Every region in Australia needs protecting by an environment centre. This is especially true for Sutherland Shire – because this Shire is the most remarkable local government region in Australia. It is home to a host of threatened natural features: the two great bays, Port Hacking and Botany Bay; three of Sydney’s six rivers, four national parks including the oldest in the world; many of Sydney’s best beaches; and the birthplace of the nation, where Aboriginal and European cultures first met. By the way, Aborigines are reported by the First Fleet diarists to have assembled muttering, shouting and making obscene gestures when Phillip’s sailors indiscriminately chopped down trees on Kurnell – that’s the first environmental protest meeting in Australian history! And we have over 100 urban bushland areas in the Shire to protect, along with 50 per cent of Sydney mangroves and 90 percent of its saltmarshes.
Formally speaking, our birthday is the 22nd of July. On that day in 1991 an ‘Official Launch’ was held at the rented shopfront/office on the mezzanine floor of Eton Arcade, Sutherland. The Centre was born following a Writing for the Environment course, held in Sutherland in 1991 by local historian, publisher and environmental activist, Bob Walshe. A few inspired participants banded together, intending to put the lessons from the course to good use.
After the launch of the Environment Centre it wasn’t long before its founding members were hard at work on their first campaign. It was to be the first of many successes. All through the intervening years, SSEC has been in the forefront of many campaigns on behalf of environmental protection in and around Sutherland Shire:
- the expansion of Lucas Heights Waste Depot as Sydney’s ‘Megatip’, 1992;
- an expansion of Helensburgh that would have polluted the Royal National Park, 1994;
- the Metromix proposal to mine huge quantities of off-shore sand near Botany Bay, Cronulla and Marley, 1994;
- siting of Sydney’s second airport at Holsworthy, 1997;
- a co-generation plant at Kurnell that would have damaged Botany Bay, 1998;
- construction of the M6 which would split the Shire in two
- development of 3000 homes in West Menai
More recently much of our effort has gong into raising awareness of the risks of climate change, threats to our water supply from coal mining and CSG extraction, and our environmental education programs.