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December 1997

What Foreshore Residents Think

Environmental issues are the main concern of foreshore residents

Ten years ago, Sutherland Shire Council commissioned the group Elliott & Shanahan to study residents' attitudes to Port Hacking. That study showed that residents are concerned about the natural environment of Port Hacking. This year the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee (HRCMC) commissioned a more detailed study of foreshore residents' attitudes. It shows that residents continue to be concerned for the preservation of the natural qualities of Port Hacking, and that what they value most is the quiet enjoyment of its natural beauty. The overriding attitude of love and respect for the Port has not shifted since the Elliott & Shanahan study in October 1987.

The HRCMC commissioned survey was of 300 randomly selected Port Hacking foreshore residents of both the north and south sides of the Port. The results highlight the difference between the prevailing concerns for the environment and where the attention of government authorities seems to be directed.

The final results of the HRCMC survey will be released by the Committee some time this month.

The HRCMC survey shows:

The Greatest Use of Port Hacking is For Low-Key, Low-Impact Recreation

What foreshore residents value and enjoy, and the type of concern that they might have in relation to the Port, in large part reflects how they use the Port. The majority uses of the Port are not the ones that are obvious - large boats, high speed vessels and the like. As was the case ten years ago in the Elliott & Shanahan study, the greatest use of Port Hacking is for low key, low impact recreation. The chart on Port Uses summarises the uses that foreshore residents make of the waterway.

Of course, uses overlap. Many fishers also use small outboards; those who fish also picnic and walk on the foreshores and go for a swim. Many who surf also use small sail boats. Those who take a ferry also walk and swim the foreshores.

Even given these overlaps, the picture that emerges is of people who derive pleasure from the environmental qualities of the Port, and predominantly engage in low impact recreational uses of the estuary.

The Majority of Foreshore Residents are Pro-Environment

The survey shows that foreshore residents have an overriding concern for the ecological health of the Port, regardless of the type of use they make of the waterway and its foreshores. When asked questions about the ecology of the Port, including water quality, fish stocks, seagrass beds, foreshore life, the dominant response of residents is high concern.
This concern for the ecology of the Port is carried over into an almost as powerful a concern for the preservation of the natural look and feel of the Port. Most residents did not want to see a reduction in foreshore vegetation, increased building of boatsheds, boatramps and the like and more imposing housing estates.

What About Safety and Navigation Issues?

The survey shows that the type of concern about navigation and safety issues in large part reflects the type of use made of the Port. Those who use the foreshores for picnics and walking, those who fish and those who surf and swim in the water are more concerned about safety issues than those who predominantly use the waterways with motorised craft. Some who have cruisers are worried about the sandbars and other navigational issues in the Port.

Powered Craft Noise is a Significant Concern in Some Areas

The survey asked a range of questions about noise issues: construction noise, noise from aircraft, noise from users on the waterway and noise from smaller motorised craft. The significant overall noise concern foreshore residents had was noise from motorised vessels. This concern was particularly strongly felt on the Southern side of the Port, and was typically associated with the noise from high power to weight small vessels ("tinnies" and PWC or "jetskis").

As the Port Hacking Protection Society has noted in previous issues of the Portectorate, the intensity of the discomfort created by the noise of small motorised vessels varies between individuals, reflecting both the sensitivity of the individual, and the situation in which the noise occurs. For a person on the Southern side of the estuary, who has chosen to live there to enjoy the peace and quiet of a natural setting, the intrusion of a pack of PWC users can represent a major loss of amenity. It can also signal a safety hazard, which increases the level of stress associated with the noise. Repetition of noise and safety incidents creates an increasing sensitivity and frustration. The Protectorate has previously highlighted that the frustration level in some areas is becoming very high, and survey comments bear this out.

Government action is well behind community attitudes

In many ways this is a heartening survey. Concern for the sustainability of our use of the Port is a prevalent attitude, and it is not a passing concern - every survey of attitudes in the Sutherland Shire shows the same thing. We value our special place, and we want to protect and enhance its natural value. "Sustainability" and a concern for the ecology are concepts we can readily embrace, because they are consistent with how we see our environment, and how most of us enjoy it.

There is a gross mismatch between the inaction of government at all levels, and the positive environmental attitudes that are demonstrated by this survey.

We are already seeing severe, gradual, damage throughout the Port. The severe and possibly irreversible deterioration in Yowie Bay, or the fact that a recent study showed that less than 50% of fish, crustaceans and shellfish sampled in the Port are of edible standard, should signal to authorities that Port Hacking needs real protection. Incremental damage can only be avoided by sustained, coordinated attention. Individuals can do a lot to prevent adding to the problems, but we cannot control small, incremental forms of destruction except through committed action by Sutherland Shire Council and the NSW government.

Where is the integrated planning and focus on sustainability that many are asking for? Where is the protection of the natural beauty of the foreshores, or the policing of foreshore harvesting to protect the creatures that create the natural qualities we want protected? Where are the examples of protection of the seagrasses, or the preservation of the rights to quietly enjoy nature?

The sad answer is that we cannot point to real, on-the-ground action by government at any level in Port Hacking to protect the environmental quality of the Port.

You can add your voice to the calls for action, not just empty rhetoric, about the protection of the natural values and peaceful recreational uses of Port Hacking. Write to the relevant authorities to express your concerns. Join groups like the Port Hacking Protection Society, or the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre, and make your concerns real. Shape the future of the Port. The majority of your neighbours do share your concerns about the future of our Port Hacking.

$lush Fund, or Bitter Pill?

NSW major urban areas gain little from Telstra selloff

Urban Catchment Coordinating Committees were outraged to find that they had received less than 0.05% of total funding available under the Federal Government's Natural Heritage Trust. Sydney and adjacent urban areas such as Wollongong, Newcastle and Central Coast are centres with over 20% of Australia's population.
$1.25 billion over five years is available for disbursement to Natural Heritage Trust projects. About $187 million was allocated for 1997/98 projects. Selection of projects was carried out first by a panel in a region or catchment who prioritised them. The recommendations or regional panels were then reviewed by a State Assessment Panel according to state and national guidelines. The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill, and Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Mr John Anderson make the final decision.

Of the 70 Sydney projects worth over $2.5 million recommended by the Assessment Panel, only 12 worth $104,000 in total have been funded. In comparison the Murrumbidgee catchment received over 7.5 million for over 75 projects. Even if you compare the land areas of the catchments, Sydney still received one third less funding per square kilometre.

NSW has attracted $43 million (25%) of funds available through the National Heritage Trust although it contains over one third of the nation's population. Tasmania, home state of independent Brian Harradine whose senate vote allowed the Federal Government to sell Telstra received 18.7 million (10%) of the funding although it contains only 2.5% of the population and around 2% of the land area.

Before decisions regarding funding were made public, John Connor, Executive Officer, Nature Conservation Council, wrote in the publication Environment NSW (Vol 3, No 2, 1997): "The National Heritage Trust is an emerging vision ... The critical issue is the degree to which regional organisations and strategies will advance nature conservation. The National Heritage Trust could be pivotal in shifting communities and institutions towards ecological sustainability. It could also be a cynical political exercise, achieving the degrading of core government environmental responsibilities whilst propping up unsustainable land uses."

In the eyes of the Urban Catchment Coordinating Committees, the latter has occurred. Mr Mowbray, Chairman of the Urban Catchments Coordinating Committee said: "It is embarrassing that the Federal Government has developed such an appalling and biased process. Misters Hill and Anderson seem to have ignored Sydneysiders where over three million people live and work who have every right to see a reasonable representative proportion of the proceeds of the sale of Telstra spent on community projects to restore our environment.

"The people of Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and the Central Coast have contributed public money over a long period of time to Telstra and therefore are holders of a significant proportion of its assets. We would have expected an appropriate return on our collective investment which has not occurred, it has shifted out of the area and the state.

The NHT is supposed to be about long term strategies to improve the condition of our land, waterways, and biodiversity. Urban environments support the majority of people in Australia and are under great stress. Despite this, the Federal Government has treated them with contempt."

The Urban Catchments Coordinating Committee will demand an explanation for the decision from Senator Hill and Minister Anderson and attempt to correct the imbalance. Mr Mowbray also recommends that people seek a "please explain" from their local Federal MP.

Stop Press

Cawley Road

In the last issue of the Protectorate we noted that there were moves to have Cawley Road closed. A decision has now been made that the Department of Land and Water Conservation has decided not to close Cawley Road as it is a public road.
Dumped rubbish on Cawley Rd

The Helensburgh Waste Disposal Depot

Wollongong Council has carried out significant work at the Helensburgh Waste Disposal Depot to reduce its effects on the environment. In December 1994, the EPA approved Council's proposed extension of landfill over the old sanitary depot and installation of a weighbridge and office together with extensions of stormwater and leachate collection systems. The EPA allowed the extension provided that:
  • An effective stormwater system was provided. There are now three stormwater dams with stormwater from uncontaminated parts of the site diverted.

  • An effective leachate system. The leachate collection system now surrounds the parts of the site affected by landfilling. Leachate is pumped to sewer under a discharge licence agreement with Sydney Water.

  • Comprehensive monitoring of both surface water flows and groundwater on a monthly basis. Since April 1994, monitoring requirements have been met. In the eight months since the completion of the drainage works, test results have shown water quality has been close to background levels found in upstream ground water samples. The sub soil drainage system has apparently effectively isolated the landfill from the rest of the Hacking River catchment.

Helensburgh Colliery to close

The Helensburgh Colliery, Metropolitan Colliery Limited is currently in receivership and the mining is under licence until December 1997. On 28 October 1996, a majority of employees were terminated and an administrator appointed. The mine was placed on a care and maintenance basis. The Administrator entered into a Colliery Operation and Maintenance Agreement with Allied Meridian Pty Ltd for a 12 month period.

The Environment Protection Agency has been trying, unsuccessfully, to reduce the impact of the colliery on the sensitive, surrounding environment. Current water pollution controls on the premises are inadequate. In addition, there has been increased stockpiling of coal refuse on the Colliery site. A cause for concern even though the EPA has been given assurances that the refuse will be removed. Without adequate wastewater collection and treatment systems in place, there is the potential for quality of stormwater discharges from the mine area to remain an environmental problem whether the mine is operating or not.

The EPA has initiated legal action against Metropolitan Colliery Limited in the past for breaches of environmental statutes relating to water pollution. Although the EPA has reaffirmed on a number of occasion with the current Administrator of the mine the importance of its pollution reduction program, the Administrator has advised them that he is not in a position to carry out the necessary work over the period of the Maintenance Agreement. Although still pursuing the matter, the EPA finds it difficult to make headway when the mine's future is uncertain.

Hacking River Community Forum

The Hacking River CMC is organising a Community Forum for early 1998. The intention of this Community Forum is to report back to the community on the progress and performance of State and local goverment activities within the Hacking River catchment and also of the CMCs strategies and programs.


Reading the reports of those involved in Bushcare throughout the Sutherland Shire is humbling!

Some bushcare groups have clocked up over 170 man-hours in four months! Others, struggling with one or two members, battle to make headway with a few hours effort each month. Bushcare groups have installed stairs, carried out primary clearing, painted benches, dug out drainage channels, mulched, erected fences and signs and planted thousands of seedlings. Many of the seedlings planted are raised from seeds collected by group members from plants in their bushcare area.
Bushcare group at Darook Park, Cronulla (courtesy HRCMC)
When asked what their problems/needs are, the responses are almost uniform: We need more people to help; How do we stop thoughtless people from dumping rubbish and ripping up the work that we do?

Each person working in the bushcare program feels a sense of pride in the work that they do. They volunteer their time to work in public reserves that we can all enjoy. You could do much worse than make free a few hours per month to help out. Contact Sutherland Shire Bushcare, 97100333 to find out which bushcare group is working closest to your home.

The Hacking River CMC will once again be advertising their Small Project Fund which has assisted many Bushcare Groups in the past.

Sydney Regional Coastal Management Strategy

The Sydney Coastal Council Group has been conducting workshops around Sydney Coastal suburbs to identify the key coastal management issues facing the Sydney Region and how these should be addressed in the development and implementation of a Sydney Regional Coastal Management Strategy.
Jibbon Beach, Port Hacking
The issue of primary concern to most workshop participants was the urgent need for improved water management. This included concerns regarding the adequacy of the existing sewer and stormwater systems and the identification and management of all key pollution sources. Also of primary concern was the view that governments should be encouraged to protect and conserve (and better manage) native areas, both terrestrial and aquatic remnants and biota.

The increased provision of public access was another primary concern to most participants. It was considered that access to existing public areas of the coast should be protected and added to where possible and appropriate. The sell-off of public foreshore land was highlighted as a major concern and one which had a direct impact on the community's ability to use and enjoy the many coastal resources along Sydney foreshores. It was further highlighted that there is a need for better communication and negotiation on these matters.

Underlying much of the discussion was the need for increased research on a great variety of coastal management issues including: ensuring that there are improvements in education and improved information exchange regarding natural, social, historical, political and commercial issues affecting the Sydney Coastal Region.

The draft Sydney Regional Coastal Management Strategy is currently being prepared and should be ready early in 1998. It will include the development of a Strategic Actions Program which is intended to guide and prioritise management actions of relevant stakeholders into the next century. The format and contents of the Strategy is to centre around: Water Management, Nature Conservation, Public Access, Role of Government, Climate Change, and Cultural Heritage.

If you have any queries, comments, relevant information or an interest in becoming actively involved in the project, contact Mr Geoff Withycombe, Project Officer phone (02) 9970 6908 or fax (02) 9970 6907.

Stressed Rivers Program

The Hacking River Catchment Management Committee has been provided with $10,000 to develop a Stressed River Analysis - Pilot Project. These funds are part of the NSW Government water reform package, announced in August 1997. The basic principles of the program are to establish a framework with community involvement to secure sound long-term management of our water resources.
Bundeena Creek
Under the stressed river approach, rivers around NSW will be classified according to their level of stress or conservation value and this classification will guide both the management priorities and policies. The stressed river classification will also provide an important link between river flow management and landuse management practices.

As a first step, a Stressed River Analysis Workshop was held to assess the level of the catchment's environmental stress. Department of Land and Water Conservation staff and members of the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee were involved. As a result of the workshop, it was possible to plot degrees of stress for various subcatchments of the Hacking River. The North Urban Area comes out as being most stressed, with South West Arm, Cedar and Stuart Gullies, Frews and Palm Gullies and Kangaroo Creek all of high conservation value. High priority streams to investigate further and possibility of benefiting most from management plans include Mid Hacking, Camp and Helensburgh Gullies, Gills Gully and Bundeena area.

The next step in the program will involve on-ground assessment of the stressed areas, followed by a third stage which will involve the development of the Water Management Plan. This third stage will look at the catchment management strategy, river flow management options, water quality plans and proposed stormwater management plans.

Yowie Bay - A Case of Port Abuse

What happened at Yowie Bay - what is still happening at Yowie Bay is a telling case study of the incremental damage threatening most of the bays in Port Hacking. The time for meaningful action to stop ongoing destruction is now! The experience at Yowie Bay shows that once the damage is done it is impossible to undo.

Yvette Graf or Brian Gutherson, residents around Yowie Bay can show you the photographs of this once pristine bay. The photographs show clear water, clean sand and a pretty creek running down through bushland into the bay. You look up from the picture and see today's reality - mudflats, trash and the sad demeanour reminiscent of a partially cleared mangrove swamp. Something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Photographs taken in the last few years show trash and mud washing down Ewey Creek with every major rainfall, and forming a plume that goes across the sand delta. Concerned residents will tell you about the non-existent or ineffective planning, and the failure of building site sediment controls that is the cause of a lot of silting at the head of the bay.
Deep water frontages of forty years ago are now gone...
They will show you the trash from shopping centres in the Yowie Bay catchment that washes down stormwater drains into Ewey Creek. Dig around in the mud flats anywhere and pull out plastic drinking straws, bits of foam cups, plastic bags and the like.

Yvette or Brian or any of the many concerned residents at the head of the Bay can take you to the sites where this abuse of the creek and the bay is still continuing today.
Pretty, sandy beaches of forty years ago are now mud flats

So What Went Wrong?

Angry and concerned residents of Yowie Bay point out how the actions of others have deprived them of the clear water and clear sand. They say that, apart from the trash rack which reduces the floating trash problem, little has been done to prevent the continuation of neglect and abuse of the bay that is the centrepiece of where they live.

There are (at least) two basic causes of the problems in Yowie Bay. One is large volumes of construction soil and rock which has been carried down into Yowie Bay over last 40 years. The other is the lighter mud that come down with every heavy rainfall from ill managed building sites within the catchment.
A trash rack stops some rubbish, but quickly overflows, dumping rubbish into the creek
A trash rack stops some rubbish, but quickly overflows, dumping rubbish into the creek
A recent Yowie Bay Estuary Management Study commissioned by Sutherland Shire Council has suggested that the flow of larger material has stopped, because road making in the catchment is virtually complete. Residents are far from convinced, pointing to the tide of redevelopment sweeping the catchment, with sites being excavated and site controls still inadequate in spite of Sutherland Shire's increased activities at sediment control. Residents fear they may soon be seeing another wave of infilling of the estuary.

Some Problems Can Only Be Prevented, Not Cured

The only apparent solution to arrest the volume of rubbish and fine sediment which turns the sandy shoreline into mud flats with every heavy rainfall, is to revegetate wherever possible, reverse the tide of concrete replacing native vegetation, and put in place strong (and enforced) site controls to prevent sediment runoff. A strong and fully enforced foreshore and catchment development plan is essential. This problem can only be managed at its source.
A plume of pollution washes out of stormwater drains
The evidence of siltation is clear
In others words, at present there is no way to turn the clock back for Yowie Bay. The problems there have grown to a stage where to reinstate the natural condition of the Port is apparently too costly and too difficult. We may ask whether this cost is one we should be prepared to bear, if we are to learn that there is a real cost to everyone from this type of sustained neglect. Maybe once the authorities get the bill from fixing the problem, they will realise that it is far cheaper and more effective to prevent it in the first place. Certainly residents of Yowie Bay have been activating loudly over the past decade for concerted action by, especially, Sutherland Shire Council and have received relatively little meaningful action. That is, action that would see the tide of rubbish and mud significantly reduced and stopped.
Erosion of the beach from a stormwater outlet

The Same Neglect Repeated Through the Port

Yowie Bay's problems are not isolated. Incremental abuse and neglect is the order of the day in our Port Hacking. The evidence is there in every Northern head of bay in the Port. The evidence is there in the contamination of over 50% of our edible marine life, or in the absence of shellfish and fish in areas in which they were once abundant, and in the incremental destruction of seagrass beds.
As with many things in life, a drop of prevention can avoid a bucket of fixing. Effective building site controls, enforced responsibility by developers and commercial operators for sediment and rubbish, a protective foreshore development code, serious policing of the nominal controls over polluting and over-harvesting of the shoreline - these things require an act of will, but they are far more feasible than trying to correct the results of abuse later on. We can all do our bit individually, but it will be far more effective if we can do it collectively as well.

Snippets of History

The following is quoted from Frank Gridlands 1924 book "The Story of Port Hacking, Cronulla and Sutherland Shire", published by Angus and Robertson.

Opposite Burraneer Bay on the southern shore of Port Hacking, is a long, bare sand-reef (Deeban Spit), much frequented by picnicking boating parties.
Up on Turriell Point an old lady long past the span of fourscore years sits on her verandah every fine day looking down on this sand-spit. She is the oldest pioneer of Port Hacking left to us. She can tell you how in her younger days this sandy reach was covered with grass, pigeon-berry vine and oak trees - a pasture-ground for cattle, with a stockyard built upon it for mustering the cattle belonging to her family. But a few trees were cut down at one spot, some scrub was removed from another, and gradually the sand-spit reverted to its orginal barren form. The removal of the timber from the water's edge set the sandbank moving; as a result, the old channel in this quarter was disturbed in its bed, and, like a heavy sleeper whose couch has been dragged from under him, has ever since been restlessly searching for its old or a new bed to stretch its lazy length along. From her eyrie the old lady watches this blind groping of the tidal waterway in search of a permanent resting-place. She would love to be able to put the channel back in its former picturesque and settled surroundings; but she will tell you with a sigh that this would only be possible if man would reconstruct the sand-spits and reclothe them with their natural covering. As it is, her melancholy consolation is that she alone, of all the hundreds who look down daily on the estuary, can close her eyes and see the whole waterway complete in every detail as it appeared before man started to interfere with Nature's scheme.
Writing in 1950, Frank Gridland adds: "In the last twenty-five years, old channels have again silted up and new sandbanks formed in Port Hacking."

The Bundeena Progress Association has reproduced twelve 1921 photographs of Bundeena people and surrounds in their 1998 calendar. A3 size, with room to write memos next to dates, the calendar makes a wonderful and thought-provoking item for the wall.

Contact Bundeena Progress Association (PO Box 7, Bundeena, 2230) or ring or fax 95233680 for your copy. $15 each plus postage.

Deeban Spit, and the Sandspit

Depending on the tidal conditions, the hundreds of acres of exposed low-tide sandflats west of the Cabbage Tree Creek channel's egress into Port Hacking (behind the sandspit into Burraneer Bay) permit a wonderful, below high-water mark pedestrian experience on Port Hacking that extends from Maianbar in the east to Redjack's Point in the west (navigation channels notwithstanding). The small vegetated island offshore of Constables Point at Maianbar (Deeban Island, for want of a better name) is a dwindling, isolated residue of the Deeban Spit's previously stabilised condition when the now unconsolidated sand mass was more expansively vegetated.
The 'Deeban Spit' geographically refers to the sandflats and vegetated sandbar emanating from Maianbar, and not the stand-alone 'sandspit' that today maintains Bonnie Vale beach as a separate entity out into Simpson's Bay. This separated sandspit was once a part of the Deeban Spit, it being the latter's eastern beach extremity on Simpson's Bay. Maps from last century show the changed course of Cabbage Tree Creek's outlet into Port Hacking, this tidal stream once emptying directly into Simpson's Bay closer to the Simpson's Hotel site (now the NPWS ranger's house).

Today's heaped-high sandspit severed from the Deeban shoal's sandmass, is the long-established creation of spoil from dredging (for the construction of a Government fish hatchery in Cabbage Tree Creek in 1900, and from shell-grit mining), and the shifting egress of Cabbage Tree Creek following much reclamation of its original wetland meanders where Bonnie Vale camping ground now is.

"Deeban" is the Tharawal aboriginal name for Port Hacking, and as such the Deeban Spit and little island in its middle maintain both a physical and lingual link with the vicinity's previous natural and social history. The word "Jibbon" shares this heritage, both "Jibbon and "Deeban" being different European spellings for the same Aboriginal name for this place.

From a forthcoming publication, 'A Flavour called Bundeena' - a heritage study of the communities between South West Arm and Marley Beach

No More Overhead Cables

Will our Politicians See the Light?

There is no reason for our streets to look like those in the third world with their burden of overhead cabling! Overhead cabling is unreliable, unsightly and hazardous. The technology exists to effectively bury all cables and powerlines. Burying cables rather than stringing them overhead on poles makes sense on economic, safety, environmental and aesthetic grounds. Greg Bleazard, from Cables Downunder, reports on the problem and the proposed solutions.

Undergrounding cables will reduce cable maintenance costs while improving safety for technicians charged with their maintenance. Undergrounding cables will reduce costs to the community of accidents caused by cars hitting power poles and will increase the reliability of power supply. A South East Queensland study showed that in that area alone, the cost to the community associated with accidents caused by cars hitting power poles is $50 million dollars annualy. Blackouts associated with downed power lines cause the community massive expense and inconvenience. As technology advances, reliable power supplies become more vital.

A project to underground cables has immense employment prospects. It would ecompass the use of unskilled labour to highly skilled labour, as well as the provision of materials, machinery and technology. Large savings can be made in avoiding perennial tree trimming. Thousands of hardwood trees will also be spared from use as power poles, resulting in a benefit to the environment.

Cables Downunder is a Sydney-wide community group, having the backing of the NSW Local Government Association, with the objective of ensuring that all aerial cables and powerlines are buried by the year 2010. Sutherland Cables Downunder was formed with the support of Sutherland Shire Council in February 1997 to lobby and support residents in their efforts to rid their streets of telecommunications cables.

The activities of Cables Downunder together with the activites of other groups concerned with the issue of overhead cabling has resulted in a number of postive steps towards achieving its objective.

In July this year, the Federal Government agreed to establish a National Undergrounding Working Party. This working Party is currently investigating the feasiblity of establishing a national authority to oversee the burying of all cables and powerlines across the country. Cables Downunder was invited by Senator Richard Alston, the Federal Minister for Communications, to represent the people of Australia on the Working Party. A report has to be presented to Federal Parliament by July 1998, at which time Government will be asked to act on its findings.

In late September this years, Dr Peter Macdonald, the independent MP for Manly, tabled his Powerlines and Cables Undergrounding Bill in State Parliament. He is seeking bipartisan support from all MPs. If passed, the Bill will provide the mechanism by which progressive undergrounding of cables and powerlines can be achieved at no up-front cost to taxpayers. The preferred method of funding is for private industry to build and own the necessary infrastructe, charging the electricity and telecommunication carriers rental. At the end of an agreed period of time ownership of the infrastructure will revert to the Government.

Eastern States in Australia are lagging in ridding cities of overhead cabling. In Western Australia, an undergrounding program has already commenced. In The Netherlands and Portugal all cables and powerlines are buried; the United Kingdom has the majority of its streets free of this environmental blight; and Paris put all its cables and powerlines underground years ago.

Dr Macdonald's Bill is still before State Parliament and the Federal Government's Working Party is still deliberating.

All residents interested in seeing this antiquated urban blight taken from our streets must lobby their politicians, both State and Federal, to take positive action:
  • write to them
  • telephone them
  • visit them
Australian government must recognise that such a commitment to undergrounding presents a great opportunity to invest in Australia and improve our urban environment.

For more details on Cables Downunder phone Greg Bleazard on 9528 6329.

HRCMC Working Groups

The Hacking River Management Committee (HRCMC) has been busy on many fronts addressing a range of environmental issues in the Hacking Catchment. It has set up a number of subcommittees, called working groups which plan and execute tasks to deal with specific environmental issues in the catchment. We've outlined the aims, activities and achievements of these groups below.

Water Quality

For visitors and residents to the catchment, water quality of creeks, estuary and the Port is of great concern. Water quality determines the health of the biota in and around the waters and recreational opportunities.

In August 1997, the Water Quality Working Group started a Water Quality Monitoring Program. Five sites in the Hacking catchment have been tested: McKell weir; Red Cedar flat; Audley/Kangaroo Creek; Hacking River; and Savilles Creek, Engadine. The testing showed that the Gross Pollutant Trap installed to trap pollutants from the Engadine area did not seem to be functioning well. High levels of grease and oil were visible. There were also high levels of weed infestation which is posing a serious threat to the Royal National Park.

Land Use

The aim of the Land Use Working Group is to balance land uses in the catchment and ensure proper management of land-based activities to minimise land use impacts on the surrounding environment. They are currently conducting a land capability assessment study.

Another initiative is to increase the level of community participation in reporting pollution problems throughout the catchment. Together with Sydney Water and the EPA all residents at Grays Point have been sent a letter encouraging them to report pollution events. Residents have been asked to report sewer overflows and stormwater pollution problems including spills of oil or paint or other chemicals into the local drains.

Depending on the level of response from Grays Point, other residents around the catchment may receive similar letters. But don't wait for the letter. If you notice a pollution problem, please report it!

Report Pollution Problems

Sewer overflows - contact Sydney Water's 24-hour Emergency Service number 132090.

Stormwater pollution (spills of oil, paint, other chemicals into local drains - contact Sutherland Shire Council's Environmental Health Regulations Co-ordinator 97100196 or the Environmental Protection Authority on 131555.


The Hacking River and its Port have been popular recreational areas to many people for over a hundred years. The Waterways Working Group's brief is to maintain and enhance the ecosystem and natural recreational attributes of the waterways.

To date, the working group has worked to put together a map plotting sensitive environmental areas around the Port and type of activities popular in the Port. It has commissioned a survey of three hundred waterfront residents. Some of the results of this survey are reported in this issue of the Protectorate.


The Royal National Park and Garawarra State Recreation Area make up 60% of the Hacking catchment. As well, there are many pockets of native bushland on public reserves and private properties throughout the catchment.

The aim of the Biodiversity Working Group is to optimize the diversity and abundance of native flora, fauna and wildlife habitats in the catchment. The working group, together with Helensburgh Landcare Group and National Parks Association, has set up a Biodiversity Bulletin and conducted the first of several planned training and information workshops.
That first training weekend carried out a biodiversity in the Royal National Park. Over one hundred people from community groups, four government departments, five universities, a TAFE college and the Australian Museum worked to learn more about native plants and animals and how to preserve them. The weekend started with introductory speakers highlighting the need to undertake the biodiversity survey then groups dispersed to carry out biodiversity analysis which included trapping native marsupials, rats and bats as well as testing water quality in local streams, bird observations, researching frogs, reptiles and invertebrates and vegetation identification and analysis.

A significant find of the weekend was the Red-Crowned Toadlet, Pseudophryne australis. A species listed as "vulnerable" under the Threatened Species Covervation Act and whose numbers are in decline.

Public Communications

The aim of the Public Communications Working Group is to inform the community about how their activities affect the catchment and ways by which natural resources and environmental values of the catchment are maintained and improved. The working group is planning a Community Forum to be held in about March 1998 which will inform the local community on how the catchment is being managed and the issues which are being addressed.
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