Category Archives: Editorial

Marsden Park North – Riverstone Wetlands

Community members seem to be running into dead ends with bureaucrats and politicians in efforts to protect a unique and very important wetland habitat for shore birds which travel from Russia, China, Japan and around Australia to forage in North-West Sydney. It’s as if the bureaucrats and politicians are not interested in matters of high ecological significance. Surely environmental sensitivity is part of the role which they occupy. It is a sorrowful indictment on our society today that many actively destroy unique aspects of our natural heritage or they turn a blind eye to those who do.

Retaining these wetlands and accommodating the annual migration of birds to the site will be a real boon to Riverstone/Marsden Park North in terms of tourist interest especially those from around Australia and the world who are interested in bird spotting.

Provided below are extracts of a brochure produced by community members which identify the values of the site and makes suggestions of what you can do:

Save the Riverstone Meat Works Wetlands (long)_001

Save the Riverstone Meat Works Wetlands (long)_002

Save the Riverstone Meat Works Wetlands (long)_003

Save the Riverstone Meat Works Wetlands (long)_004

Save the Riverstone Meat Works Wetlands (long)_005

Save the Riverstone Meat Works Wetlands (long)_006

Save the Riverstone Meat Works Wetlands (long)_007

Save the Riverstone Meat Works Wetlands (long)_008

Biodiversity Legislation Review – Comments

Review of Proposed Biodiversity Legislation

Summary: The draft Act would change the nature of NSW biodiversity protections:

· From our current regulatory system where the impact of development proposals is assessed (where unacceptable impacts are refused and/or challenged in court);

· To an offset based system where developments are approved so long as funds are paid to protect and restore biodiversity elsewhere (with no effective refusal or challenge in court)

The draft Act would remove virtually all legal avenues for the public to effectively oppose developments which harm our endangered wildlife. Illegal direct action would become the only effective avenue for community to oppose unacceptable impacts on our natural heritage.

Reduced scale: The draft Act has lower objectives than the current acts. It’s stated objectives are to maintain (not restore) biodiversity and to ‘facilitate’ sustainable development’.

The scale for biodiversity conservation is broadened from local to bioregional & state only. So while existing declarations for endangered populations remain it would be difficult to list any in the future.

The draft Act provides for continued habitat loss with the scale and rate of loss managed through offsetting. Developments will no longer need to consider indirect impacts such as climate impact, pollution, introduction of pests or other indirect impacts on endangered biodiversity (6.3). Instead a payment will be made to secure a future offset for direct (clearing) impacts only.

Ending legal appeals (Ministerial power): The draft Act removes almost all grounds for appealing developments in court, and gives almost unlimited discretionary power to the Minister for Environment.

There will no longer be avenues for appeal when environmental assessments ignore endangered species, and no avenues for appeal against the merits of proposals. Conversely the draft Act provides numerous appeal rights for those doing the wrong thing: for illegal clearing, failure to meet conservation offset actions (8.23) or if you are refused a licence to harm a protected species (2.16).

The Minister for the Environment can determined developments as they see fit and in the unlikely event the Minister refuses a proposal the developer can submit it to the Premier to resolve (quoting the act) ‘as the premier thinks fit‘ (5.17)

Corruption risk: The ICAC has strongly criticised the proposal for broad Ministerial powers noted above. The new Act goes further and allows for those regulating development offsets to personally invest in the same offsets they approve (6.6). This provides extremely high risks of mismanagement and corruption.

Public information about offsets: The OEH can choose to restrict any information they choose from the public register of offsets (s 9.10) making public oversight of the scheme impossible. OEH already restrict data on BioBanking making it impossible to see where funds for development offsets go – an alarming situation.

There would no longer be a requirement to publicly list submissions lodged against a development (9.3 pt2) and developers could choose to ‘summarize’ ecological assessments for public consultation as they see fit, rather than publicly exhibit the full assessment (9.2 part 4)

Offsets not like-for-like: the draft Act repeatedly claims that offsets will be made for the same species or community which is lost by clearing. In reality the Act details allows offsets to be for a different species or vegetation communities so long as they are considered more threatened.

Misusing bequests & covenants: Some landowners have made the ultimate gift and covenanted their bushland property to conserve it forever after they are gone. Many landowners have done this explicitly to ensure their property is not used to justify or offset development elsewhere.

The draft Act will allow their properties to be converted from the covenant (after death or sale) and be used to offset development (technically: the existing covenants automatically become a Conservation Agreement Tier 2 and can be upgraded to a Biodiversity Stewardship Agreement Tier 1).

This is an appalling breach of trust with the gift these landowners have made. Land gifted to the Nature Conservation Trust with restrictions would also have these restrictions removed (10.8 to 10.9)

Some covenants have also been forcibly created under compliance (i.e. as offsets for illegal clearing) – these could now be cashed in by their owners, rewarding illegal activity and justifying even more land-clearing.

Offsets not to be protected in perpetuity: Offset sites are not in perpetuity but can be cleared by simply ‘offsetting the offset’. Mining rights and mining prospecting override offset sites and their landowners (5.18) and the landowner is not entitled to compensation for the lost biodiversity payments (5.18 pt 8). Offset sites can be developed with consent from the Minister for Environment (s5.10 & 5.16 b) for example or for ‘a purpose of special significance to the state‘ (5.16 c)

No need to have offsets available: Development can proceed by payment into a Biodiversity Conservation Fund even if offsets are not available. Shortages of offsets are likely to be frequent – a current example is the Badgerys Creek Airport development which refuses to pay landowners enough to secure offsets for endangered Marsdenia viridiflora, so will instead fund other actions to ‘assist’ the species. For example offsets could be research and ‘education’ (3 b) rather than conservation of habitat.

______________________________________________________________

Sydney Zoo Proposal for Eastern Creek/Doonside

Western Sydney Parklands Trust has become noxious to Conservationists in Western Sydney.

When former Premier Bob Carr announced establishment of the 5,500ha area to be Western Sydney Parklands in 2004 he uttered the words “open space, never to be developed, a great part of our environment.”

In the lead up to that announcement the NSW Government had been resuming land for the parkland. The 300ha former OTC site at Eastern Creek/Doonside (previously known as Bungarribee Estate) was included in the acquisitions.

Conservationists had high hopes the 300ha former OTC site would provide an important flora and fauna habitat near the centre of the City of Blacktown. Our hopes were quickly dashed when personnel within the Department of Planning soon told us that 90ha of the site (and another area near Cecil Hills) would be set aside for housing development to pay for Western Sydney Parklands.

Since then, the Board of Western Sydney Parklands Trust has developed a voracious appetite, cannibalising land which had earlier been said to be conserved, particularly in Blacktown LGA. To satisfy self interest, the Board of Western Sydney Parklands Trust has systematically sold off or leased land for financial gain which former Premier Carr said was “open space, never to be developed, a great part of our environment.” Also, what of those people who were forced off their land by the government under the pretence it was to become parkland yet today they see their former land holding sold off or leased for development – something previous land owners were denied?

The latest and by no means last act of self serving by the Board of Western Sydney Parklands Trust is the leasing of land for the Sydney Zoo enterprise.

The 16.5ha of land proposed for the Sydney Zoo enterprise forms part of an area free ranged by a mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos – part of our natural heritage. It comprises an area in which Greening Australia (with the approval of the Department of Planning) brought in community volunteers to do native vegetation planting in past years. It is another excision of land from the former OTC site land for commercial gain and, when finished its parasiting, the Board of Western Sydney Parklands Trust will have set aside from the former 300ha only a skinny margin of Eastern Creek floodplain for flora and fauna conservation purposes.

Indeed, the question is asked just how much land is conserved for flora and fauna conservation in Blacktown LGA which is not associated with the riparian margins or floodplain of Eastern Creek? Exclude Prospect Nature Reserve from that consideration because it was already conserved before Western Sydney Parklands Trust could get its ‘teeth’ into it.

But not even that skinny margin of conserved land from the former OTC site will be protected from the ‘dead hand’ of Western Sydney Parklands Trust’s self interest. The plan for Sydney Zoo includes removal of part of the riparian margin and, in other areas, landscaping with overseas plants and grasses e.g. African grasses. It is not enough that a wealth of NSW Government grants over decades have been expended through agencies and community volunteer groups to reduce the adverse effects of African Lovegrass in the Sydney Region and now Western Sydney Parklands Trust, with the intended approval of the Department of Planning, is proposing to accommodate a landscape of African grasses alongside Eastern Creek.

It is well known that creek lines are the most difficult and expensive areas to restore and maintain in natural state. Every rain inundation brings seeds from exotic plants and grasses into creek lines from surrounding development. After the ‘wash-in’ and depositing somewhere downstream the seeds germinate to produce weeds which are the bane of bush regenerators.

Yet here it is, the NSW Government backing the self interest of Western Sydney Parklands Trust, about to approve an expansive source of introduced seeds alongside the riparian margin of Eastern Creek. Whether wind borne or carried through drainage into Eastern Creek these introduced seeds will be carried into Eastern Creek, potentially downstream into South Creek and potentially the Hawkesbury River. Somewhere along that route they be deposited and produce unwanted plant species. This is a disastrous regression in the administration of weed management in New South Wales.

Is not Eastern Creek at least a Class 4 stream in terms of the Water Management Act? How close is development permitted to such a stream? How close can a development which is the active progenitor of weed species be to such a significant stream that is Eastern Creek which feeds into major agricultural and conservation areas of Blacktown and Hawkesbury LGA’s?

What an abominable monster the Western Sydney Parklands Trust has become to the natural environment of the City of Blacktown.

How could a semi-government agency become so far removed from the intention of the former Carr Government when announcing establishment of Western Sydney Parklands in year 2004?

This is an indictment on the exigencies of government today. Environmental protection was better a decade and half ago than it is today.

The Sydney Zoo proposal should not be permitted within the former OTC (Bungarribee) site, Doonside. The land should be conserved to honour the statement made to the public by former Premier Bob Carr when he said this land was “open space, never to be developed, a great part of our environment” when announcing establishment of Western Sydney Parklands.

Can government be trusted?

Continue reading

Australia Zoo, Eastern Creek

AUSTRALIA ZOO, EASTERN CREEK

Blacktown & District Environment group Inc is disgusted with the contempt shown by successive NSW Governments and, more particularly, the Western Sydney Parklands Trust with respect to the former Bungarribee site, Eastern Creek/Doonside.

The Australia Zoo proposal is just more of the same.

What was a 300ha open space flora and fauna habitat a decade and more ago, and much before that the historic “Bungarribee”  has been carved up for money making ventures by the NSW Government and Western Sydney Parklands Trust, none of which ventures sustain or add to the natural and cultural heritage of Blacktown LGA; rather, they subtract.

With respect to the natural heritage we are concerned that habitat and foraging space for our local bird populations and the mob of kangaroos on that land is to be further diminished. Also, the Australian Bass fish in Eastern Creek will likely be compromised, perhaps made extinct, from polluted drainage from the proposed Australia Zoo and other developments imposed or yet to be imposed by the NSW Government and Western Sydney Parklands Trust.

It is all the more galling that former Premier, Bob Carr, and his colleagues when first proclaiming Western Sydney Parklands, said the parklands were “never to be developed.” Society has descended to immorality when government and its agencies do not keep their word. Why should anyone treat anyone honourably when lying is exampled by government? These are the first wisps of a whirlwind of anarchy which consequentially follows.

In taking open space land from the residents of Blacktown the Western Sydney Parklands Trust offers as compensation the trinket and plaything of a zoo to amuse residents and to act as a salve to the real injury.

Further, the area allocated for the zoo was the area where much pains were endured by the community in voluntary plantings and bushcare for Greening Australia. This decision for a zoo on that site just adds insult to the injury of contempt for the community as Western Sydney Parklands Trust derives income to keep its stipended personnel well supplied into the future.

Shame on government and its parasitic agencies.