in the Sutherland Shire seem to be growing in momentum. We've printed in this issue submissions by groups about the issues they've been or are involved in. Often conservation groups hear that their vision is not the one shared by many. By printing The Protectorate and giving this Newsletter wide coverage (all homes within a few blocks of foreshores of Port Hacking and its upper reaches - some 10,000 copies), we hope to broaden people's knowledge of issues and we hope, too, to receive feedback.
Solutions to conflicting aims can only be achieved if all parties are involved in useful dialogue. Write to us then, tell us what you think about the way the Port is currently managed.
Tell us too how you would like the waterway to be managed, developed, maintained, or whatever. We'd like to hear too, about the issues you're involved with relevant to Port Hacking and its catchment.

Send all correspondence to: PHPS, PO Box 744, SUTHERLAND NSW 2230.

At last! A Total Catchment Approach to Environment Problems in the Hacking

Until recently when people spoke about Port Hacking and the Hacking River, their words tended to highlight the beauty and unpolluted nature of the area. Now it has been increasingly associated with controversial issues ranging from urban expansion at Helensburgh, stormwater run-off, septic seepage in Bundeena/Maianbar and Otford/Stanwell Tops, sewerage overflows and so on.

Often these problems are thought of as discrete issues, each to be dealt with by a certain community group, or individual, council or State government agency. The concerned group may have a great deal of expertise in one area but hindsight tells us that the views of other relevant parties may lead to decisions which are more sympathetic to the local environment.

Now there is a Committee, the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee (HRCMC), which aims to achieve COORDINATION of activities and decisions in the catchment. Catchment? A catchment is an area supplying water (either from rainfall or 'artificial' sources such as hoses and septic systems) to a common watercourse. In the case of HRCMC, the catchment is that of the Hacking River which flows from high on the Illawarra escarpment through small towns such as Stanwell Park and Otford to the fresh/saltwater barrier at Audley weir all the way to its mouth in the Port at Bate Bay.

The HRCMC, along with other Catchment Management Committees, was formed under the Catchment Management Act (1989) to implement the principles of Total Catchment Management (TCM). That is, "the coordinated and sustainable use and management of land, water, vegetation and other natural resources on water catchment basis so as to balance resource utilisation and conservation". HRCMC's area of responsibility is the entire catchment of Port Hacking (and the smaller areas of the coastal catchments of the Royal National Park). This area covers two councils, numerous suburban boundaries and regions of government departments, a maze of responsibility and administration.

Representative on the HRCMC:

  • land holders
  • land users
  • local environment groups
  • both catchment Councils: Sutherland and Wollongong
  • various State government agencies with a role in decision making of management in the catchment
Catchment Management Committees do not have legislative power to enforce regulations and laws but operate in a less formal, more community oriented way so as to encourage communication and cooperation between stakeholders and all interested parties concerning a particular issue. As suggested in the above definition, the areas in which the committee has a role are more diverse than water pollution. They include the optimisation of biodiversity, community environmental education, waste management and many more.

There was a precursor Total Catchment Management Committee chaired by the State Pollution Control Commission (now EPA). This committee was primarily focussed on issues in the upper catchment such as weed invasions, run-off from rural areas etc. In 1989, that committee published a report called "Hacking River Total Catchment Management". The HRCMC has taken the recommendations of this report as the starting point for the preparation of its Catchment Management Strategy.

The HRCMC first met in October 1993. Already it has conducted inspection tours of the catchment to identify and locate different problems, held a workshop to commence its strategic planning process and published a draft Catchment Management Strategy. The Committee has also initiated a joint funding application with the National Parks and Wildlife Service for funding to rehabilitate sections of the majestic Coast Walk in the Royal National Park, destroyed as a result of the January 1994 bushfires. The applications were successful in obtaining over $330,000.

Water quality is of great importance to the committee and touches the whole catchment environment. It can be used as the basis for more effective environmental management. Pollution pays no attention to backyard, suburban or administrative boundaries. But it does to a catchment boundary. The Committee has, therefore, engaged a consultant to research a Water Quality Database for the catchment. The consultant' brief is to locate and analyse all water quality studies conducted in the catchment. This database will provide the Committee with details of changing water quality as well as current problem areas. The database will also provide valuable information for carrying out recommendations arising from the Commission of Inquiry into land use and zonings in the vicinity of Helensburgh. The HRCMC made submissions to that Inquiry stressing the importance of a Total Catchment approach to the issues under consideration. The Commissioner's recommendations included specifying the HRCMC as the independent body which should administer and coordinate further detailed catchment-based water quality studies.

Other issues which the HRCMC is investigating include septic tank seepage, leachate discharges from Helensburgh Tip and urban run-off.

Being a community-based committee, the HRCMC is able to fund some environmental rehabilitation and education activities in the catchment and provide advice to community groups who would like to apply for State or Federal Government funding. For example, this and the next two issues of the Port Hacking Protectorate are being funded from the Committee's Small Project Fund.

With these significant achievements already behind the Committee and a bank of local knowledge and technical expertise, it is likely that the vision of "a unified community which values and enhances the environmental qualities of the Hacking catchment both now and in the future through cooperation, wise land use and sound decision making" will be realised.

Planning the Future of Port Hacking

Paul Martin

Port Hacking is a heavily used recreational area. The number of people using the port is inexorably growing, and with this growth has come threats to the Port, and the characteristics that make it so attractive. Deep keeled vessels require deep water, and substantial marinas. Fishermen and those who swim want the natural environment to be undisturbed, those who live on the foreshores want to be free to do what they want on their property, and those who stroll the foreshores have the expectation that they will be free to do so. On opposing sides of the Port, perhaps symbolising the nature of the conflicts over the uses of the Port, are a public National Park, and a highly developed recreational and residential area.

For many years, there was no real attempt to bring together all of the interest groups, and to consider all of the competing demands and their impacts in an integrated way.

Over 11 government departments had partial authority over different aspects of the Port, but no-one had oversight of the total.

Some usage groups had their clubs, particularly the boating and fishing users. Some environmental groups had an interest in the natural aspects of the Port. The risk was substantial that all of these uncoordinated activities and developments would collectively destroy what we all loved about Port Hacking - its natural beauty, relative freedom from pollution, and its ability to offer a range of recreational opportunities.

In the mid 1980s, the Port Hacking Planning Advisory Committee was established under the auspices of the Sutherland Shire Council. After a flurry of activity which included the creation of a draft Plan of Management for the Port, it ceased operation. In 1992 a number of the different user groups and others concerned about the incremental deterioration in what they valued about the Port came together for a one day conference about the Port and its future. The collective perception of boating, swimming, environmental and fishing body representatives was that the unplanned and uncoordinated treatment of the Port posed a substantial risk to the future amenity of the Port for all users. One result of this was the reactivation of the Port Hacking Planning and Advisory Committee by Sutherland Council. Its charter was to advise Sutherland Shire Council on the management of the Port, and to attempt to bring together the various government bodies with fragmented jurisdiction over the Port.

Represented on the Committee are local environmental , resident and boating interests, the Public Works Department, The Royal National Park management, the Maritime Services Board, and the NSW Department of Sport and Recreation. Other organisations have been invited to participate, and are regularly informed of what is being developed.

Has the Advisory Committee made any progress in reducing the risk of uncoordinated, incremental damage to the Port? My answer is a heavily qualified "yes, but not as much as it should have":
  • We have achieved the development and publication of a Management Plan for Port Hacking, but we have not been as yet been able to get the various authorities to commit fully to its implementation. It remains advisory only;

  • We have arrived at a negotiated plan for the long term maintenance dredging, which has the support of the bulk of the environmental groups, user groups and government departments concerned with the Port. But the ongoing 'buck passing' between Sutherland Shire and the State Government over who should pay for dredging works stands between the plan and its implementation;

  • We have also begun a program of local action within the Port, with the establishment of an Estuary Management Committee for the Yowie Bay. The heart of this approach will be the active involvement of residents and others with a direct interest in this and other estuaries within the Port.

There are many issues that are a long way from resolution. The entire issue of foreshore development and its impacts on water quality and the amenity for nonresidents is still awaiting proper consideration. Better integration of the planning and decision making of the host of government departments is a matter crying out for attention. Policing of the existing policies, like foreshore protection, and community education, both need work and investment. And finally there is the issue of developing the information base and the data that is required if the community and the various authorities are to actively track what is happening to the Port and avoid 'kneejerk' decision making.

The PHPAC is a good start. Coupled with the initiative of a Hacking River Catchment Management Committee, it provides a basis for integrated decision making, and a fair balancing of the needs of users, the long term environmental values of the Port, and the rights of property owners. How successful it will be ultimately is dependent on the energy and commitment that the various government bodies, and the community representatives, are prepared to give to its task. The community has every right to demand that the effort is put in to defend their interests and the values they care for about the Port.

Bushcare in Sutherland Shire

Christine Guthrie (Bushcare Officer)

Bushcare is a community-based program supported by Sutherland Shire Council whereby the community becomes involved in managing and maintaining remnant bushland areas within the shire on a voluntary basis.

Sutherland Shire has over 60 urban bushland reserves covering an area of 850 hectares. These areas of bushland create an attractive environment to live, are an important recreational resource, are important for wildlife and conservation purposes and are an integral part of the scenery around the Shire. These bushland remnants also protect soils and the quality of water in our creeks and rivers and provide a graphic reminder of what the landscape and original vegetation was once like.

Most bushland remnants in Sutherland Shire occur as isolated patches with long boundaries surrounded by urban development. These remnants are degraded by:
  • urban stormwater runoff and swimming pool overflows;

  • invasion by weed and exotic plants and introduced animals;

  • dumping of rubbish, garden refuse and foreign soil;

  • altered fire regimes

  • altered soil chemistry resulting from excess nutrients entering the system through urban runoff, pet excreta and overuse of fertilisers and detergents;

  • disturbances by roads, tracks, railways and dumping of fill;

  • picking wildflowers and removal of plants or bush rocks.

Active management of our bushland reserves is essential. It is impossible for Council to undertake all work required to manage bushland reserves due to the large scale of the problem. Community involvement is essential to maintain and improve the quality of the Shire's bushland and maintain water quality in Port Hacking as a lot of stormwater runoff enters Port Hacking via the many bushland reserves surrounding the area.

At present there are 15 Bushcare Groups working in reserves which affect Port Hacking. Some, such as Bundeena Reserve, Cabbage Tree Point, Darook Park and Kareena Park, Caringbah are directly on the foreshores of Port Hacking. Others, such as Coonong Creek Reserve and Ewey Creek Reserve are on creeks which flow into Port Hacking.

Groups working in these reserves are always mindful of the fact that they are having an affect on the Port Hacking system and take steps to ensure rubbish and other pollutants don't enter the waterway. Erosion control measures are also taken to ensure that water quality is maintained by minimising the amount of silt entering the system.

There are a number of ways that you can help preserve our remnant bushland reserves and protect our waterways. Make your garden bush friendly by:
  • removing plants from your garden that become weeds in our bushland and replacing them with local native species;

  • confining your garden to your property;

  • not disposing of garden waste or rubbish in the bush

  • protecting wildlife by controlling your pet.

  • Be aware of what goes down the stormwater drain and minimise pollutants and chemicals entering the waterways by:

    • washing your car on the lawn to prevent detergents entering the stormwater system;

    • using garden fertilisers sparingly - excess fertilisers enter the stormwater system and create conditions in bushland which favour the growth of weeds

    • rinsing paintbrushes and other tools away from stormwater drains.

  • Become actively involved by:

    • joining a Bushcare group and undertaking bush regeneration and revegetation programs;

    • participating in environmental education through workshops, seminars and open days;

    • helping with seed collection and propagation of local natives for revegetation projects. Anyone can become involved in Bushcare. There are many ways for residents, community groups and schools to participate.

If you are interested in joining Bushcare, contact Sutherland Shire Bushcare Officers on 9710 0192.


In the past two issues of the Port Hacking Protectorate, we have reported in detail on the ongoing debate over urban development proposals for the township of Helensburgh. In 1994, this debate came to a head when the Minister for Planning and Minister for Housing, Mr. Robert Webster, appointed a Commission of Inquiry into Appropriate Landuse and Zonings within the Vicinity of Helensburgh.

In December 1994, the Commissioner reported on the matter. In the next issue we will publish extracts of the executive summary from that report. The significant recommendation from that report is that

"there be no change in the current Local Environment Plan or current zonings until further studies are undertaken primarily aimed at identifying existing and potential impacts from various landuse, then setting of appropriate environmental objectives, followed by identification of a cost-effective strategic catchment management plan to control existing catchment pollution sources and identify landuse controls capable of meeting these objectives."

Printed in this newsletter is a history of the Helensburgh issue written by Bob Walshe, Chairman of Sutherland Shire Environment Centre and Save the Hacking Coalition.

Storm over Helensburgh

Bob Walshe

Here is a brief history of the bitter dispute which has led to the Report of the 1994 Commission of Inquiry into whether urban expansion beyond the present town would cause "significant environmental degradation" to the Royal National Park, the Hacking River, and the green buffer separating Wollongong from Sydney.

1879-80: the NSW Government set aside 33,000 acres of bushland as Australia's first National Park, the Royal National Park. Also in 1880, coinciding with construction of the south-coast railway, Helensburgh began to grow around the Metropolitan coalmine.

Helensburgh is a small town (or village) which is located between the cities of Sydney and Wollongong, intrudes into the bushland 'greenbelt' separating the cities, borders and impacts ecologically on Royal National Park and sends town-originated pollution into the Hacking River, through the Park, thence to Port Hacking.

Helensburgh is a concern of two local governments: Wollongong City Council, which is responsible for it; and neighbouring Sutherland Shire Council which * covers most of Royal National Park and the lower reaches of the Park's main river, the Hacking. The Park and the River collect runoff and pollution from the latter's upper reaches around Helenburgh.

1971: a proposal to add 30-40,000 people to the population of Helensburgh was stopped by public alarm at being overwhelmed by "Sydney sprawl".

Mid-1970s: the National Parks and Wildlife Service expressed an intention to head off urban expansion of Helensburgh by purchasing land in the Hacking's upper catchment for addition to the Royal National Park. However, the Service's file was "mislaid" and the sale never proceeded. This error was not revealed until 1982, by which time significant land had been purchased (1980) by Mr. Robert Hogarth, principal of two companies, Ensile Pty Ltd and Lady Carrington Estates. These companies, together with other parties, have since pushed for urban expansion.

1984: The State Government asked Wollongong Council to study the urban expansion potential of Helensburgh. Council identified lands above the escarpment from Helensburgh to Bulli as having the potential to settle 30,000 people. Opponents pointed to a host of damaging effects of such development.

1985: The developer, Lady Carrington Estates, began selling rural-zoned land with the promise "to be rezoned within five years or your money back plus 10%". Wollongong Council inserted "buyer beware" warnings in local newspapers.

1986: Wollongong Council conducted a survey of support for urban expansion - and found very little.

1987: The Department of Consumer Affairs laid charges against Lady Carrington Estates, alleging misleading advertising of unserviced non-urban land at Helensburgh.

July 1990: Council put on public exhibition till October a "Helensburgh Draft Plan". It envisaged major urban expansion around Helensburgh - 2,500 housing lots and 42 hectares of industrial estate. In effect, this would be the first stage of the largest (30,000 people) expansion proposed by the 1984 study. The three months of intense public scrutiny brought 5103 submissions to Wollongong Council - with 4865 against! (95%).
Repeatedly, Wollongong Council has been approached by developers seeking to expand housing and industry beyond Helenburgh's present limit. In 1971, for instance, a major proposal would have added 30-40,000 people. It was stopped by public alarm at being overwhelmed by "Sydney sprawl".
The overwhelming public rejection of the Helensburgh Draft Plan drew at least four important responses:
  1. Sutherland Shire's three Liberal MPs declared: "The Greiner Government will not accept any further residential or industrial development unless the Hacking River catchment is protected", and one MP, Ron Phillips, added that if Wollongong Council rejected it, "that would be the end of the matter" (Leader, 21.3.91);

  2. Wollongong City Council voted 9-6 on April 29th, 1991 to reject the Plan and to proceed in its stead with an "environmental protection" rezoning of most of the lands the Plan had identified for urban expansion;

  3. Council showed it was not against development per se, as it made allowance for a 40% increase in population by "infilling" within existing boundaries - urban consolidation, not urban sprawl;

  4. Sutherland Shire Council applauded Wollongong's rejection of the Draft Plan and lobbied the Minister for Planning to ratify the "environmental protection" zones.

After its April 1991 rejection of urban expansion, Wollongong Council asked the NSW Planning Department in May to issue a Section 65 Certificate, this being the formality it needed before it could publicly exhibit its scheme for rezoning the lands as "7(d) Environmental Protection - Hacking River". The Planning Department usually takes several weeks to issue this certificate. In this case, the Department delayed for over 12 months. In the meantime property developers lodged a counter rezoning application - that is application for the selfsame urban expansion which council and 95% or the submissions had rejected a year before.

February 1994: Wollongong Council made the necessary formal request to the NSW Planning Department for ratification of its decision to rezone the land (except Gills Creek). Instead, Minister Robert Webster announced the July 5th Commission of Inquiry.

In response to the imposition of the Commission of Inquiry, a number of groups and Wollongong and Sutherland Shire councillors and citizens met on May 10th in the office of Sutherland Shire Environment Centre and unanimously formed the Save the Hacking Coalition. Office bearers included Bob Walshe (Chairman), Keith Muir (Secretary), Victor Leuliette (Treasurer).

Minister Webster's announcement of the Inquiry was condemned by Wollongong City Council, Sutherland Shire Council, conservation bodies (which formed the Save the Hacking Coalition), the State Parliamentary Opposition (Leader Bob Carr said he would quash urban expansion if elected), and the Democrats.

The Inquiry was held (mainly) in Wollongong court House after Wollongong City Council declined to provide it with no-cost accommodation, on the grounds that the Inquiry was unjustified and would be costly to the Council. December 22nd, 1994: Dr. Mark Carleton handed the report to Minister Webster for public announcement.

The developers, Robert Hogarth and Walker Corporation, together with more than a hundred small landowners - concentrated on responding to the issue of whether the projected homes and gardens (with infrastructure) would send pollution into the Hacking River.

Conservationists objected to the focus on "water quality". For instance, Sutherland shire Environment Centre circulated a list of "25 Issues Other Than Water Quality". Among these were:
  1. contribute to Sydney's urban sprawl;

  2. lead to engulfing Wollongong by conurbation (Sydgong);

  3. make inroads on the greebelt now separating the two cities;

  4. inflict multiple spoiling effects on Royal National Park;

  5. have more bad effects on the Hacking River than can be subsumed under "water quality";

  6. have effects that should not for a moment be entertained in the highly sensitive Helenburgh microclimate (erosion, loss of rainforest, etc.)

Nevertheless, the two Councils were obliged to employ consultants chiefly to counter the developers' concentration on this issue. Fortunately for the conservationists, five State Government authorities: Department of Water Resources, EPA, NPWS, Water Board and the Planning Department were against urban expansion.

The Minister's news release of 22 December 1994 concedes that as from this date the "consent authority" is Wollongong City Council. The Council can now issue a Local Environment Plan which zones the subject lands as it deems proper.

Wollongong City Council, with the backing of Sutherland Shire Council, conservation groups and some 20,000 signatories to past petitions and protest letters, seems certain to say, "Enough of studies. We've had three waves of studies in the past five years. Let's get on with rezoning these lands around Helensburgh as '7(d) Environmental Protection' and thereby ensure that the Hacking River, Royal National Park and Port Hacking will be safeguarded from the pollution that common sense knows would result from urban expansion".

There is only one exception to the zoning . This is a small part of the Gills creek catchment on which Council told the Commissioner it has an open mind. The conservationists in the Save the Hacking Coalition believe the area should be reforested, not built on.

Protection for Intertidal Invertibrates

Intertidal invertebrates have long been the focus of harvesting activities by different groups within the local community. These species are under increasing pressure from humans as a source of both food and bait.

The intertidal animals being collected include sea urchins, many species of crabs, cunjevoi and many mollusc species (bivalves, snails and octopus). In areas adjacent to populations centres, intertidal invertebrate populations have been greatly reduced, with some species becoming locally extinct. One of the largest groups of people collecting intertidal species are those with a non English speaking background. Usually the search is for specific, favoured items that are delicacies, that pertain to a certain ethnic cuisine or are expensive if purchased through regular channels, such as abalone. That is not to say that English speaking peoples do not collect intertidal invertebrates, they do, and all groups must be taken into consideration when looking at education and enforcement programs.

In order to try and reduce human predation of intertidal species and encourage their recovery, NSW Fisheries has employed a number of different management strategies. One of these strategies, introduced in July 1993, has been the introduction of Intertidal Protected Areas (IPAs) within the Sydney Metropolitan Region. Fifteen of these areas have been created so far, one of them in Port Hacking. The Cabbage Tree Point IPA extends from the wharf at Bundeena westwards along the foreshore to the western end of Simpsons Bay Beach and protect rocky shore and sandy beach intertidal habitats.

IPAs extend from the mean high water mark to 10 metres seaward of low water. The aim of the IPAs is for them to act as breeding reservoirs, allowing the recolonisation of adjacent intertidal areas, as well as preserving the community structure of the fauna and flora within IPAs. For this reason collection of intertidal invertebrates is strictly prohibited in the IPAs, with fines of up to $5000 applying to any person found in the possession of intertidal invertebrates within these protected areas. Fishing is allowed in the IPAs, but anglers must bring their bait with them, up to the quantity allowed by the standard bag limits.
Intertidal Protection Areas act as breeding reservoirs for intertidal invertebrates, allowing the recolonisation of adjacent intertidal areas, as well as preserving the community structure of the fauna and flora within IPAs.
At the present time NSW Fisheries is in the process of preparing a Draft Plan of Management for the Intertidal Communities of the Sydney Metropolitan Region. This plan aims to outline the various methods of management that are to be employed by NSW Fisheries to educate the public about the importance of Intertidal Habitats and their associated flora and fauna. A review of monitoring and research needs will also be addressed, as will the problem of enforcement in these areas. This Draft Plan will be made available for public comment on its completion.
For those intertidal areas not protected as IPAs (Cabbage Tree Point) or Marine Protect Areas (Shiprock Aquatic Reserve) within Port Hacking, invertebrate collecting bag limits apply. These bag limit regulations outline the number and sizes of intertidal invertebrates that can be collected legally. The regulations also stipulate the methods of non destructive harvesting that are allowed in sand and mud areas, as well as on rock platforms.

Information on Intertidal Protected Areas and bag limits, on enforcement of the IPAs and to report any illegal fishing activity, contact NSW Fisheries Office.
Cabbage Tree Point IPA has been created within Port Hacking. It extends from the wharf at Bundeena westwards along the foreshore to the western end of Simpsons Bay Beach. All invertebrates from the mean high water mark to 10 metres seaward of low water are protected.

Saving the Hacking

Noreen Solomon, Labor Candidate for Cronulla

In pursuit of our aim to improve community consultation in setting the political agenda I and the other two Labor candidates for seats in Sutherland Shire invited representatives of a wide range of local environment and community groups to make submissions to an Environmental Forum which was held on 8 December last year.

The response was quite good with well researched submissions being received both before and at the forum. From these, together with the outcome of discussions at the meeting, the candidates have been compiling a joint policy for presentation to the local community.

As might be expected, many of the environmental issues raised at the forum impact on the Hacking River and the Port itself so I will devote this article to those particular matters.

Dredging of Port Hacking

This is a very sensitive issue. On the one hand, the Port is a naturally shoaled estuary while, on the other, there is a demand for safe navigation. Because of its conservation values and the unquestioned beauty of the Port, most residents want it to maintain its basic character. I hold the same view.

Intervention is necessary with the highest priority being the maintenance of the Bundeena ferry service. The level of dredging beyond that for navigation should be minimal so that reasonable access to and from the sea is given to moderately sized craft. In this respect, I fully support the approach to the shoaling and minimum dredging that has been taken by the Port Hacking Planning and Advisory Committee.

The State Government has refused to fund dredging of the Port, repudiating an arrangement which has been in place for 100 years.

In order to break the deadlock and, perhaps shame the Government into relenting, the three local Labor candidates approached Bob Carr and arranged for him to go out on the ferry to see for himself how the channels were silting up. Bob gave a commitment in writing to the effect that if Labor wins on 25 March his government would provide the necessary funds for a controlled dredging program within the first 12 months of office.

The written agreement between Bob Carr and the Shire Council also provides for a Labor government to maintain the navigation channels on a regular basis. For its part the Council has agreed to fund on a 50/50 basis with a Labor government the provision of gross pollutant traps at Gunnamatta Bay as well as upgrading works to the headlands of the Bay and surrounding public boat ramps.

Sewage Treatment

Cronulla now has the dirtiest beaches in Sydney and there is an urgent need to upgrade Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant. Effluent from the plant is released directly into the ocean at Potter Point near Wanda from a pipe on the cliff face.

The community is still awaiting the release of an options study by the State Government which is to examine ways of reducing beach pollution. One of these options, I believe, will be a deep ocean outfall. This is not the answer - it reveals an "out of sight out of mind" mentality. The dumping of toxic waste, hazardous chemicals, nuclear waste and sewage into our oceans is no longer acceptable.

Bob Carr has made a commitment that a Labor Government will not build any more deep ocean outfalls and is committed to "reuse"" type technology and the recycling of treated water. This would increase the capacity and efficiency of the Cronulla STEP and its related systems so that wet-weather overflows would be minimised.

Ocean sandmining

A strong community campaign recently thwarted ocean sand mining off the Royal National Park. This mining may have had serious effects on the marine environment and on Cronulla's beaches. Despite the huge amount of money invested in it, the EIS was totally inadequate in the way it addressed the issues of major concern. The proposal deserved to fail.

While the Fahey Government responded to this community pressure by guesting a Regulation to stop the proposed sandman venture that Regulation can be amended at any time by the relevant Minister (even when Parliament is not sitting) and the amended version would have immediate and full legal force. By the time Parliament reconvened a binding contract for ocean sandmining could be in place.

This is not good enough for me! Bob Carr has committed any government he leads to legislating through the Parliament a law permanently banning ocean sandmining off Cronulla and the Royal National Park.

Helensburgh redevelopment

I am opposed to urban development at Helensburgh because I recognise that any such development in the fringe areas of Helensburgh will present an environment threat to the creeks and tributaries of the Hacking River system.

Managing the Future

Sutherland Shire Council has adopted a Plan of Management for Port Hacking and its environs. Like the Council, I believe that the Plan fairly represents community attitudes on a whole range of issues. However, the Plan cannot bind those State Government authorities with the vested power and the funds to implement its recommendations. We need strong representation to give effect to those matters which are outside Council's power.

The threat posed by the anchoring of ships close in shore in Bate Bay, the overharvesting of marine fauna, inappropriate foreshore development, inappropriate and antisocial behaviour by boating enthusiasts, increased public access to the foreshores and, of course, water quality are just some of the issues that I want to pursue and which should have a strong commitment from a local State representative.

Major Advances in Shire Environment

Malcolm Kerr MP

The community's increasing environmental awareness goes well beyond safeguarding Sutherland shire's national parks and reserves. That is only one facet of caring for the environment.

As part of my responsibility to the Cronulla electorate, I made a commitment many years ago to raise community awareness of the urban environment and participation in environmental decision-making.

At the top of my agenda has been a commitment to improve the quality of the Shire's waterways and beaches and to prevent further degradation.

We have had many successes in environmental protection, but I would never claim any of these successes on my own. Many residents in the Sutherland Shire share the same concerns for the environment and have shared the task of cleanups and calls for the conservation.

Some of the real wins for the environment I have fought for have been to:
  • stop a proposal to mine sand offshore Cronulla

  • stop the dumping of sewage sludge into the sea and improve its treatment

  • make sewerage treatment plants accountable to the public

  • stop the expansion of Lucas Heights tip

  • add additional wetlands to Towra Point and Royal National Park

  • initiated an agreement with Sutherland Council to curb overdevelopment

  • reduce the amount of sewage, stormwater and urban runoff entering the Shire's waterways

There has been dramatic progress under the Fahey Government in the area of the environment. Cleaner Cronulla beaches and upgrading of the Cronulla Sewerage Treatment Plant are a prime examples of the Government's progress on cleaning up the waterways environment.

Another area of concern in the Shire has been stormwater pollution.

The Fahey Government has committed $6 million a year to beat this high pollutant source.

The Stormwater Taskforce was set up in 1993 to begin the process of overhauling the stormwater drain network. In addition, pollution control licensing was initiated in September 1994 to control the impact of sewer outflows.

The Fahey Government has funded the construction of Gross Pollutant Traps throughout Cronulla. As this area is in the downstream part of the catchment in the Shire, the pollutant traps filter the rubbish in the stormwater network before the water is expelled.

The Burraneer Bay Road trap has been constructed at a cost of $81,000, a 50% subsidy between the Council and the government.

Water pollution by industry is also being addressed with a $25 million 5 year effluent improvement plan negotiated with Caltex by the Fahey Government. After 5 years, the effluent discharge by the refinery at Kurnell, the EPA expects the re-colonisation of aquatic flora and fauna in the surrounding area and its improved suitability for water-based recreation.

Finally, I'd like to mention one further achievement by this Government and that is the passing of the Total Catchment Management Act 1989.

The management of catchments is a turning point in the protection of our water resources and in improving water quality.

The Catchment Committees are made up of local people who know the problems of their area. The community knows where the money should be spent.

98% of New South Wales is now covered by the Total Catchment Management structure.

Recent, the Rivers Reborn Program was announced and commits $5.12 million as a resource pool for funding the work of catchment management committees. A funding approval of $149,750 was announced in August 1994 for the Hacking River committee.

Of particular concern to many residents is the impact of urban, rural and industrial activities in the upper catchment areas of the hacking River which flows through the Royal National Park.

Previously I have expressed strong concerns about public safety and the long term environmental damage to the Port particularly pollution, natural siltation and the need to immediately dredge the navigation channels.

I am, like the State Government, committed to a holistic approach to Port Hacking and its tributaries which takes in the maintenance of navigational channels but more importantly urban runoff as evidence by the build up of siltation at the heads of the bays.

The Sutherland Shire:
A Priority for Sydney Water

Sydney Water (previously the Water Board) is working on a number of wastewater and water activities in the Sutherland Shire. These projects are providing various benefits for residents along the Port Hacking.

Wastewater in the Sutherland Shire

Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant

The Bate Bay Study, instigated in response to community concerns, was undertaken to determine the causes of pollution on Cronulla Beaches. Findings showed the cliff-face outfall from Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at Potter Point was a major cause of pollution, especially with strong south westerly winds and currents.

The Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant which serves all of the Sutherland Shire will be upgraded after an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed.

The community is already playing an important role in deciding what kind of improvements will be made to Cronulla STP. A working party made up of representatives from local interest groups and government agencies has been established.

A discussion paper will soon be released which outlines the main issues and concerns of residents in the Sutherland Shire about wastewater treatment and disposal, as well as examining options that could be considered. The options for Cronulla STP will include effluent and sludge reuse strategies.

Currently all sludge from Cronulla STP is used as soil conditioner in forestry. In the long term, it is possible that recycled sewage effluent will be used in industrial processes, commercial garden/turf watering or even as potable drinking water.

As part of the preparation of the EIS, residents are encouraged to read the discussion paper and make comments on their concerns and preferred options for Cronulla STP. If you would like a copy of the paper, please call the Customer Liaison Unit at Sydney Water.

It is anticipated that the EIS for Cronulla STP will be displayed in mid 1995.

Drinking Water in the Sutherland Shire

Sydney Water's management strategies for the water supply, must ensure that water supplied to our customers is safe to drink.

The quality of water delivered to the tap can be affected in many ways. For instance, there is a high risk of contamination due to factors such as urban expansion, land, water and air pollution.

In the Sutherland Shire, Sydney Water's concerns relating to the quality of water supplied to customers include:
  • discoloured water from high levels of turbidity and iron which stain customers' washing; and

  • taste and odour of water, from chlorine needed for disinfection

Improvement programs to the water supply are continually being undertaken such as mains and reservoirs cleaning, upgrading chlorination and installing water quality monitoring systems.

Sydney Water has also completed Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) on the construction of water filtration plants as an effective means of improving Sydney's raw water supply into the future.

The plants being constructed to improve the water quality for Sutherland Shire residents are the Prospect and Woronora filtration plants.

It is anticipated that the Prospect and Woronora filtration plants will be operational in mid 1996 and mid 1997 respectively.
The treatment process at the Water Filtration Plants, illustrated will ensure that Sydney Water can maintain clean, healthy and safe drinking water on tap.

MSB Waterways Puts Safety First

The MSB Waterways Authority is responsible for the control and management of boating in NSW and plays a leading role in maintaining safety standards on the water.

The Authority, which is a subsidiary of the Maritime Services Board, is a regulatory authority and administers the system of navigation aids, the registration of boats and the licensing of boat drivers.

By requiring boaters meet the registration and driver's licence requirements the foundation is set for safe use of the waters.

There are more than 145,000 registered recreational vessels in NSW and more than 296,000 people holding licences.

People accept the need to know the rules of the road and need to obtain a licence before driving a car. Similar precautions are required on the water.

It can be a fatal mistake to underestimate the dangers involved in boating. Particularly, as wide-open spaces on lakes, bays and offshore can be deceptive.

Each licence holder has passes a test on the basic rules for safe navigation and the safety requirements, and this helps to maintain a high level of safety on the waterways. Licences are required by anyone who operates a powercraft at a speed of 10 knots or more.

A similar situation exists in the commercial area where the Authority ensures vessels meet specific survey and manning requirements.

The Waterways Authority believes the best course towards improved safety on the water is by maintaining the minimum regulatory standards and liaising with the users.

That is why the Waterways Authority has established 37 User Groups throughout the State to improve responsiveness to customer needs.

These boating user Groups provide valuable local feedback on local issues to the Waterways Advisory Committee which is the peak community council overseeing the local groups.

The Council's role is to advise Waterways' management about important safety, environmental and regulatory issues that may arise throughout NSW.

The Waterways Authority also has 29 Service Centres located near major waterways throughout the State providing assistance to the boating community at a local level and an outlet for boating safety education.

Perhaps the most public aspect of the Authority's activity is the on-water patrolling by Boating Service Officers.

These men and women are the front-line organisation. They are the people who meet customers face to face and actively encourage compliance with safety and environmental requirements.

Boating Service Officers are trained in customer relations and although they will issue tickets for breaches of the regulations, they will also spend time talking to boaters and providing advice.

The Authority's officers also distribute safety material such as brochures and stickers, conduct safety checks of vessels, and hold free Safe Boating Seminars at community centres.

This customer-service approach has been hailed a success by both the public and many boating organisations. To further enhance customer service, a Boating Safety Access Line (phone (02) 9364 2888 or toll free on 008 42 2718) has been established. This free service operates seven days a week for people who have enquiries about licences, registrations, moorings and boating safety.

During the middle of last year, Access Line also began accepting phone payments for renewals of licences, registrations and moorings to offer extra convenience to customers.

The infrastructure is there for safe boating and the Waterways Authority plans to continue to actively promote safety awareness. The Authority is also encouraging boaters throughout the State to be aware of the environment.

In Sydney, the Authority operates a Harbour cleaning Service which operates every day of the year to clear hazards to navigation and other rubbish from the harbour, while there is an ongoing campaign to encourage boaters to use sewage pumpout stations where possible.

Helping to keep the waterways clean and regulating safe boating practices - are all part of the MSB Waterways Authority's responsibilities.

Jetskis Update

For the past several years PHPS has been actively campaigning for much tighter control on jet-skis (personal water craft), believing that on noise and danger grounds the Port was being severely degraded. Our petition to the Minister had almost 3000 signatures. Legislation has now been passed which limits the distance from shore operation of PWCs, increases the level of fines and specifies noise limits. Good, good news.

Details in the next Protectorate on how the new controls are working.
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