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The Kurnell Peninsula is a significant cultural and ecological asset. It is the Birthplace of Modern Australia - the site of Captain James Cook's first landing in this country - and the first meeting place of European and Aboriginal cultures. Kurnell is also the site of the most important wetland in the Sydney region (at Towra Point), regionally significant vegetation, sand dunes, a village of about 2600 residents, and many industrial establishments, including Sydney's largest oil refinery.

Sadly, the Kurnell Peninsula has been neglected and abused over many decades: Its once spectacular sand dunes have been depleted through sandmining and landfill operations, overgrown by noxious weeds and eroded by 4WD and horse riding activities; Sutherland Shire's sewage is discharged from the Peninsula's coastline; and there are ongoing tourist/residential/industrial development proposals which would add to environmental pressures in the area.

The magnitude, complexity and fragmentation of issues facing sustainable environment planning on the Kurnell Peninsula place heavy constraints on achieving a lasting rehabilitation of the Peninsula.

Over the past five years, the Centre has significantly increased its role in trying to find lasting solutions to problems at Kurnell:
  • Convening meetings of Towra Point Nature Reserve stakeholders - 1996-1999
  • Providing an administrative base of Towra Lagoon sandbagging project - 1997-98
  • Acting as a major player in campaign against Cogeneration plant - 1997
  • Acting as a major player in 'Reclaim the [Botany] Bay' campaign - 1998
  • Providing an administrative base, convenor, and member of Kurnell Regional Environment Planning Council - a coalition of 8 community groups - since 1998
  • Establishing two websites - TOWRA-Net, Kurnell History
  • Coordinating Weedy Pond Rainforest Restoration Project at Towra - 1998-2000
The Centre believes the following measures are required to resolve many of the problems in the Peninsula, to properly honour Kurnell's cultural heritage, and to ensure environmental sustainability:
  • Cessation of sandmining and protection of all remaining dunes
  • Rezoning most of the land to ensure environmental protection
  • Review of the Peninsula's statutory Regional Environmental Plan
  • Establishment of an independent strategic plan/management plan for the Peninsula
  • Cessation of 4WD activities on the Peninsula
  • Promotion and encouragement of all weed eradication efforts across the entire Peninsula - from private landholders to volunteer groups
  • Increased funding and resources for NPWS to manage the two 'icon' reserves, namely Towra Point Nature Reserve and Botany Bay National Park
  • Promotion of public access to the Peninsula
  • A Masterplan for the Taren Point area to protect its important habitat values
  • Support for the concept of a protected corridor of native vegetation/open space across the length of the Kurnell Peninsula
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NO, NO, NO to Port Botany's expansion

Q.: What's wrong with the Port expansion proposal?

A.: Everything! First , the Bay itself will be so damaged by deep excavation (for ever-bigger container ships) that its ecology will suffer irreparably while larger wave energies will erode all of the bay beaches including precious Towra's. Second , the already congested traffic of the Port, Airport, M5, Alexandri04.02.08ainer-carrying trucks throng the roads.

Q.: Who is opposing the expansion?

A.: Almost everyone! No fewer than 35 community organisations around the Bay are bitterly opposed. So are all 11 municipal councils of southern Sydney . Not a single council or community group has shown any approval towards it. The State Opposition and the minor parties have all been critical.

Q.: Well, who is pushing the proposal?

A.: Only a tiny but powerful clique: Treasurer Michael Egan, Transport Minister Michael Costa, and the Sydney Ports Corporation which runs Port Botany and is a profit-oriented agency of the NSW Government. It's doubtful if even Craig Knowles, the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning, is really in favour. The proposal has been narrowly conceived as a money-spinner for the Ports Corporation, without proper consideration of its effects on Sydney as a whole.

Q.: But the container trade is growing. Is there any alternative to expanding Port Botany?

A.: Definitely. Port Botany's present capacity is 2 million containers and that won't be reached for 8-12 years (last year the Port received only a little over 1 million). So there is time to develop the ports of Newcastle and Port Kembla as big container-handlers - the people of Newcastle and Wollongong are crying out for such development, to improve their economies and ease unemployment.

Q.: Is money available to develop Newcastle and Port Kembla?

A.: Yes. Put these figures together. The estimated cost of Port Botany's expansion is $580 million. Sydney Ports Corporation has had to admit (in September) that over a billion dollars in road works will be needed to make the expansion work. And the Federal Government has offered to NSW big funds if it will improve the rail freight line between Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne. So this adds up to massive funds being available if the NSW Government will take a long-term view and set about constructing a Greater Sydney - namely a transport-integrated Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong - which is what New South Wales obviously needs.

Q.: Doesn't that call for bolder planning than we can expect?

A.: Not at all. In a crazy example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, the Government has launched the planning of a Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney at the very time when its Port Botany expansion would hugely damage Sydney . Madness! The obvious course is to postpone any further inquiry into the Port's expansion until the full context for Sydney is set. The 35 community groups have already sent very strong messages to that effect to the Inquiry that will resume on 19 October.

Plunder of Kurnell sand continues

Q.: Is any progress being made on the long-awaited phase-out of sandmining?

A.: There's a lot of talk, some of it helpful, but as yet no results, no action. The State Government is working to present a draft planning document (Regional Environment Plan) probably not before February. The Federal Government says this issue is a state responsibility. The State says the Feds should accept a big share of responsibility by making multi-million dollars available for a "buy-back" of areas owned by the sandminers and that this was understood when the Airport was privatised for $5.6 billion. Local Liberal MP Bruce Baird has been publicising a "heritage listing" for the Peninsula , but opponent Mark Buttigieg says this is a pre-election stunt which won't have any effect whatsoever on the private sandminers. Council's heart is in the right place; it does want to end the sandmining, but its legal efforts to do so creep along at snails-pace. By contrast, the sand trucks thunder along our roads, working around-the-clock. And little is being done to rehabilitate the devastated areas where once were the mighty sand dunes.

Q.: What's Council done by sanctioning apartment building by the Sharks?

A.: A disastrous decision. Because this is a sports club, a majority of councillors who say they want to preserve Kurnell Peninsula have voted for a massive development on Woolooware Bay . It would, if allowed by State Government, set a precedent which will be cheered by every landowner from North Cronulla to Kurnell refinery - they'll cash in happily on a building bonanza that will see thousands of dwellings on Australia 's historic birthplace. Just foolishness.



By Bob Walshe

An intense struggle to "Save Kurnell" and "Save Botany Bay" is currently underway.

If you think those are over-dramatic terms, you are wrong. Let me explain why.

Sydney has long neglected its south. For two centuries the Botany Bay area - and especially Botany itself on the north side of the Bay and Kurnell Peninsula on the south side - has been treated appallingly by a Sydney that expanded happily to its north, east and inner west while its south and south-west were at best neglected and at worst abused.

Botany became the centre for industry that was often described as "offensive" or "noxious". Scores of sheep-related industries located there to pursue boiling-down, wool scouring, tanneries and leathergoods.

In 1883 the NSW Parliament declared Kurnell Peninsula to be a place for the dumping of noxious waste, for setting up of noxious and hazardous industries, and for a cemetery. (Only the distance from Sydney saved it from that fate.)

But it was the post-World War II period that saw the worst acts of environmental vandalism inflicted on the Bay area and Kurnell. Sydney Airport expanded hugely, the oil refinery burgeoned, massive oil/gas/chemical storages sprang up on the north side, while the devastation of Kurnell's sandhills proceeded apace.

The rate of "development" accelerated from the 1970s as Port Botany became Sydney's big container port, the oil and chemical storages around it swelled, the Airport thrust runways into the Bay, and probably 50 million tonnes of sand were excavated from the bottom of the Bay on the north side while the trucking away of more than 50 million tonnes of sand resulted in the disappearance of the Kurnell sandhills except for one large dune and a smaller one.

Efforts to stop the development juggernaut were noble - for example by environmental activists led by Nancy Hillier on the north side and Bernie Clarke on the south side. Sutherland Shire Council's efforts were often not sustained enough to counter successfully the developers' pressure. The developers almost always got their way.

Southern Sydney comes of age. Sydney 's neglect of its south could not go on forever. Population was rising more rapidly after about 1950 than in the rest of Sydney . In Sutherland Shire, for example, a population of 50,000 in 1950 has quadrupled in just 50 years, sweeping past 200,000 to today's 215,000.

Similar population surges affected the Botany area, St George, Bankstown and other parts of southern and south-western Sydney . The suburb of Botany itself saw dramatic industrial and demographic change: the tanneries closed and "gentrification" (comparable to Paddington's) has become unstoppable.

The population in the areas that had been seen in the past as "lower class" was no longer prepared to accept second class status. It was building attractive houses, turning old factories into stylish units and showing appreciation of the beauties of Botany Bay area, of the Bay itself, and not-least its proximity to the Sydney CBD. An instructive barometer, property values, rose and rose.

It was the coming of age of southern Sydney : a population no longer willing to be treated as passive and undeserving.

The change was visible to sharp observers as early as the 1980s. Today it is accomplished fact - and woe-betide any politician who ignores it! Just look at the crazy proposal to extend Port Botany, with loss of Bay waterfront and huge road-congestion, and note that not a single politician is coming out ardently in support of it, despite economic-rationalist arguments that could favour it.

The Government's dramatic promise to southern Sydney . No wonder this now large and alert population of southern Sydney - concerned for quality-of-life and environmental values - greeted with enthusiasm the announcement on 3rd September 2002 by Planning Minister Dr Refshauge that he was instituting "a major environmental study into the entire Botany Bay catchment including the sensitive Kurnell Peninsula [which will] ensure - once and for all - that development is not allowed to harm the environmental and social values of this important area".

As result, a Botany bay Strategy Advisory Committee has been set up. It has held half a dozen meetings since April. What does it have to show the population of the Bay catchment - that is, the catchment of the Bay itself and of its tributaries, the Georges, Woronora and Cooks rivers, and of course, sensitive, sand-stripped Kurnell Peninsula - a catchment that in fact embraces 2 million people, now half the population of Sydney?

That's the question before the Botany Bay Region FORUM which meets in Rockdale Council Chambers on 6th September. The two community representatives on the Advisory Committee will report their concerns to the gathering, which will be asked to express its views.

Will the "strict requirements" promised by Minister Refshauge be (a) formulated and (b) enforced to prevent developers from doing harm to environmental and social values?

Big question. As it should be, for the expectations of our area of Sydney have been justly aroused, will never be suppressed, and will be ignored by politicians at their peril.


By Simon Kimberley

The announcement on September 1st 2002 by Planning Minister Refshauge of "a major environmental study into the entire Botany Bay catchment including the sensitive Kurnell Peninsula - effectively suspending all development and rezoning proposals in the area" was the most significant news for the Peninsula in

The Minister also announced plans to create a comprehensive regional blueprint to guide all future land use. Strict criteria devised by the environmental Study will be applied to development proposals. The implications of the announcement will no doubt be significant, particularly for the Australand proposal, which will be reassessed as a result.

In its own moves to protect the Peninsula from development, Sutherland Shire Council, backed by the community, had previously submitted a proposal to the Federal Government under the Centenary of Federation grants scheme for funding to purchase land back from private owners (including the Australand site). Whilst the Federal Government declined to support the 2001 proposal, a push for the buyback has been revived this year following the Federal Government's $5.6 billion windfall as a result of the sale of the airport. To this end, a Council/community delegation will travel to Canberra next week to discuss the buyback with Finance Minister, Nick Minchin.

Amongst some of the other concerns this year (prior to the Minister's announcement) was the new sandmining proposal lodged by Rocla . The Rocla company have been conducting sandmining activities on the Kurnell Peninsula on behalf of other landholders for many years but they had recently purchased property of their own, and had lodged an application to mine up to 4.5 million tonnes of sand from this property. Their intention was to fill the void left as a result of the mining and to develop an industrial park at a later stage. The proposal was met with virtually unanimous opposition. However, following the Minister's announcement only a matter of days after the closing date for EIS submissions, Rocla withdrew their proposal.

After a concerted push by the Centre and other groups, the Cronulla Sharks withdrew their original proposal to develop 650 residential/commercial/hotel units on their site (including on the junior playing fields). However, in May this year, the Sharks submitted a revised proposal to develop residential and aged care accommodation (240 units), a hotel (100 rooms), conference centre, expanded club and basement parking (2 levels) on the eastern side of their property. The revised proposal presented similar concerns to the original, not least because of the proximity to Woolooware Bay and Towra, the likelihood of traffic problems (given the relative remotenesss from public transport and other facilities), the potential for problems associated with the site's checkered history as a waste dump, together with the potential for disturbance of acid sulfate soil. Despite these concerns, Council have agreed to proceed to the zoning assessment process based on the Sharks preferred development option, with an assessment of environmental impacts. The implications of the Minister's announcements on the Sharks development are as yet uncertain.

The Final Report of the Botany Bay Program was launched in March this year by the NSW Environment Minister Bob Debus. This was the culmination of 18 months work from Program Manager, Jim Colman. Minister Debus has also foreshadowed the establishment of a framework for overall management of the Bay, but as yet, very few details have been provided about these moves, beyond the recent announcement by Andrew Refshauge. As a result of the Botany Bay Program, a new coalition of environment groups (of which the Centre is one) known as Botany Bay and Catchment Alliance (BBACA) has been formed to bring together environmental groups who are dedicated to the restoration, protection and sustainable use and enjoyment of Botany Bay and its catchment.

2001 - The Year on Kurnell Peninsula

by Simon Kimberley

The last 12 months have not been without incident for the Kurnell Peninsula!

Of particular note has been SSROC’s Federally-funded “Botany Bay Program”. One of the Program’s major achievements was in bringing together the many non-government organisations with an interest in the Bay and its rivers. After many meetings during the year, these organisations have now moved to establish a new community alliance for the Bay, Cooks and Georges River. After 18 months study into the Bay, Program Manager Jim Colman, in July, released an excellent Discussion Paper on the Bay’s problems. This followed last year’s Healthy Rivers Commission of Inquiry into the Georges River and Botany Bay which is expected to release it’s Final Report and recommendations to State Government later this year.

On Kurnell Peninsula issues, the Centre has continued its active role with 7 other organisations in Kurnell Regional Environment Planning Council. During the last 12 months attention has been focussed on the development on the old Toyota site at Taren Point, the Sharks’ 650 unit development proposal, and Australand’s 500-dwelling development on the Wanda sandhills.

Indeed the Australand saga took several dramatic turns during the year. Following Council’s rejection of the Australand residential proposal, DUAP Minister Andrew Refshauge intervened and signalled his intention to establish himself as the consent authority for the development. In late 2000, the Minister announced that a review of part of the REP would take place to identify preferable landuses for the Australand site and two adjacent Breen-owned properties. A consultant was appointed and a community Reference Group put in place. After 6 months, the consultant presented a report which recommended mixed land use on the sites including residential. However it was revealed, almost by accident, that the review of the REP had been funded by Australand, information that DUAP had failed to mention at any of the Reference Group meetings. In response, Reference Group participants passed a motion of no confidence in the whole review process. A public protest meeting then followed.

Sutherland Shire Council continued its investigations into the legalities of sandmining in 2001. This culminated in May with a notice being served on the Holt Group in regard to certain sandmining operations in areas which Council believed consent had not been granted. Council via its relatively new Kurnell Campaign Committee also increased the push for the acquisition of private land on the Peninsula for dedication as National Park. To this end, a delegation of Council and community representatives visited Federal Ministers and their Opposition counterparts in Canberra earlier in the year. A substantial grant application for funds to acquire the land was submitted to the Federal Government in July.

Year 2001 also saw completion of the upgrade to the Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant. Despite concerns over a number of environmental aspects of the upgrade including the clearing of native vegetation, many other significant environmental improvements are anticipated, particularly to water quality along Bate Bay beaches.

During this year the Centre completed a new website on the Kurnell Peninsula. The new site contains information on the environment of the Peninsula and a perspective on the current issues facing the Peninsula. The address is

In May the Caltex Oil Refinery resurrected their own Reference Group and as a member of the group the Centre will continue to provide feedback to Caltex and raise issues on the environmental aspects of its operations on a regular basis at meetings during the coming year.
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2000 Report

The year 2000 marked the 230th anniversary of Captain Cook’s landing at Kurnell. This 230th year was again characterised by both positives and concerns for the Peninsula and the Centre retained an active role.

The anniversary of Cook’s landing was celebrated in April at Kurnell’s annual festival. Apart from the now traditional formal ceremony in Botany Bay National Park, another significant event took place in the Kurnell Guides Hall on Saturday 29th. This was the launch of the new book “Kurnell – Birthplace of Modern Australia, a Pictorial History” which was the culmination of many months work by local historian Daphne Salt. The Centre’s role in this project was to construct a supplementary Kurnell history website ( which was launched in conjunction with the book. The website component was supported by a grant from the NSW Heritage Office and took about 9 months to complete. In the next few months we will be adding other comprehensive information about Kurnell to this new website to compliment the history section. If you take into consideration the Centre’s existing TOWRA-Net website, by year’s end we will have completed an extensive on-line collection of information on the Kurnell Peninsula.

In 2000, the Centre also continued its active participation with other groups in the Kurnell Regional Environment Planning Council (KREPC). KREPC again met at monthly and quarterly intervals aiming to promote a sound future for the natural environment and cultural heritage of the Peninsula. KREPC has been active in, among other things, contributing submissions to: development applications, the Healthy Rivers Commission of Inquiry, and Draft Plans of Management for Towra Point Nature Reserve and Botany Bay National Park. It has also actively participated in discussions over the RTA’s wetland proposal, the Refinery’s Reference Group, and Sydney Water’s Sewage Treatment Plant upgrade.

This year KREPC has also examined the complexity and fragmentation of issues and problems on the Peninsula in an attempt to identify priorities for rehabilitation. To this end the Centre, on behalf of KREPC, lodged a grant application with the NSW Environmental Trust for funding to compile an independent community-based strategic plan for the Peninsula, and to appoint a “Kurnell Peninsula Manager”. The outcome of this application will be known by December.

Sutherland Shire Council moves on the Peninsula this year have included a vote in February to reject Australand’s proposal to construct 500 dwellings on their former sandmining site, a concurrent rezoning of all sandmining sites to open space (private recreation) and establishment of a Kurnell Working Party to examine the legalities of sandmining.

However last month, in a startling announcement, the State Government moved to ‘strip’ Council of their power as consent authority for the Australand proposal, and to announce its intention to institute its own rezoning to facilitate residential development. There was a degree of concern over the announcement given that no prior consultation had taken place with either the community or Council. So, as a result of this State Government intervention we will enter 2001 with some uncertainty as to future planning on the Kurnell Peninsula.

To conclude on a brighter note, 2000 also saw the completion of the Centre’s rainforest restoration project at Towra. Many thanks to Coastcare, Chris Brogan and NPWS for their assistance over the past 2 years.

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1999 Report

by Simon Kimberley

The Kurnell Peninsula has continued to be a hotbed of environment concern over the last 12 months and the Centre’s has maintained its high level of activity on Kurnell issues through a variety of campaigns and projects.

In December 1998, the Centre played a part in the formation of the Kurnell Regional Environment Planning Council (KREPC) – a coalition of 9 community organisations with an interest in the rehabilitation of the Kurnell Peninsula. The Centre serves as the administrative base for KREPC and is currently has represented on its Executive Committee.

Meeting at monthly and quarterly intervals, KREPC has dealt with a range of issues this year from the Australand development, to dredging at Taren Point and the upgrade of the Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant.

In addition to its role with KREPC, the Centre is also now represented on a newly formed Environmental Reference group at the Kurnell Oil Refinery. The purpose of the group is to examine and provide recommendations on the Refinery’s Strategic and Environmental Improvement Plans as well as to raise concerns about the refinery’s operations. The group has had 3 meetings so far this year.

The Centre’s involvement at Towra Point Nature Reserve has been primarily project-based during 1999. Funding for the Centre’s rainforest restoration project at Weedy Pond was extended for 1999 and work has again been undertaken to remove invasive weeds to allow native species to regenerate. With the assistance of community volunteers, international backpackers, young unemployed people and Lend Lease personnel, a corridor of rehabilitated bushland has been created linking two shorelines of the Nature Reserve. The Centre has benefitted greatly from the services of Chris Brogan who has provided expert assistance and supervision for the project. The project has also provided a good opportunity for the Centre to continue it’s cooperative relationship with National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The Centre’s TOWRA-Net website continues to be accessed by an increasing number of people. We receive numerous comments via the website particularly from local school students. In addition, during July this year contact was made via the Internet with Ms Magarida Serra – a journalist from the Portuguese radio station TSF. The station was compiling a special series of reports on significant ecosystems in different parts of the world. After finding the Centre’s TOWRA-Net website, Ms Serra, who filed the report on our region, chose to visit and profile Towra Point and the activities of the Centre for the story.

The Centre is also indebted to one of our volunteers, Thai Loi who has provided tremendous assistance with all of the Centre’s websites.

Whilst I’m acknowledging people’s efforts I’d like also to acknowledge the work that has been done over many years by the Cronulla Dunes and Wetlands Protection Alliance. Through our involvement with the Kurnell groups on various issues this year, the Centre has come to appreciate the extent of the Alliances knowledge and expertise on Kurnell issues and we certainly look forward to working with them in the future.

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