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May 2000


The Upper Catchment - Still major problems

Water Quality Testing Results

PHPS Annual General Meeting - 9 April 2000

Overdevelopment and Progress - the Fine Line

Best boating practice in the Hacking - the way forward

Stop Press

Biodiversity - Watching the Royal and Heathcote recover

Major management challenges for the 1990`s in the Hacking River's upper catchment included control of a plague of feral deer, and improving the quality of water discharges from: a coal mine; a sand mine; a tip; and the townships of Helensburgh and Otford. These were among the most urgent issues tabled in the 1989 Catchment Management report for action, in particular, to improve water quality. At its final meeting in March of this year, the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee (HRCMC) revealed that water quality testing shows that the quality of the fresh water in the Hacking has continued to decline throughout the 90's.


Miriam Verbeek - Editor

Two announcements underlie the content and editing of this issue of the Protectorate. The first is that this is the last issue of the Protectorate in this form. The second is the demise of the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee, with a Catchment Board to be formed to pick up many of its responsibilities.

Last issue of the Protectorate

In issue 7 (published in February 1995), the first Protectorate produced with State Government funding, we stated the objective of the publication as: to increase the awareness or residents and users of Port Hacking on issues regarding the Waterway. We believe that progress on protecting the natural values of Port Hacking can only be achieved if all parties are involved in useful and informed dialogue. We have tried to stimulate and inform that dialogue.
On a personal note, I hope you enjoy this last issue of the Protectorate and thanks to the many readers who have provided feedback (both positive and negative about past issues of the Protectorate
The publication has achieved its objective. Its articles are often quoted in discussions and a generation of school children has utilised its pages for school projects. Perhaps the Protectorate's success can also be measured by the vehemence with which it is at times attacked. Those who have attacked the publication have always been invited to contribute and make public their criticisms. We have even offered attackers column space to air their views. To date, the invitation has not been accepted.

Why then, given its apparent success, have we decided to stop producing the current format of the Protectorate?

In the past decade, especially thanks to the coordinating efforts of the HRCMC, there is a lot more information available about the Hacking River and Port Hacking. The Protectorate's current format is not the best way to present that information in all its detail and complexity. Instead of the Protectorate we will be providing information in two forms: electronically, and through facts sheets and reports.

PHPS and the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre (SSEC) are teaming up to provide a website of the Hacking Catchment. On the website will be all past issues of the Protectorate, including an index, together with layers of more detail on topics. The HRCMC has supported establishing this website and providing documents for inclusion on the site. We aim to make the website a useful tool for anyone to obtain information, at whatever detail desired.

Together with the website, PHPS, working in conjuction with other organisations, will produce facts sheets or publications. Facts sheets will be sent to all members of PHPS, and members of cooperating organisations, will be distributed through libraries and Councils and to other target groups or households.

The Hacking Catchment Management Committee

In a surprise announcement at the end of last year, the State Government revealed that the HRCMC will not exist beyond 31 March 2000. Hacking catchment issues will become the responsibility of the Southern Catchment Management Board, who will also have responsibility for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven catchments.

Almost every group concerned with Hacking catchment management issues, from Sutherland Shire Council to environmental groups have protested that incorporating the Hacking catchment into the Southern Catchment Management Board is a regressive step. The Illawarra and Shoalhaven are predominantly rural catchments, whereas the Hacking is predominantly urban. The challenge for the Board will be to include much of the good work started by the HRCMC, and to harness the good will of the many representatives who have contributed to the HRCMC.

The HRCMC has prepared a number of reports to facilitate the hand-over to the Board.

In this issue

In this issue of the Protectorate we've asked Tim Tapsell, involved for more than a decade in activating for better environmental management in the upper Hacking catchment, to provide an article reviewing achievement in the 1990s. It highlights the worrying message that little seems to have been achieved in the 1990s and if we are to protect our natural environment, we need to be more creative and proactive in our solutions.

This issue also reports on the recently held AGM of the Port Hacking Protection Society (PHPS), with the President's Report noting the challenges PHPS has faced in 1999 and challenges for 2000. We had two speakers at our AGM, Eric Shloegl from the Underwater Research Group who showed us a interesting array of slides of what lives in the waters of Port Hacking, and Peter Hay, from NPWS. Peter is Area Manager in charge of Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park and Garrawarra State Recreation Area, and spoke to us about the recently released Plan of Management for his responsibility areas.

Persistent themes for the Protectorate underlie the Stop Press items, sediment control from building sites, management of the Port and its foreshore. Paul Martin provides a case study of the difficulties of balancing the many issues confronting appropriate foreshore management. On a personal note, I hope you enjoy this last issue of the Protectorate and thanks to the many readers who have provided feedback (both positive and negative) about past issues of the Protectorate.

The Upper Catchment -
Still Major Problems

By Tim Tapsill

In 1989, the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee tabled a report, noting the urgent need to improve water quality in the Hacking River. In 1999, after a decade of effort, water testing reveals that water quality is still declining. Why is this the case? The Hacking River flows mainly through a national park. Unfortunately, it is not immune from effects at the fringes of its catchment. These major sources of pollution are the same sources identified and targeted for action in 1989.

Analysis of these continuing problems suggests that more effective action is needed to bring the hacking back to the high quality we all expect it to be.

The Metropolitan Colliery

The Metropolitan Colliery is located in an environmentally sensitive area adjacent to the Royal National Park. Runoff from the Colliery flows into Camp Creek and the Hacking River. In the past both waterways have been contaminated by stormwater runoff from the mine during periods of wet weather.

The (Environment Protection Authority) EPA imposed a Pollution Reduction Program to the Pollution Control Licence in early 1993, at an estimated cost of between $1.5 - $2 million. However, Metropolitan Collieries Limited, went into receivership before the works were implemented. Effectively the site has continued as a major pollution source.

In February 1999, Sada Pty Ltd took over the colliery. The EPA met with colliery owners and stressed the importance of the implementation of the pollution reduction program. On 25 February 1999, polluted water from the "turkeys nest" dam (one of the holding dams) was discharged to Camp Creek. The company was fined for breaching a Pollution Control Licence condition. The company then initiated stormwater improvements at the site which included pumping stormwater from the dam underground to the old mine workings. The EPA expects that through this action the company will be able to better manage contaminated stormwater in the short term and reduce the volume and frequency of stormwater overflows from the site.
Turkey Nest Dam, 1999 Photo: Tim Tapsell
The concern is, however, that mine operators have been issued with another broad licence to discharge pollutants. The licence does not seem appropriate for a river that flows into a National Park and Port Hacking. Neither the DLWC nor the NPWS have apparently been included in discussions about best management practice for the mine. Some tightening of the methods of operation of pollution controls have been demanded by the EPA, including increases in a Security Deposit to be held by the government to help rehabilitate the mine site, commitment to the removal of approximately 250,000 tonnes of coal waste within two years, and a Plan of Management for the site to the satisfaction of the EPA.

However, the pollution control systems that have in the past failed to prevent major spills into the Hacking tributary remain a potential disaster. Previous spills have rendered Camp Creek biologically dead for up to a year.

Runoff from Abandoned Sand Mines

Abandoned sand mines in the catchment of Kellys Creek and Gills Gully contribute significant silt into the Hacking system. Both sites have on-site runoff control ponds designed to allow sediment to settle. However, these ponds are inadequate to deal with heavy rainfall. The Soil Conservation Service inspected the sites as a result of the Helensburgh Commission of Inquiry several years ago and recommended to Wollongong Council that the sites be stabilised and rehabilitated. Wollongong Council has still not done so.

The Helensburgh Tip

The Helensburgh Tip accepts mixed wastes from Wollongong suburbs above Coalcliff. Next to the tip is a Sanitary Depot which accepted sewage effluent and night soil for a 100 years before closing in 1991. In the past, the Tip discharged its stormwater and leachate (stormwater from a tip is usually more contaminated than urban stormwater) directly into two local Hacking tributaries. Public pressure brought about improved works on perimeter diversion walls. This should now mean that leachate is redirected to the sewer. Stormwater overflows from the retention ponds are monitored by Wollongong City Council. Council state they are meeting EPA guidelines, but will not make the data available to the public.


Prolific weed growth around stormwater pipes in Helensburgh indicate they carry a lot of nutrients. Stormwater from the 2,000 lot town remains untreated to this day. For the past fifteen years the community has challenged Wollongong Council and the State Government to install stormwater pollution controls in and around Helensburgh to achieve better water quality discharges into the Hacking River. Neither Council nor State Government have provided the resources to develop a design proposal or cost estimates for this important project. Wollongong Council has stated they are unwilling to pursue the issue unless other State agencies provide support. Have Wollongong Council and State agencies lost faith in the claimed performance of stormwater devices given the failure of the controls constructed by the Department of Housing at Helensburgh? This EPA approved device was the best technology had to offer, yet it failed to meet its design expectations.

On the positive side, Sutherland Shire Council are taking more responsibility for urban runoff into the catchment through the building of wetlands at Engadine.

Deer Plague

The feral deer population in the Royal National Park is in plague proportion numbering over 2000 head. Despite recommendations of the Catchment Management Committee and the obligation of NPWS to control ferals from National Parks, very little has been done. They cause considerable impact on vegetation structure, regeneration of native species and soil stability. Recently, a Plan of Management for the Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park and Garawarra State Recreation Area promoted a policy that all introduced animals within the Park will be controlled and where practicable eliminated or removed. The aim of deer control in Royal National Park and adjacent areas is to eliminate their environmental damage by their eventual eradiation. This, at least, would be a step in the right direction.

Reduced Water Quality Standards

The biggest setback to improved water quality of the Hacking River catchment is the failure of the State Government to maintain adequate water quality objectives for the Hacking River. The EPA conducted extensive public consultation promising community input to determine a standard for the river.
Japanese tourists noting the polluted nature of Camp Creek. Note dark staining from coal wash on rocks in the centre of the stream
The community overwhelmingly requested a very high standard, that is, maintaining a Class "P" classification for the Hacking River. The community cited the needs of public uses - swimming and consumption of seafood, and the natural environment - creatures of the National Park need clean water too. The State Government, however, adopted a lesser standard, enabling Sydney Water Corporation to propose the installation of sewerage overflows in the Hacking Catchment for its intended sewerage service for Otford, Stanwell Tops, Stanwell Park and Coalcliff.

An additional concern with the Sydney Water Corporation plans for the upper catchment is that sewerage will be imported from outside the catchment, adding to the potential for much higher volumes to be discharged in any overflow event. The introduction of outside sewage from new connections and "grinding" in pressure mains will help Sydney Water achieve optimum loading, but future spillage is a constant risk. This has led to the Sydney Water Catchment seeking EPA's support in lifting the existing Class "P" standards for Hacking catchment.

Environment Protection Status for Upper Hacking Bushland

The most significant achievement in the past decade has been to protect the Hacking by having remaining bushlands on the upper Hacking rezoned to Environment Protection status. This was done in segments by both Liberal and Labour parties, reflecting bipartisan acknowledgment that massive urban expansion at Helensburgh would have a detrimental impact on the Hacking and the Royal National Park. It also reflects acknowledgment of the high regard the public hold for the region's natural and historic values.

Water Quality Testing Results

Early in 1997 the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee (HRCMC) coordinated the efforts of Sutherland Shire Council (SCC) and volunteers to test water quality in a number of catchment streams. Comparison of the data collected (see table following) with data from a State Pollution Control Commission study in 1987 show a considerable decline in water quality of the Hacking River since 1987, particularly in those waterways draining urbanised areas.

PHPS Annual General Meeting
9th April 2000

Elected to the committee are:

John Atkins - President, Paul Martin - Vice President Committee members: Harry Jenkinson, Phil Parsonage, George Harrison, Miriam Verbeek.

Speakers at the AGM:

Erik Schlogl, Underwater Research Group (URG) of New South Wales

Erik explained that the URG is the oldest group of its type in Australia. It is currently undertaking a study on biodiversity in Port Hacking. At this stage, the group is collecting information to provide baseline data for the Port for tracing changes and adverse impacts.

Four sites have been chosen for the study: Jibbon seagrass beds, Shiprock, acquatic reserve, the deep holes near Lilli Pilli, and two lines below Audley Weir.

Erik illustrated his talk with slides of the varied lifeforms of the Port. Shiprock boasts corals and many tropical species, including Lion fish, Moray Eels and Striped Angler Fish. There are also many colourful invertebrates such as Nudibranchs, Pipefish and Tubeworms, as well as exotic species native to the Mediterranean and Atlantic which have probably arrived with ballast water in ships.
Ceratosoma Amoena mating, Photo: Erik Schologl
For those who might have thought no life exists in the Lilli Pilli deep holes, Erik showed slides of Black Angler Fish. Many species, such as Stingrays, Hermit Crabs, Porcupine Fish and Box Fish are common throughout the Port.
Chromodoris Daphne, Photo: Erik Schlogl
Some are dangerous, including Blue Ringed Octopus, Eastern Frogmouth and Red Scorpion. As an example of adverse impact Erik showed a slide of damage to seagrassbeds at Lilli Pilli caused by the keels of boats.
Squid, Photo: Erik Schlogl Puffer fish, Photo: Erik Schlogl

Peter Hay, Area Manager for the Royal National Park

Peter addressed the meeting with particular reference to the new Plan of Management. He said the Plan had special significance for PHPS (inc) given that so much of the Hacking is bordered by the Park.

The Plan replaces the 1975 version. It should have currency for 5 - 10 years and is a legally binding document. Peter said the RNP is internationally, nationally, regionally and locally significant.

The plan calls for more community partnership, including the cabin communities of the park and the villages and suburbs adjacent to the park.

Coastal cabins will be maintained with five year licences granted to bonafide licencees. A cabin consultative committee will be instrumental in their management. Cabins at Bonnie Vale will be progressively removed.

Stronger measures will be followed to remove deer from the national park. Removal methods will be determined on the basis of studies currently underway by Macquarie University and The University of Western Sydney.

The Plan provides for the installation of composting toilets in determined locations. Camping will be rationalised to several sites in rotation to prevent overuse.

Equitable access to moorings in South West Arm is an aim of the Plan. The NPWS will work with Waterways to enforce speed limits in SWA. The NPWS will also work with the Riverkeeper to develop a water based bush restoration program.

NPWS hopes to expand its biodiversity program, calling on volunteers for surveys four times a year.

Peter urged all interested individuals and groups to familiarise themselves with the Plan, and to provide NPWS with input and support.

Presidents Report

John Atkins

The past year, as always, has provided many challenges for PHPS.

We have maintained our advocacy of Port Hacking through representation on the Port Hacking Catchment Management Committee, Sutherland Shire Council's Port Hacking Management Panel and The Waterways Authorities' User Group. We have developed closer links with Sutherland Shire Environment Centre. We have made extensive comment on The Waterways Authority's soon-to-be-released Boating Plan of Management for Port Hacking and also commented on a number of waterfront developments proposed for the port. PHPS has consistently presented the need for uses of the port to be environmentally sustainable and to be equitable. We argue that the opportunity for quiet residential and recreational usage of the port should be promoted and safeguarded by the authorities which regulate the waterway. We continue to argue strongly for the need for integrated management of Port Hacking which would allow for the principals of equity and sustainability to be used as the basis for decision making about the waterway. We are also continuing to support community initiatives for sustainable solutions through management of a fund for a Heritage Walk to be established in Bundeena and Maianbar.

During the last year the effort of maintaining our commitment to Port Hacking has begun to tell. While maintaining a healthy membership, PHPS has seen the loss of our long serving treasurer Victor Leuliette. Victor's efforts on behalf of the Protection Society over many years have been greatly appreciated and his loss has underlined the need to find more members willing to assist on the PHPS Committee.

To ensure that the work of PHPS continues the committee has made the decision that "The Protectorate" will no longer continue in its current form, that is as a newsletter posted to members and distributed to foreshore residents. Instead a website developed in conjunction with the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre will provide information on current waterways issues and provide background information papers on these issues. This decision was made after much soulsearching by the committee but it seemed a logical, if regretted, step to take!

Facing us in the immediate future is a number of challenges which will need considerable commitment of time and effort to address:
  • Dredging of navigation channels in the Port is again on the agenda, the last series of dredging resulted from a Memorandum of Understanding (on Navigational dredging) which saw boating, environmental and other interest groups work with the relevant authorities to produce a community based plan for how dredging should go forward. Any new round of dredging will need to result from a similar "community contract" and negotiations over a new Memorandum of Understanding are likely to be difficult and divisive given that many of the points agreed on in the first memorandum have not been acted on.

  • The recently released Plan of Management for the Royal National Park will need to be assessed by PHPS. A number of its aims which look to protecting equity of usage of waterways within the park and safeguarding the opportunity for quiet, environmentally benign usages of the park and adjacent waterways seem to merit our strong support. This plan seems to be focusing strongly on effective management of the Royal into the future with all the challenges this entails. We will all need to think hard about how we use this wonderful park and perhaps be prepared to modify our use where there is a need to do so. Past usages may have been appropriate when numbers of people were fewer and when the activities engaged in were less impactful. Protecting the Park and our waterways for the future will need all users to accept that there are limits to the types of activities which can be safely and sustainably accommodated in an intensively used "urban" national park.

  • The radical reshaping of NSW Catchment Management Committees is another area of concern. The loss of a CMC dedicated to Port Hacking and the merging of the Port Hacking CMC into a board covering catchments from Port Hacking in the north to the Shoalhaven in the south seems to undermine the whole concept of management on the catchment model and definitely makes community involvement and participation more difficult. On this issue we would urge our members to let the state government know that we believe the interests of Port Hacking will not be served by the change. Arising from this change there will be a probable need for Sutherland Council to promote its Port Hacking Management Panel to in some way fill the gap left by the loss of a dedicated Port Hacking CMC. PHPS's role on this committee may be very important over the next few years and the determination of this committee to implement Sutherland Shire Council's Port Hacking Plan of Management needs community support.

  • As President of PHPS l look to the challenges of the new "millennium" with anticipation, my hope is that all users and residents of Port Hacking can work constructively towards good outcomes for the Port, that past divisions and suspicions not be allowed to subvert the process of making good decisions for the Port, decisions which promote safe, fair, and sustainable use of our wonderful waterway. I would like to thank all PHPS members for their support over the last year with special thanks to our hard working committee without whose efforts the work of the Society would not go forward in the effective way it does.
“Cluster housing means three or more dwellings grouped on a site to take advantage of good building areas or views and to conserve large areas of open space. The number of dwellings on a site should be the same number of alotments that can be created through a conventional subdivision in the same zone” - Refer. Local Environment Plan, Clause 6

Overdevelopment and progress:
The Fine Line

By Paul Martin

Around the middle of 1999, against a background of anger by many Sutherland Shire residents about over-development and erosion of environmental values of foreshores, a private developer sought to develop two significant sites on the shores of Dolan's Bay - a beautiful Bay in a beautiful estuary - which has been under significant development pressure over the past decade.

The developer's commitment was to build small-scale environmentally friendly housing on the blocks. He teamed up with an architect who is a leader in low impact housing design. The architect's brief was open: Create a development which would demonstrate the feasibility and appeal of housing which incorporated best environmental (and best aesthetic) practice.

The architect's conceptual design took the developer at his word. It incorporated many innovations in energy and water efficiency, management of residential waste, and preservation of native trees and under-storey of the site. It would, if effective, increase the tree cover, and reduce the amount of construction on the waterfront. But at a high cost. The best practice design would mean giving up a number of additional houses (permissible under regulations). It would mean additional costs of over $1 million to demonstrate best practice environmental design.

In Dolan's Bay, however, as in the rest of Sutherland Shire, development has been increasingly contentious. Newer residents are attracted by economic opportunity (with redevelopment potential of large housing blocks), amenity (largely the result of tree cover that goes with as yet undeveloped blocks and parts of the foreshores that have not been built up with boat sheds and other facilities), and lifestyle values of this area.

But new residents ride in on the back of a process of change that puts at risk many of these values. Older residents look on bemused, or shocked, until they too decide that the economic imperative is to sell or redevelop.

A conventional development pattern for the developer's site would have been consistent with developments in the area and would have resulted ultimately with 7 house sites with separate access driveways for each site, a significant amount of the total site being used for concrete driveways. A conventional development pattern would also result in each owner being likely to install their own recreational amenities such as swimming pools, or (in the case of foreshore properties) jetties. There is no mechanism in the conventional model for the shared use of such resource, and this in turn results in larger areas being transformed from natural to man made character.
Proposed development site, Dolans Bay

The architect proposed utilising cluster housing and:

  • Elevating buildings from the ground to minimise tree roots disturbance and allowing greater tree cover

  • Retaining all viable trees and planting a further 29

  • Leaving the foreshore area undisturbed

  • Leaving Natural drainage patterns undisturbed

  • Capturing rainwater for use on site

  • Using a low water use sewage systems

  • Treating all degradeable waste (including sewage) on site

  • Using a large number of energy efficiency initiatives including photovoltaics, energy efficient design and appliances

  • Selecting building materials for lifecyle efficiency and environmental sustainability.

Far from being impressed by the development, neighbours were shocked by the proposal. Some neighbours had paid a substantial premium for their land - in large part because of the amenity of having bushland on the adjoining site. They had inquired at the local council as to the potential for development on the site to reduce that bushland character, and came away with the belief that the site was more or less excluded from redevelopment which would reduce that amenity. They also believed that the energy efficiency, waste treatment and tree preservation proposals were unachievable.

Given a background of distrust of development, concerns about the foreshores, and the expectation that the adjacent site was "safe" from development, conflict was the most likely outcome.

Meetings were held between the objectors and officers from Council. The developer and architect requested a site meeting to explain their proposal and concepts. Both were astounded by the vehemence of the objections. The parties were unable to reach agreement on any issue.

After investigation and consideration of all technical issues, Council officers recommended approval. The neighbours were far from convinced. Councillors became involved. Mediation was attempted but was unsuccessful. After reviewing further technical information and objections, most Councillors voted in favour of the development, but strong objections continued.

Eventually the decision hung on a fourth legal opinion of whether the development could be classified as cluster housing. The first three legal opinions said yes. The fourth said no. The development was rejected on the fourth opinion.

This is an important example of the problems of balancing landowner (including developer) interest, and protection of natural values and the foreshores. Regulatory frameworks are clumsy instruments for achieving the balance. It is not enough to educate developers to want to be "green". Not only Council and developers need to be on top of relevant issues. Neighbours and the community need to be involved. The development might happen, or it might not. Regardless, the process shows that we have a long way to go in creating a system for marrying environment, neighbour and landowner needs. From every point of view in this instance, the outcome looks like being a wasted opportunity.
We need to continue to argue strongly for the need to for integrated management of Port Hacking which would allow for the principals of equity and sustainability to be used as the basis for desicion making about the waterway.

Best Boating Practice in Port Hacking
The Way Forward

Among Sydney estuaries, Port Hacking is different. Sydney Harbour, Botany Bay, or Pittwater are deepwater, well flushed, and, in some cases, industrialised waterways. Port Hacking has one National Park and one residential housing shoreline. It is shoaled for much of its length, has a naturally sheltered character and relatively clean water. The Port Hacking catchment is lucky enough to still contain much native flora and fauna, have areas of peaceful, natural beauty, seagrasses, and places where people can swim and paddle.

Boating is one of the important uses of Port Hacking - as it is on other Sydney estuaries. But what might be okay boating practice on Pittwater, with its deep anchorages and large volumes of water, or Sydney Harbour with its industrialised character, is not necessarily okay for Port Hacking.

Boats on Port Hacking range from kayak to sail, through to ocean going cruisers. Different types of boat have different potential impacts on the waterway. Impacts may be to seagrasses, pollution from oil or sewage effluent, and/or noise. Most boat users are keen to avoid doing any harm. Many go to a great deal of trouble to protect the Port. Among boaties, as they come to understand the special nature of Port Hacking, there is evolving a concept of best boating practice.

There does remain, however, a small core of people who either don't care or don't understand what they are doing? These people continue to cause significant disruption and damage. The question is, what can be done to manage them.

Marinas, moorings, pollutants and damage

Over the past half year, there have been a number of applications to extend or create marinas, most notably in Yowie Bay and Dolan's Bay. Some of these applications have been from commercial operators, others private. For residents nearby, these proposals are often a source of great anxiety. The argument often put in favour of marina development is that they are a better alternative to moorings that clog up bays. The argument is that it should be easier to manage things like pollution from boat maintenance, store more vessels and avoid damage to seagrasses.

There has been a lot of argument about moorings. With the introduction of the NPWS Plan of Management for Royal National Park, the moorings in South West Arm have become public. This move has benefited many and frustration a few. Waterways have increased the number of moorings in some parts of the Port without public consultation, causing protests and concern that the Waterways Authority is treating parts of the estuary like boat storage areas, instead of important environments in their own right. Some marina proponents have offered to trade-off moorings for marina places. The problem is that the proponents have no means for binding Waterways Authority to such tradeoffs. Nor is there a mechanism for biding proponents to such agreements.

Marinas and moorings are two effects of boating in Port Hacking. A third is pollutants. Last year a boating group expressed anger at pressure to ban "through the hull" sewage discharge, arguing that there is no long term ecological impact. This "revelation" is small comfort for those who swim in Port Hacking who are outraged that others are expecting them to bear the health risks of swimming through other's wastes.

A fourth effect of boating is the damage they do to the port's ecology. Small power boats (tinnies and jetskis) damage seagrasses, and disturb peace and quiet along the foreshores. The wash of boats cause erosion problem in narrow channels of the waterway and disturb the amenity of those who require flat water for their water use. And finally, almost all boating activities require the provision of amenities - facilities to allow launching, cleaning, and storage. Each new established facility isolates the foreshore from multiple uses - and from native flora and fauna.

The way forward

The NSW Government is currently moving to address some of these issues.
  • There are new rules designed to reduce harm from PWCs (jetskis). While short of what is needed, the new rules are a welcome recognition of the need to control noise and irresponsible use. Assuming that they are rigorously enforced, they ought to reduce some PWC related problems.

  • Waterways Authority has published a discussion paper proposing new approaches to control sewage disposal from boats. (Sewage Pollution from Vessels - download from ). Currently through hull discharge is illegal in Port Hacking but not controlled. Assuming Port Hacking continues to be a no-discharge zone, the initiatives in this paper may finally lead to the end of through the hull discharge.

  • The EPA has put out Best Practice guidelines for marinas and slipways. If marinas within Port Hacking were to comply with these guidelines, many of the pollutant problems associated with boat maintenance would be removed.

  • Waterways Authority have promised that they will, with the new Boating Management Plan, put forward a binding moorings plan, that will finally allow Council to consider the total impact of any mooring/marina proposals that are put forward.

Collectively these moves provide hope that the many who try to ensure that they do no harm to the Port are able to rely on controls over the few who do not care. The positive of these initiatives is that they have the support of major user groups who will be affected. They have realised that it is in the interest of responsible users to have in place powerful rules to control the irresponsible minority who want to offend others, damage the waterway, place effluent into the estuaries, or cause pollution harm to the delicate Port ecology. Redneck attitudes are at last being discarded by the thinking members of all user groups.

The Port Hacking Protection Society is one of a number of groups who have fought hard for the implementation of best management boating practices in Port Hacking. The Society hopes that current moves by various authorities to implement controls are signs that eventually it will be possible to say that all boating activity and all boating facilities within the Port do reflect that best practice.

Stop Press

Foreshore Vandalism

Wanton destruction on the foreshore of Port Hacking seems to be a theme we return to time and again. A vigilant resident of Port Hacking told us the following tale:

He observed a neighbour jackhammering rocks beyond the high water mark. When asked to stop, he was told by his neighbour that it was his intention to build a sandstone sea wall approximately two metres high the full length of his waterfront and two to four metres into Port Hacking. He said he intended to backfill from excavation, and that what he was doing was common practice on the Port Hacking.

When the resident contacted the Department of Land and Water Conservation, they appeared reluctant to act, even asking the resident why he was concerned and did he think it was right to act against a neighbour in this way! Sutherland Shire Council did not take on board the information when they were first contacted, but the second time they inspected the area and took action. Both authorities have now told the neighbour to remove starter bars placed beyond the high water mark or face prosecution. According to Fisheries, the jackhammered rock has been recolonised and it would now do more harm than good to do restoration work.

Estuary Management Bay Committees

The Port Hacking Management Panel now has three Estuary Management committees reporting to it: the Yowie Bay Estuary Management Committee, the Gunnamatta Bay Estuary Management committee, and the Gymea Bay Estuary Management Committee.

Yowie Bay Committee: The committee has commissioned and reviewed a report on the nature or siltation at the head of the Bay and possible solutions to removing the silt (dredging) and replanting seagrasses. Costs for the works however are into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and the committee are currently looking at funding options, including a levy on waterfront owners. It may also be necessary to undertake more studies to determine impacts of dredging and disposal of spoil.

Gunnamatta Bay and Gymea Bay Estuary Management Committees: Both committees have met and are working on a brief. They have been allocated $30,000 grants from Department of Land and Water Conservation (DLWC) to undertake initial studies on pollution sources and solutions.

Erosion and Sediment Control

In December 1999 Sutherland Shire Council officers completed a third audit on the adequacy of erosion and sediment control devises on building sites. They concluded in their report to Council (13/12/1999) that "the standard of environmental controls is declining." Since December, Council has implemented a number of measures to arrest the decline, including:
  • Ban on the use of haybales as sediment and erosion control structures - audits of sites found that haybales were often not maintained and subsequently degraded, resulting in blockages of pits they were intended to protect.

  • Training of all Council staff who undertake review and inspection of sites for environmental impact.

  • Environmental Compliance Officers in the Environmental Assessment Teams have been delegated authority to initiate enforcement action for erosion and sedimentation control under the Protection of the environment Operations Act 1997.

As well as these measures, Council has established a working party to increase the level of compliance with sediment and control regulations on building sites. The working party are updating the brochure on sediment and control measures, are working with the EPA to design training programs for builders at Gymea TAFE, and writing a Development Control Plan.

Currently Sutherland Council is still inspecting building sites when they receive complaints. Council hopes to become more proactive in its policing as the measures it is putting into place come on line. This year, Council has already issued six fines for polluting waters, (these fines can be levied when runoff from a site enters gutters), and eight clean up notices.

Foreshore Visual Survey

In 1986, Sutherland Shire Council sponsored a visual survey of the foreshore of Port Hacking. This has been repeated and is currently being analysed. Preliminary results are that a number of segments of the foreshore surveyed this year have scored a lower rating than noted in the 1986 survey. This ought not be surprising given the abuses of the foreshore, including breaches of the Foreshore Development Code, that PHPS have reported over recent years.


Watching the Royal and Heathcote Recover

by Jacqueline Sedgwicke

In last two years over 12,500 hours of volunteer time have been used in surveying 15 areas in the park for mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, plants, invertebrates and fungi in Royal and Heathcote National Parks.

Volunteers have been monitoring how the Parks are recovering from the 1994 bushfires. The information they collect is providing base-line biodiversity data and contributing to park management decisions.
Biodiversity survey volunteer checking marsupial trap Photo courtesy NPWS
Some important conservation issues have arisen from the surveys. For example, how the New Holland Mouse and Eastern Pygmy Possum populations respond to fire. These animals have been absent from the Royal National Park for 20 years. After the fires, the New Holland Mouse has reappeared in the heathlands, favouring early stages of post-fire regrowth of prickly shrubs which give them protection from owls and other predators. Further analysis of survey results will enable NPWS to better manage these species and their habitats in future.

Community involvement is key to the success of this long-term biodiveristy monitoring initiative. If you have relevant skills and/or lots of enthusiasm and would like to get involved, please contact: Jacqueline Sedgewicke, NPWS Biodiversity Survey Coordinator on 9542 0618. Royal National Park and Environs Biodiversity Survey was established with the support of the Hacking River Catchment Management Committee, the National Parks Association, Helensburgh & District Landcare, Royal National Park Environmental Education Centre and NPWS Sydney South Region.
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