SSEC logo The Kurnell Peninsula  
The Kurnell Peninsula home | environment | issues | activities | fact sheets | references  
• aircraft noise &
   airport proposal

• continental carbon
• H1 Site
• H6 Australand Site
• landfill
• landscape

• oil refinery
• sandmining
• sewerage
• tourism
• weed management
• zonings


Photo: Daphne Salt

A brief history | Hookers Corporation | The current situation

A brief history

Sandmining on the Kurnell Peninsula has changed the landscape of Kurnell dramatically.

The following extracts from Kurnell: Birthplace of Modern Australia by Daphne Salt reveals just how the transformation of the dunes came about following European settlement:

"According to the handwritten 1868 Sutherland Estate Report, Kurnell at that time was still mostly virgin land covered in a healthy scrub, large trees and native grasses. But Holt (Thomas Holt bought most of the Kurnell Peninsula in 1861) then began an intensive project to clear and cultivate. He imported and planted grass seed that he had bought in Germany. With the grasses growing on the cleared land, he had brought in sheep. When Dingos and footrot killed off the sheep, Holt tried cattle. The hungry cattle completed the damage the sheep had started. In 1870 the green hills on Kurnell Peninsula showed big areas of exposed sand where the grass had been eaten out - and the bared dunes have been spreading ever since!

"Holt also tried his hand in the timber industry. Turpentine, ironbark, blackbutt and mahogany were felled and floated out to waiting ships in the bay. Yet in 1873, after selling the rights to timber on his property, Holt had the gall to urge the NSW Government to take immediate steps to preserve the State's timber."

Before this thoughtless intervention, the vegetated sandhills covered over 405 hectares and rose up to 61 metres. Once the restraining vegetative cover was gone, the unstable, transgressive dune sheet moved north at a rate of at least 8 metres a year.

"In 1933 the Sutherand Shire Council asked the Government to set aside the 810 hectares between Cronulla Golf Club and Kurnell as a reserve. But the Government could see no reason to establish another National Reserve so near to Captain Cook's Landing Place Reserve.

In 1937 the Council was offered 291 hectares of sandhills at a low price. The Council was evenly split and the negative casting vote of its President, C.O.J. Monro , forshadowed the doom of the dunes."

Sydney's booming building industry has seen in excess of 170 million tonnes of sand extracted from the Peninsula since the 1930s. In some sections once towering sand dunes have been replaced by deep lakes, many of which are now being filled with demolition waste. There are concerns that this waste is contaminating the groundwater in an area so close to the Internationally protected Ramsar wetlands at Towra Point.

A number of companies/landholders have undertaken sandmining on the Peninsula, including Holt Group, Breen and Hookers.

The photos below show the graphic results of sandmining on the Kurnell Peninsula. The photos depict the progression of sandmining on the same area between the late 1980s and 2000. The lakes are 8m deep in places.

Photo: Annette Hogan

Photo: Daphne Salt
The Breen sand extraction companies commenced mining on the Kurnell Peninsula in 1953. In the 1990s consent was granted for landfill operations as a form of rehabilitation of mined areas owned by Breen.

Photo: Annette Hogan

Photo: Daphne Salt

Hookers Corporation

The H1 (below) and H6 (Australand) sites have also been mined extensively. Consent was granted in the mid 1980s by the Minister for Planning to mine the H1 site and this continued until the early 1990s and left the 11ha lake pictured below.

Photo: Daphne Salt
Mining on the H6 (Australand) site has created a number of lakes.

Information about the extent of sandmining including approvals, consent, depth of ponds etc is not always readily available to the public. After the election of the previous Council in September 1999, and in response to community and environmental concern, moves were made by Councillors to establish a Council Working Party to investigate the legalities of the current sandmining activities on the Peninsula. Approximately $100,000 was allocated from the Budget for these investigations which focussed in part on whether consent was ever granted for the current activities being undertaken in their current areas by the property owners. These investigations continue in 2004.

In May 2001, Sutherland Shire Council gave notification to the Holt group (the largest sandminer on the Peninsula) that it intended to issue an order to halt some of their sandmining operations. The order was reportedly based on the fact that according to Council, the company has been removing sand from areas for which they did not have consent to do so.

The current rate of sandmining has led to concerns about the stability of the sand body separating the Bay from the Ocean. Indeed the Healthy Rivers Commission in 2000 recommended that a comprehensive investigation be undertaken to determine exactly how much sand remains on the Peninsula and presumably how much needs to be left. This will provide important information to perhaps help ensure that sandmining activities are at the very least better regulated or perhaps even prohibited.

The current situation

In late 2001, the Rocla company announced its intention to lodge an application to mine a further 4-5 million tonnes of sand from an additional site on the Kurnell Peninsula. The State Government was the consent authority for the application which was accompanied by a voluminous EIS released in 2002. The proposal was also referred to the Federal Government under the Commonwealth EPBC Act.

This proposal was put on hold in September 2002 when Dr Andrew Refshauge, State Planning minister at the time, announced a major study of the "entire Botany Bay catchment including the sensitive Kurnell Peninsula". With this announcement came a moratorium on major new developments on the Peninsula, including the Rocla proposal and the Australand proposal, until the study was complete and a set of "strict requirements " for future development had been established.

In November 2004 the Botany Bay Strategy, as it has been dubbed, is still only in draft form, and the promised 'strict requirements' for development are nowhere in sight. In the meantime, Rocla has resubmitted its proposal for further sand extraction to the tune of 4.5 million tonnes.

October 2004: DIPNR is revising Sydney Regional Environment Plan No. 17 - Kurnell Peninsula. A letter was sent to Sutherland Shire Council and a select group of stakeholders outlining proposed changes and requesting comment. Click here to read SSEC's submission on the draft amendments to REP No.17.


Top of Page