Showing posts with label conservation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conservation. Show all posts

Monday, 8 January 2018

This War Memorial Park Is Under Siege.

  Manly Warringah War Memorial Park is a living monument of national heritage listed bushland –a tribute to Australians who have served in times of war..

The fragile mantle of rare biodiversity surrounds a body of water known as Manly Dam (originally acting as the water supply for the settlement of Manly). What makes it even more significant is that this beautiful and sacred place, rich also in Aboriginal heritage, is only 5 km's from central Sydney's concrete heart.

At the beginning of this century there was a momentous, but losing, struggle to save some of the bushland catchment from being bulldozed for a housing development. Check out a short video history here:

  Sadly...fifteen years later the sanctity of this special area is again being threatened on four fronts .

1/  Primary School expansion threatens threatened species.

 The Department of Education has lodged a Development Application with Warringah Council (now Northern Beaches Council) (View Documents Here - to build a new school in bushland behind the current Manly Vale school in Sunshine St. There are currently 400 plus students at the school..this would be expanded to over 1,000. The on-line documents show that the school's "footprint" would grow five fold and that 4.37 hectares would be "removed" primarily for Fire Asset Protection Zones. This bushland is a mixture of "Coastal Sandstone Heath Mallee, Sandstone Gully Forest and Sydney Sandstone Woodland  and is rated "very high" conservation value on Warringah Council maps). To comply with fire regulations the bushland would need to be cleared across the boundary into the Manly Warringah War Memorial Park and also into Condover Reserve, these are both natural places which are much valued by the community. The online documents show amazingly that the Eastern Pygmy Possum has been located on site (this unusual creature doesn't even appear as existing in the current Manly Warringah War Memorial Park Plan of Management!)  The Dept of Education's environmental consultant (Kleinfelder) has listed 327 trees which are planned for 'removal' as part of the development. These include Blackbutts, Silvertop ash, Bloodwoods, Grey Gums, Sydney Peppermint, Stringybark..all the beautiful endemic species that make the McComb Hill escarpment so special. Of course innumerable smaller shrubs will also be cleared and, in the process, the unique biodiversity of the hilltop- which is re-emerging after ecological burns, will be trampled and lost. (Many native trees have already been removed around the current school building for fire safety purposes) Check out the Final Species Impact Statement from Klienfelder and the response from Warringah Council's Natural Environment Unit. Keinfelder's report notes that the majority of potential habitat for the Eastern Pygmy Possum in the study area is considered to be of "high relative condition". It also notes that "No recovery plan has been prepared for this species. However, OEH is developing a targeted strategy for this species under the Saving Our Species program. This species has been assigned to the ‘landscape species management stream’ under the program as threats to this species are generally at the landscape scale (e.g. habitat loss and degradation)." The report admits that "potential deaths of resident individuals could occur during vegetation clearing".

 Adult Eastern Pygmy Possum 
(photo Gavin Smith)
In addition to this, at least four other endangered fauna species ( the Powerful Owl, the Eastern Bentwing Bat and the Grey Headed Flying Fox). Other iconic species animals such as Swamp Wallabies, Lace Monitors and Bandicoots also call this ridge-top location home. In fact surveys conducted (after a prescribed burn) have located 44 fauna species and 131 native plant species on site. Flora and Fauna Consultants, Total Earth Care conclude that  the proposal is "likely to have a 'significant impact' on the following threatened species:  Prostanthera marifolia  Tetratheca glandulosa  Pimelea curviflora var. curviflora  Red-crowned Toadlet  Southern Brown Bandicoot. The Consulting Company 'Kleinfelder' in its Preliminary Species Impact Statement remarks that the proposal would "contribute to ongoing incremental loss and degradation of habitat for (the listed endangered species) in the Warringah LGA".  Importantly, Keinfelder's survey somehow failed to detect the presence of the Red Crowned Toadlet which is listed as "vulnerable" and has been recently recorded by others (more than once) in the "asset protection zone" and logged on the NSW Office of Environment website

Check this link for rare and endangered animals in Warringah going going....

(Australia has undergone an extraordinary rate of mammal fauna decline in the last 200 years, with over 10% of our endemic terrestrial species lost forever and a further 21% of fauna currently threatened. This is a stark comparison
to the world’s modern day extinction rate of 1.5%. 28 Australian mammal species that have gone extinct since 1788

The development plans also include substantial excavations for stormwater ponds, pipes and roads in a fragile catchment area that drains ultimately into Manly Creek via Mermaid Pool the site of an important ongoing restoration project Mermaid Pool Restoration Blog   

Kleinfelder’s own SIS report details numerous other adverse effects that the proposed development will have on this ecologically sensitive site:-Sediment, pollutant and nutrient run-off; Soil erosion, Habitat fragmentation/isolation; Altered hydrology regimes;Weed invasion;  Introduction and spread of pathogens (e.g. Dieback Fungus (Phytophthora) and Myrtle Rust (Uredo rangelii);  Noise;  Dust; Light pollution; and Increased human activity adjacent to sensitive vegetation/habitat. Their report also  says that "it is assumed that all native vegetation within the proposed development site would be removed, including all vegetation strata".

What makes this matter worse is that the community managed to save much of this same land in 1995 when a plan by Landcom to build a medium density housing project here was rejected and the land was ultimately incorporated into
Manly Warringah War Memorial Park.  This is in an area currently earmarked for  the fire buffer zone clearing. Development across the site has the potential to  also disturb  Aboriginal cultural heritage items.

The irony is that this school was once designated as a NSW “Centre of Excellence in Environmental Education”. Even their own designated "conservation" area is scheduled for destruction ! Despite this the school's website proclaims that "the school has maintained an ongoing commitment to environmental education which is integrated into daily life" Surely there is a better way to improve this facility without sacrificing an area of such high natural values!  Why can't the school use their current building footprint and build up instead of out
Google Map

[NB Apparently alternatives were explored through a feasibility study: Manly Vale Public School Upgrade - Gateway Business Case (2014). But this document is considered classified information and is not available for public view].

This is the environmental Education Bill as introduced by Dr Terry Metherall (NSW Liberal Government) in 1992 Hansard

Below is a link to a short film clip and some images of the fragile bushland that borders the school grounds and Manly Warringah War Memorial Park.

And below is another short video by David Sawyer which highlights the habitat values of the area.

On 29th March 2016.Warringah Council voted unanimously NOT to willingly agree to a request from the Department of Education to acquire crown land in Manly Warringah War Memorial Park and Condover Reserve to enable a massive fire break to be established. Mayor Michael Regan said this in the Manly Daily on2.4.16 " Manly Vale Public School desperately needs an upgrade and the precious bushland of Manly Dam War Memorial Park (sic) needs to be protected. I was proud of Councillors this week who unanimously voted to oppose the sale of 16,000 sqm of Manly Dam wildlife corridor to the Department of Education for its school redevelopment plans. But why did we have to fight in the first place? Why can't the Department of Education find a design for the school that preserves the environment? Surely an investment in good design now, would reap enormous benefits for all in the long term-including teachers and students. Councillors and I call on the Department to rethink its plans. 

Sadly moves to compulsorily acquire (and clear) land in Manly Dam Reserve and Condover Reserve are now proceeding.

(Sept 2016) After intense community and Council pressure the Department of Education is now modifying the plans and a new D.A. will be submitted soon. There are fears that the redesign will be of a minor and superficial nature.  If the new school was built on the original footprint as was originally conceived, then the environmental destruction would be kept to a minimum. 

(Nov 2016) I turns out that the modified plans will save only 0.35 hectares of bushland and will intensify the impact on the School's Outdoor Learning area.  In fact new buildings will sit on top of the Eastern Pygmy Possum habitat !  Lobbying against this damaging proposal continues as we await a date for the Joint Regional Planning Panel review.

(Dec 2016) On 19.12.16 at the Northern Beaches Council Chambers in Dee Why, the Sydney North Planning Panel ruled 3 to 2 in favour of the Department of Education's destructive expansion plan for Manly Vale School. There were 28 speakers against the proposal (inc Council Administrator, Dick Persson) and 3 speakers for. The wheels are now in motion for ongoing land clearing, tree felling and habitat destruction in this area of rich natural heritage.


(DEC 19th 2016)

The Sydney North Planning Panel (ina public meeting at Northern Beaches Council Chambers Dee Why)..voted 3-2 to approve the contentious Manly Vale School Development.


(Jan 2018)

On 7th Sept 2017 (Threatened Species Day and World Outdoor Classroom Day)..developers moved in to clear the site.  Rare biodiversity was bulldozed away, a frog filled pond was torn assunder, ancient grass trees (some over 200 years old) were removed.  It is assumed that the small colony of Eastern Pygmy Possums are now locally extinct. Swamp Wallabies, displaced from their sanctuary have been found dead on local roads. One was located highly stressed in the centre of Manly. Much of the fragile McComb Hillside has been carted away in semi trailors. Later on this year, a huge swathe of the new Manly Vale Public School's woodland surrounds will be cut down for a massive fire break. 

Dillwynia Retorta
Epacris Longiflora
Xanthorrhoea (Grass Trees)
Lambertia Formosa (Mountain Devil)
Lobelia Dentata
Woollsia Pungens
Rocky Overhang
Sundew (Drosera Binata) Carniverous Plant
Xanthorrhoeas (Grass Trees)
Views Looking West Across to Manly Dam
(Manly Warringah War Memorial Park)

2/ Sydney Water land belongs in park

 A parcel of Sydney Water bushland at Kirkwood St, Seaforth was deemed surplus to requirements and consequently advertised for sale and subsequent development. This former Crown land had inexplicably been zoned R2 (low density housing) by Warringah Council (despite being surrounded by the park on three sides. After a flurry of protests, the land has currently been withdrawn from auction. The community is asking the NSW Premier and the Minister for Land and Water to transfer this land for incorporation in the War Memorial Park. Below is the property as advertised by Blackleys Estate Agents:- 

A newspaper article,31.5.16, reports that the sale of this land has been put on hold "indefinitely" .Manly Daily   The community will continue to work towards ensuring that the land is encompassed within the War Memorial Park. 

3/  Will Council compromise the catchment?

  Warringah Council has (very questionably) withdrawn the entire Warringah Aquatic Centre precinct from the War Memorial Park Management Plan and has an elaborate 'Master Plan" to develop and commercialise the area.  At this stage there seems to be no consideration of the fact that this land is at the top of the sensitive Manly Dam catchment and that expansive areas of rare vegetation would need to be cleared to comply with modern fire safety regulations. It is also believed that this is still technically Crown land, and therefore, outside the jurisdiction of council to sub lease it. Council has now concurred that a much needed environmental impact study needs to be instigated before further action is taken  (surely the high conservation value of the area has already been well documented)  More details here:-

The new Northern Beaches Council is currently assessing tender submissions.

This area is now being earmarked for Frenchs Forest school..which would mean more extensive land clearing for fire safety.

4/ Massive New Roadways are Destroying Wildlife Corridors.

Check out the plans for immense new freeways past the new French's Forest Hospital (which in itself has replaced a site of incredibly high ecological significance. 

Another 6.1 hectares of bushland is earmarked to be flattened here, important wildlife corridors are being replaced by increased roadkill and the fragile Manly Dam Catchment will be exposed to increased siltation and stormwater pollution.

View the Biodiversity Assessment Report.
Must the community have to continually strive to protect Manly Warringah War Memorial park from assault or can government step in and provide the long term conservation it deserves?

Manly Warringah War Memorial Park is the largest single area of bushland managed by a local council in Sydney’s northern beaches. It is a valuable natural area for the protection of native flora and fauna. Linkages to other reserves (both Council managed and National Parks) through bushland corridors, provides an important genetic exchange and contributes to a more sustainable biodiversity for the wider region. Its role in the region is unique and its attributes are highly valued by the community and visitors to the Park.

(From MWWMP Plan of Management)

Check out this Guardian article on habitat loss and extinction

Friday, 14 March 2014

Letter to Tony

Dear Hon Anthony John Abbott, Member For Warringah, 28th Prime Minister of Australia

 May I call you Tony?  I used to think that we were rather alike.  Both of us born in the U.K at a similar time, both of us with the rather unimaginative “John” as a middle name and we lived as near neighbours in the very same NSW electorate. In fact, I’m told, you were pursuing the property I ultimately purchased when we were both house hunting. We both have a pretty loopy affection for an outdated Monarchy, both love to hurl ourselves into the surf at Manly Beach (budgie smugglers optional) and were both raised in a strict code of contrived Christian morality. I suspect these days our voting patterns may be slightly different though.

  Before de-camping to government-owned digs, you lived in a suburb ironically called “Forestville”. I know now that you don’t put much value on native forests apart from their capacity to provide wood for furniture makers.  No one seems to have told you that, in reality, most logging involves bulldozing and wood-chipping the trees which are then exported to foreign companies to be pulped for paper.

  Apparently at a recent forest industry “love in” you recalled learning about the esoteric mysteries of wood at the knee of your grandfather, a shipwright by trade. The loggers must have thought you very quaint. You called them the  “ultimate conservationists”...Comedian Corinne Grant was a little more adroit “If loggers are conservationists, then Ivan Milat is a champion of population control” she penned. Another person observed that it was just as well Australia doesn’t still have a whaling industry because he couldn’t bear to hear the PM refer to the plucky harpoonists as the “ultimate animal welfare activists”.

 I’ve tried to understand you Tony. When you say Australia is now “open for business” part of me (i.e. my hands) wants to applaud. Then I realise that what you really mean to say is that our fragile environment and wildlife can now be exploited for a quick buck, no questions asked. You project a patriotic fervour but in reality you work at the behest of corporate greed-wherever it lays its shady hat.

 Surely it goes against all sense of Australian pride to want to de-list Tasmania’s World Heritage forests or “open up” our much loved National Parks to commercial interests. It amounts to hocking precious family heirlooms to pay for gambling debts. Oh yes and I remember that you did a similar thing, in your own constituency, when you withheld federal government intervention and allowed high conservation bushland to be sold off to overseas developers. 

 The community even took your wife Marg and daughters to see the creek-line habitat of a rare climbing fish that was threatened with local extinction but even that didn’t sway you. Later at a public forum you said you were “wearing sackcloth and ashes over that one”. But I see from your actions now that you must have been far from repentant.

Tony meets community reps trying to save bushland in his Warringah electorate (1999)

 Since coming to office it’s not just Tasmania’s forests that have been targeted. Your environment Minister, Greg Hunt, (and aligned State Liberal Premiers) have approved the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of dredging spoil on the Great Barrier Reef, allowed cattle grazing in Victoria’s Alpine National Park, given the green light to burning native forests for electricity in NSW and authorised the culling of Great White Sharks in W.A. (a globally threatened species). Philistines are leaping out of the parliamentary closet everywhere.  Not a good look in relation to the stewardship of our planet.

 As a professed "man of faith" and one who even trained to be a Jesuit priest, I would have thought you’d have taken heed of the many Biblical references which guide us towards caring for God’s creation e.g. “You shall not pollute the land in which you live, you shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell” (Numbers 35:33-34). Even with the welfare of three daughters at stake and climate change predictions forecasting a bleak future, you still won’t entertain the possibility of curbing the nation’s carbon emissions.

Just metres from Tony's electoral office, demonstrators gather to protect the environment.

 Another thing that sticks in the craw is when Liberal Treasurer Joe Hockey tells the Australian people that “the age of entitlement is over”. This is pretty hot on the heels of you claiming travel expenses, from the public purse, for attending charity and sporting events not to mention fronting up at colleagues’ weddings!  Don’t you get paid enough money already as Prime Minister?

 Years ago, before you were elected to the highest office, I dedicated a poem to you and the people of your political persuasion. It now seems more relevant than ever and I reproduce it below.

Minds Wide Shut.

There are too many rednecks in can see their flaky skin and rabid eyes. And they make coital moans at the sound of Alan Jones. As they celebrate his overture of lies.

There are far too many crazies in this country. Whose philosophy is far right of right extreme. They’ll sacrifice our forests, our rivers and our seas. Whilst deludedly profess to “live the dream”.

There’s one born every minute in this wide brown land. The refugee hating, Shooters party voting, climate change denying, wood chip loving type. They’ll be growing nuclear plants in our garden. And proliferating, when the fruits are ripe.

There’s a lot of Tony Abbotts in Australia. We’ve got the best democracy that money bought. And they steer this stately ship with a firm despotic grip. While they plunder human rights and don’t get caught.

So be sorry for these funny little Minchins. That roam the corridors of power and Cubbie Station. For Barnaby Joyce, will one day lose his voice. And Bob Brown will get the vote to lead this nation.

(Footnote:-we may need a new Bob Brown!)

If only our wildlife could vote!

M J Fisher

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Manly Fringe 2013

Here's an end of year montage of some of the natural beauty to be found inland from Sydney's Northern Beaches...and a glimpse at a few of the community initiatives designed to help retain it.

Manly Dam Bushland..always in need of more protection
Mermaid Pool, Manly Vale, a focal point for conservation efforts.
A volunteer team removing invasive weeds as part of the "Return of the Mermaids" restoration project.
Community members "rescuing" graffiti spray cans discarded in Manly Creek.
Orara Reserve, Allambie. Gradually being restored from weed invasion by  Bushlink, Beach School and Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee

Avenue of Endemic Native Plants to Commemorate the Wartime Service
of the Merchant Navy (Manly Vale). King St, Avenue of Honour 

Beautiful Gumbooya Reserve, Allambie...

...cared for by a volunteer team as part of "Friends of the Bush"
Local residents putting up nesting boxes for native wildlife (This one is for a Brushtail Possum)
Restored rock outcrop with remnant native species, Manly Vale
Juvenile orphaned Flying Fox being looked after by a volunteer from Sydney Wildlife
A Great Egret visits a Manly Vale pond looking for food 
Native Commelina Cyanea is also called "Scurvy Weed" as it was eaten by early European settlers to avoid scurvy (it contains Vitamin C) 
A spectacular Blue Triangle butterfly (Graphium Sarpedon) visits a Manly Vale garden
Spot the camouflaged Katydid
Gorgeous Apacris Longiflora (Fuschia Heath) at Manly's "North Head"
Ringtail possums. (Two very special Manly Vale locals).
A juvenile yet ancient member of the Manly Vale community.

Magnificent Coral Fern at Freshwater
Angophora Costata (smooth-barked apple)..a truly wonderful tree
Stunning Clematis Aristata (old man's beard) at Manly Golf Course...a star amongst native plants

I hope you've had a great year..please treasure and protect your own local native animals and plants...wherever you may be.