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Hacking River

Hacking River Report 2004

The Hacking continues to be beautiful despite the best efforts of developers and ill-informed users, and the neglect of Council and State government. A combination of the lapse of the Southern Catchment Management Board, boundary changes for the new (yet to be formed) Metropolitan Catchment Management Authority, and the inter-regnum and reorganisation associated with a new Council, no progress has been made on the integrated management strategy that was initiated last year. It is hard to say whether this project will remain in limbo, for it depends upon the commitment of the State and Local government to make progress.

The Hacking Forum was a great success, but the impetus was lost with the issues noted above.

Council's Port Hacking Management Panel has been re-convened with Brian Venn representing the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre. Sutherland Shire Councillor's support remains strong for this panel. High on the agenda will be to once again emphasise the important need for an integrated strategy for the Port. It is important for the Environment Centre to reactivate stage 2 of the Hacking Forum in the next six months.

Hacking River Report 2003

Progress on Port Hacking has been slow, but there are positive signs. Sutherland Shire Council and the Southern Catchment Management Board have agreed to create an integrated implementation plan, which should pick up many of the fragmented past plans and convert them into something more binding. We hope that this will take about 12 months.

The other key issue has been the draft People's LEP with its much welcomed foreshore controls. We trust that Council will hold to a strong line, in the face of intense but poorly informed opposition.

Hacking River Report 2002

1 step forward, 2 steps back?

The state of Port Hacking continues to be a concern. At the SEC/Port Hacking Protection Society forum on Port Hacking, scientific speakers highlighted that even before the Caulerpa taxifolia invasion we had lost over half of the seagrasses. A photographic survey of recent developments showed that despite the Foreshore Development Code large buildings are being created over the development line, in some cases even down below the tidal zone. A study of the Basin showed that biodiversity in one of the richest parts of Port Hacking has declined markedly.

Management commentary showed that the most environmentally harmful activities are being heavily subsidised, whilst the low impact uses are being prejudiced. There is no barrier to spending sums like $1million to dredge for deep keeled boats, but little apparent willingness to put in resources to protect low impact areas or threatened marine vegetation.

The most recent example of this is the NPWS proposal for a boat ramp at Bonnie Vale, to serve power boats whilst taking away a swimming and picnic area. Over 1000 letters of objection have been lodged but still the proposal continues to be advanced, even though it would seem to be directly contrary to the Plan of Management for the Royal National Park . This type of resource use continues to be the pattern in the Hacking (like most near urban estuaries), even as the evidence of its harmfulness becomes more pronounced.

There are some signs of progress. DLWC have begun to refuse approvals for some of the more damaging abuses. The Sutherland Shire Council Port Hacking Planning Advisory Panel has become lately a little more active in responding to some of the issues. The Southern Catchment Management Board has put forward a program that includes a more accountable approach to all estuaries, and a proposed new integrated estuary management plan for Port Hacking. Waterways Authority have yet to show any real organisational commitment to sustainability and equity, though the local Riverkeeper provides additional supervision on the Port.

The next year or so will be critical. The development of an updated Estuary Management Plan will probably coincide with a call for large scale dredging to move sand to Cronulla. The Bonnie Vale boat ramp issue will either be resolved, or become an even more contentious problem. Waterways will have to come out with some sort of (hopefully credible) approach to better balancing competing uses and the needs of the environment.

There is no reason why Port Hacking has to continue to deteriorate, or why low impact users have to be consistently disadvantaged in how the Port is managed. All that is lacking is management commitment to implement existing policy. That will continue to be our aim.


Hacking River Report - 2000

The 99/004.02.08Hacking Management Panel and the catchment management committee.

At the Panel, convened by Sutherland Shire Council, we progressed the now obvious view that the steadily growing use of the port and its catchment exacerbated its problems and therefore better management is required to preserve its value as a natural, educational, scientific and recreational resource.

The Centre will continue to press for the integrated management of the Port. We insist that sewage from vessels should not be discharged into the Port. We support the provision of pump out facilities on the shore. We carefully considered and opposed the regressive development proposals such as the Yowie Bay marine extension that intruded into the centre of a bay already congested with boat parking. Residents viewed the congestion as an eyesore, a restriction of waterway use and would worsen motor vehicle traffic and parking difficulties.

The Panel gives a lot of consideration to the impact on aquatic life especially sea grasses. The Panel also considered initiatives by Sutherland Shire Council to monitor the foreshore and skyline with photographic records. This visual survey is showing that the urban shore of the Hacking is losing its tree canopy and its natural vegetative character. Its being lost to larger buildings whether they be single dwellings, townhouses or dual occupancies. Only more strict controls will remedy this situation as demonstrated in the Pittwater region.

The Hacking River Catchment Management Committee continued to evaluate and recommend projects to receive grants for ongoing environmental achievements. The Committee especially commends the work of landcare groups which are flourishing in the region. The Committee also recommends that operation of the Helensburgh coal mine makes annual contributions to a site rehabilitation fund in preparation for its eventual and inevitable closure. The State Government ignored this request despite the instalment value being minimal over a 20 year period. Some improvements to the management of the mine's pollution controls we now required and have yet to be put to the test under extreme weather conditions.

No structural change has been made to pollution controls however so it is feared that the mine will continue to be a potential source of gross pollution for as long as untalented politicians play the jobs versus environment ransom. Here the environment always suffers, where solutions could have been sought for issues that need not have been pitched into conflict with one another.

In April this year the Catchment Management Committees were disbanded in favour of wider ranging Catchment Management Boards. The Final meetings of the Committee was to wind up its operations for a smooth hand over to the new Board. The Catchment Management Board will operate at a different level and it anticipated that it will have a greater integration of management through the Government departments. The Board is broadly represented with members from farming, business, councils, State Government, the Aboriginal community and environmental organisations. The Board welcomes input from the community at any time, and will request comment on its draft management recommendations. As the committee ceased operations the State Government ratified the Royal National Park (RNP), Heathcote National Park and Garrawarra State Recreation Area Plan of Management after many years of deliberation. Already opponents of the Royal National Park in the State Government are working to undermine that plan through the invasion of inappropriate development within the Park. The Bonnie Vale boat ramp is one example. This is an amenity that the Council is responsible for and National Park land should not be provided for it. Boat ramp supporters in complete ignorance of the Park's values, believe that RNP should be stripped of its historical "National Park" status and divided into areas of different use.

The Board has now had its inaugural sessions and on it the Centre's representative will continue to uphold the protection of the region's natural, historical, recreational and scientific values. We will continue to target ecological sustainability in order to conserve those resources. We welcome greater involvement of indigenous Australians and will pay particular attention to water quality and endangered species as they are crucial to preservation of valuable resources.

HACKING RIVER - contentious issues and challenges in 1999

The Hacking River continued to be a source for contentious issues and challenges during the last year.

The Centre's focus, with representation on the Hacking River Catchment Management committee, has been on the following issues:

I'll work my way down stream.

Firstly the continuing struggle for a high level of protection of the Hacking's water quality through its "PROTECTED STATUS - class P" under the Clean Waters Act.

The State Government will retain the "P Class" classification in name only if it continues to issue new licences to discharge into the river.

The first licence proposed for the Water Board in order to connect Otford, Stanwell Park/Tops and Coalcliff to the Cronulla system.  The licences permit the Water Board to install sewer overflows.  This means a substantial amount of effluent will be brought into the catchment from outside the catchment.  The potential for major discharges into the Hacking is greatly heightened.  We had a major discharge last September.  We are importing Wollongong's sewerage problems into the catchment and into this Shire.

The EIS is due for release on the 4th October and will be on display at Sutherland Shire Council. We are demanding that the Water Board use alternative measures to overflows and that it does not import effluent from other catchments.  This is a fundamental violation of Catchment Management Principles.

What will then follow are MORE applications for licence from other operations that currently violate the Clean Water Standard.

The Metropolitan Colliery at Helensburgh has reopened.  It has been issued with a standard licence to "discharge waste into the headwaters of the Hacking.  Nothing special for a protected river in the world's oldest national park.

The Centre is asking for upgraded pollution controls on the 1,000,000 tonne p.a. operation.  This mine also has had a major spill into the Hacking in the last year.  The Government and the company promised such measures the last time it changed ownership. They did not occur.

The State Government also has not released detail of the new coal mining lease agreement with the new mine owners.  We expect the State Government to impose a small levy on the company to, over time, build up a fund for rehabilitation of the site once the resource is exhausted in 20 years or so, depending on export demand.

Helensburgh Tip has been a source of pollution into the Hacking River.  At TCM we keep the tip in the public eye to ensure that leachates are not discharged into the river system.

Helensburgh, a town of 2,000 houses discharges its stormwater into the Jacking and Royal National Park.  No progress has been made in having Pollution Control Devices installed to improve its discharges.  We suspect that the authorities have lost faith in claimed ability of these devices since the Department of Housing project at Frances Street was to be a model for development at Helensburgh, and have failed.  The Department of housing refuses to release performance data, the EPA in return has relinquished its responsibility for inspection and action against offences relating to discharges from the ponds.  That responsibility now rests with WCC which will hardly be critical of their own areas of responsibility.  Can you see them prosecuting themselves?

Moving downstream, the freshwater section above Audley Weir continues to silt up, and our prediction of 20 years ago, that the river will become a "boggy marsh with a drain down the middle", is becoming a reality.  I urge you to inspect Audley weir during the next floor, or hire a rowboat to check the silt load.  Still nothing is being done to stop this migration from the Upper Hacking.

The Audley FISH LADDER, despite a substantial amount of funding being allocated, is slipping from our grasp.  Complications over design and disagreement between Government departments are stalling the project.

Maintenance and Dredging of Navigational channels was carried out this year and fortunately the spoils were not sidecast onto seagrass beds or into deep holes as has happened in the past.

However, the issues that generate the most rage at the TCM meetings result from the increasing competition for the estuary's recreational resources.  Issues such as jet skis, sewerage from boats, extra moorings, etc.

The motor boat representatives, in particular, display a fanatical disregard for other users of the port.  They are intolerant of any ideas, which they see may restrict their activities in their territory.  They have adopted a confrontational approach.  Their hatred of the NPWS has lead to informal proposals to carve up the RNP into discreet areas that would lose their National Park status.  In sport, they consume our energies that we would prefer to apply to the before mentioned issues.

We will continue to defend the Royal National Park, the Jacking River, the endangered species and the bushland of the Upper Hacking Catchment.  We will continue to lobby the State Government for the Crown land at Helensburgh that then Environment Minister, Bob Carr, promised to you in the 1987 Bi-election for inclusion into RNP.  And we will continue to oppose massive urban expansion in the upper hacking Catchment from developers who are encouraged by the opposition to overdevelopment in the Shire, believing that, if you can't go up, you have to go out.

T.C.M. - Observers welcome.We need more active volunteers