Archive | July 2012

HUG A TREE DAY at Wolli Creek

Wolli Creek Regional Park is an important green corridor within the congested south western area of Sydney. The nature reserve was saved by the concerted efforts of residents who fought valiantly to get the impending M5 east motorway put underground rather than push through the endangered bushland, thereby preserving the area as one of the […]

This is what they do in other cities… They are turning Berlin’s now defunct Templehof airport into a giant playground for the city’s residents. If this was Sydney it would become units, units, and more units with a small open strip (note Barangaroo and the CUB brewery site). Well done Berlin, thanks for showing the way…


Photo essay dedicated to a one-of-a-kind location: Berlin’s Tempelhof airport.

Or: what you get if you make an airport in the middle of a city, then take out all the airplanes, and then let the people run wild.

































































This is Berlin’s Tempelhof, which can be easily googled for hard facts. Today it is as it was when closed down, several years ago. a massive semi-circular building now sits, apparently mostly unused, on one side of the airfield. But it is the goings-on inside, that really make…

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There’s a new phenomenom sweeping the state of NSW, Australia. It all started March 26 2011 after the election with a statement by the incoming premier Barry O’Farrell “We’ll govern for all.” Since then the O’Farrell government certainly has left its mark on the state, and many members of the public have felt the effects of Barry’s ‘governing for all.’ With job cuts and scale backs as well as back room deals with gun lobbyists and developers on the agenda, the public are reeling, wondering who or what could be next on the chopping block. So get ready for it NSW, you’ve been “O’FARRELLED!”

Yes, it’s been a trying year for the state, some would even argue on our Australian way of life, as big bad Barry and his Liberal government, who swept to power in a landslide, have gone about their methodical prescription to change the face of NSW in so many ways. Before he’s through will we even recognise our great state and its constitutional form of democracy? Who knows…

Recently, the regional town of Grafton felt it, they’ve certainly been “O’FARRELLED!” as their historic jail has now been scaled back in service from a 250 bed centre to housing just 60 remand prisoners with the loss of over 100 jobs for the tight-knit community. Many townsfolk bravely stood night and day to form a road block outside the 119-year old fortress in order to stop the trucks coming to take the prisoners away to newer, ‘cheaper to run’ prisons such as Cessnock. As realisation crept in that they had finally lost their battle and the police lines moved in to break up the picket, protestors simply turned their backs, a potent symbol of how the O’Farrell government had turned their backs on the town’s own plight.

While finances are at the top of Barry’s agenda, not much consideration was given to the employment the jail achieves in a regional town like Grafton, which has, by this event, experienced ‘it’s darkest hour’. What will those 108 prison guards do now in times of rising unemployment, we all wonder. When he said back in 2011 “We’ll govern for all” he obviously didn’t mean them.

Grafton jail protestors, image SMH

But Grafton is not the only one to be “O’FARRELLED!” in recent times, that much is clear. Public servants, you are running scared. Nurses, teachers, emergency services, researchers, you’ve all been “O’FARRELLED!” along the line with pay freezes and lay-offs en masse under the government’s wage reforms. Public sector wages would be capped at 2.5 percent per annum, despite the CPI rising by 3.6 percent, leaving a shortfall of 1.1 percent. Over 35,000 public sector workers rallied in the Sydney Domain on September 8 2011 to protest against the attacks on public sector jobs, wages and conditions announced by Barry O’Farrell, which included a decision to axe several thousand public sector jobs. 67,000 teachers carried out a 24 hour strike on the same day.

Earlier this month it was announced that Community services workers will be cut by 968 positions over the next four years and the health department could lose more than 3600 over the same period, in a move that NSW Public Service Association Assistant Secretary Steve Turner said was “clear the Government doesn’t care about our most vulnerable children and their families, regarding their proper care as just another number to be slashed on the budget sheet.” Opposition Leader John Robertson was scathing of the cutbacks. “Sacking nearly 1,000 community services workers at the same time one in five reports of children at risk are not being followed up is nothing short of a disgrace” he said. “Cutting 968 staff from the department responsible for protecting the most vulnerable children in NSW will only see more children falling through the cracks… The latest job cut figures confirm that almost 8,000 jobs will be lost from hospitals, schools, fire stations, road safety and community services under Barry O’Farrell.”

Domain protestors. image

Retail workers, you too have been “O’FARRELLED!” with the premier de-regulating trading on Boxing Day, meaning your hard earned holidays are being eroded and trading continues during this festive and traditional public holiday period.

Workers compensation laws too, have been “O’FARRELLED!” in a big way. Items such as weekly benefits beyond 2.5 years, medical expenses beyond 12 months, journey claims, claims to spouses killed at work, and legal costs are all in the target of Barry’s cuts, in effect altering worker’s rights immeasurably. The Workers Compensation Amendment Bill was rushed through the NSW Parliament in under 72 hours and was reported just 11 days after it was established. Any genuine inquiry would have taken at least 6 months, says MP David Shoebridge’s office. The committee received 353 submissions and held public hearings over just three days. Unions and workers of NSW were rightfully outraged.

Barry the butcher. image The Greens

Privatisation has been a big spinner for Barry too. Sydney Ferries, you’ve been “O’FARRELLED!” Soon you’ll be run by a foreign company Veolia Transport and let’s wait to see what that entails. No doubt job losses, route changes and ticket price hikes for the iconic ferries in a bid to bring down running costs.

And state electricity, why you’ve been truly “O’FARRELLED!”. Barry did a deal with the Shooters and Hunters party to gain their support to sell off the state’s power generators, passing that bill through and at the same time “O’FARRELLING!” our state’s National Parks, many of which will now be open to hunters blasting their guns in wilderness areas – great job Barry. 40 percent of National Parks land coverage including those with World Heritage Listing such as Barrington Tops and Dorrigo will be open up to hunters. “Barry O’Farrell’s shown today that he’s prepared to break every promise that he’s made to get a deal up to get this through,” opposition leader John Robertson told reporters. “A premier who promises not to allow hunting in national parks is about to allow a shooting spree to open up in some of the most pristine parts of the state,” he said.
believes this is political wheeling and dealing on a whole new level, trading one totally unrelated law to get another one through parliament. Where is the consultation, where is the study? And regarding the power sell-off, expect electricity prices to soar even further. A similar sell-off in South Australia skyrocketed bills up to 30 percent.

Now the NSW Govt has become a joint sponsor of “Shot Expo”, a weapons show, along with gun makers Winchester and Beretta. The Greens MP David Shoebridge said ”It’s just astounding the Game Council is using taxpayers dollars to co-sponsor a pro-hunting event with weapons manufacturers. This state government has no limits on how far it will go in promoting a pro-gun culture, including joining with death merchants to plug guns and hunting. NSW has run down hospitals, broken public transport and thousands of public servants being sacked, but the O’Farrell government still has the cash to promote gun ownership and hunting.”
Great way to spend our tax dollars Barry.

NationalParks protestors. image

The State Records office, you’ve been “O’FARRELLED!”. In a little publicised event, the public Reading Room, Formally located in the Rocks, central to the public need to conduct research within its premises, has now been shut down and moved to the outer west suburb of Kingswood. So if you live anywhere near the centre of the city, you will now have to travel 40km away to gain access to the State Records, to a site with no public transport. It’s a real slap in the face for the history of our state.

NSW Fisheries, you’ve had the “O’FARRELL!” treatment too. The Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre is being forced to close against its will and broken up with up to 150 local job redundancies following. This is a world class facility with experienced researchers. Protests were held outside parliament after reports that bureaucrats tried sneakily to reclassify it to avoid the need for presenting a business case, and petitions of 18,600 names couldn’t even warrant a meeting with Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson. Now THAT is arrogance. Sutherland Shire councillor Phil Blight made his statement to the protest “It’s a centre of excellence, perfect for the research and management of fish stocks and shark monitoring. It has the facilities, the tanks, the laboratories, the storage areas, the freezers, an extensive marine library – all the things that will have to be built again at Port Stephens or Mosman or wherever the staff are to be sent. It makes no sense.”
View this web link
Debate rages within the department and public as to the benefits of breaking up such an institute but in the end O’Farrell won out, as he always seems to do. Why oh why Barry?

Fisheries protestors.image SMH

And now, planning laws in the state of NSW, you are being completely “O’FARRELLED!”. This could be the most dangerous and damaging “O’FARRELLING!” to the people of NSW yet. Barry and his planning minister Brad Hazzard have released their green paper aimed at ‘cutting red tape and de-politicising’ planning and speeding up the system, when in fact it would be taking powers away from local councils and removing the rights of residents to have their voices heard when it comes to opposing DA’s. This instead would go to a panel of non-elected representatives including independent certifiers, and so long as the DA passed basic criteria, public consultation and the right for individuals to make submissions would be void. The possibilities for corruption are rife, allowing developments through without public input and moving the process out of local hands, as has been demonstrated with private certifiers in the past, where developments have been built that did not comply. While we certainly have had issues regarding council’s attitude to heritage preservation in the past (and continue to do so), at least in theory they are meant to represent local constituents and should try to do so – tell us Barry, who are these new panels there to represent?

The opposition and the Greens call this a developer free for all, whereby the O’Farrell government is effectively creating a ‘tick and flick’ system of planning. With housing affordibility and population growth key drivers in this debate, pressures are immense from Canberra and indeed developer lobbyists who are trying to maximise their opportunities to build as big and as high as they can in the midst of this population boom. With land running out on the urban fringes and public transport not keeping pace with the growth of the city (yes, Barry), so-called ‘infill’ development within existing areas is on the agenda, as it can be cheaper and larger scale than greenfield sites. We, the residents, who are mostly AGAINST over-development, and the councils who, as stated, are meant to represent us, are in their way. So taking us out of the equation is good for the economy, good for the state, and most of all, good for Barry, and the developers who will run riot once these laws are passed.

image The Age

Make no mistake, this is about boosting housing densities and giving developer groups free reign. The Sydney Morning Herald broke a story in January 2012, which outlined government strategy to ask developers where they would like new greenfield sites to open for them, earning praise from developer lobby groups such as Urban Taskforce and the Property Council of Australia. “While supporting the positive moves for greenfield sites, the Urban Taskforce believes a similar leadership role is required for the even harder supply problem of urban infill sites,” the chief executive of the Urban Taskforce, Chris Johnson, said. ”The government could call for expressions of interest for infill sites and then set up a special approval approach.”

“You’d like to see a similarly efficient process for urban renewal opportunities – there is still overwhelming demand within the existing footprint,” said the Property Council of Australia CEO, Glenn Byres. Planning Minister Brad Hazzard sent an ominous warning to councils. ”The desirable course is to work with councils, but at the end of the day the state government and I, as Planning Minister, have the capacity to rezone without their concurrence,” he said.

With the heritage office of state government already reduced to a shadow of its former self in the name of the “Heritage Branch”, lumped in as an offshoot of the planning department, this doesn’t bode well for us in the game of heritage preservation. Rather than expanding to keep pace with the extent of new planning laws, the heritage branch is shrinking and becoming virtually toothless in its powers. We could effectively see whole areas of Sydney changed radically to accommodate more and more high rise, high density development, and the increasing traffic, pollution, and congestion that entails. Not to mention the continued disappearance of gardens and backyards within our cities and suburbs. But what should be lamented most here is the loss of community input, the trampling down and cheapening of public view, of what we, the people want for OUR planning future. To deny us that right, is not what you were voted in to do, Mr. O’Farrell, the man who claimed “to govern for all” and “put planning back in the hands of the people.”

Domain protest. image ABC

Americans made a big issue of getting angry over having their Olympic uniforms made in China, it made for lively debate in congress and became world news headlines (ours are also made in China but no-one seems to care). So how will we, Australians, now react when our very public planning rules are being turned on their heads by a dictator-like short term Premier and his developer-friendly goals suited only to appease the big end of town. We as citizens are being systematically stripped of our democratic rights, we should be up in arms over this.

Democracy, NSW, 2012, you too have been “O’FARRELLED!”.
Be concerned, be very very concerned…


Thompson Square, in historic Windsor, north west of Sydney, is under direct threat by a proposal to upgrade the adjoining road and Hawkesbury River crossing. Councillors voted 9-3 in an April 2012 meeting to replace the current bridge (the oldest structure crossing the river) with a wider modern bridge incorporating an approach through Thompson Square, praising the virtues of such a misguided idea – “Thompson Square will be enhanced by filling in the existing roadway and the new bridge alignment will follow Bridge Street which has always been there and has always led down to the river,” Cr Bassett said. In actual fact it would alter the face of the square forever, drowning out the peaceful heritage ambience with a concrete expressway-like road coughing up fumes and noise of thundering B-doubles all over the picturesque town and square.

The Doctor’s House (c1830) view of Thompson Square and river
Image VIBE property.

The Georgian era square, which has its origins in 1795, is widely considered the oldest civic square in the country. Another, in the Rocks, has been filled and built over as was argued by Hawkesbury historian Jan Barkley-Jack at the council meeting against obviously ill-informed councillors, members of which still deny that this is in fact the oldest public square. The square has been labelled the best preserved vestige of the Governor Macquarie’s grand era of civic planning. Surrounded by restored period buildings, including the graceful Macquarie Arms Hotel, Australia’s oldest pub, this is no doubt a very significant link to Australia’s early settlement days when the west was opened up along the mighty river.

It would be completely defaced by the ludicrous proposed ‘Option 1’, which dictates the installation of a $31 million, two-lane, modern high-level bridge across the Hawkesbury. It is the preferred option for the short-sighted council as well as the State Government, offering “best value for money”, but there were actually nine options put forward by the RMS (the revamped Road and Maritime Services department under the O’Farrell government), alongside an option preferred by community groups to create a bypass, which would have a far less negative impact on the town and square. The existing Windsor bridge, opened in 1874, is also under direct threat of removal by option 1.

Option 1 and Stage 2 development RTA

Looking over the NSW Govt Road projects website, there is more than a hint of irony between what they say and what they propose to do. These are direct quotes:
“While Windsor needs to modernise its infrastructure this must be done with sensitivity to its history, heritage and cultural values.This is especially true of Thompson Square”. (…sensitivity? Framing the square with a concrete expressway?)
“RMS is committed to creating a replacement bridge that will not just support but enhance the living history of Windsor.” (… by support and enhance the living history they mean demolish and remodel the living history)
“The new bridge will have a visual and physical impact on Thompson Square. But in backfilling the existing road cutting and realigning it along one side of the Square, the new bridge presents an opportunity to integrate the precinct into a unified green space:

  • Three roads reduced  to two.
  • Usable area increased by more than 500m sq.
  • Enhanced picnic areas near the town centre and closer to the river, away from traffic.”
    (…so they are going to improve Australia’s oldest civic square by backfilling and alteration, sorry, not on this site, that won’t do)

There is even a pretty diagram that shows the evolution of Thompson Square, trying to show all of us that this is just the next step to happiness ever after. Click the image below.

Isn’t government propaganda pretty in 2012?

In reality, Windsor Bridge would be replaced with an uninspiring concrete incrementally launched bridge such as one at Corowa (pictured below), looking like any other new bridge or overpass in the state really. And as shown by the RMS 3D modelling, the view and noise of the roadway would be quite obtrusive looking out from the square, being raised as it is and so close and wide. Even the gentle age old slope down towards the river would be lost… one would have to look hard to even see the river from there. Is all this appropriate for what is essentially one of our most important and in tact historical sights in the country? We don’t think so.

Bridge at Corowa, the type preferred by RMS for Windsor Bridge replacement.
Yes it is boringly ugly. Image RMS website

Where’s the river? You’d have to bend your neck to see it.
3D Modelling still, RMS website

Like any ridiculous idea, the project does have its multitude of opponents, in the form of local residents, action groups and noted historians. One such group is the CAWB (Community Action for Windsor Bridge) with a marvelous website link here.

There was a community rally held on site 3 June that attracted a vast crowd and has yielded petitions numbering supporters in the thousands. Sydney’s prominent heritage architect, Clive Lucas, has thrown his support behind the cause. ”There’d be very little written about colonial architecture in Sydney that wouldn’t include the buildings in Thompson Square. They’ve put Thompson Square back in such good order,” he said. ”Balconies that were boxed in with asbestos or removed altogether have been restored. To spend all this money fixing the buildings, then destroy the square is extraordinary.”

Graham Edds, a heritage architect and member of the local action group, commented to the SMH ”Australia needs to realise Thompson Square isn’t just the green bit in the middle. It is the only remaining civic square in Australia from the 18th century. It goes back to 1795. Historically it was the meeting place of all the early [Hawkesbury] settlers when it was the food bowl of the fledgling colony. They brought their produce here and picked up their own supplies. It was a civic square 15 years before Governor Macquarie formalised it in 1810 … and now we are putting a four-lane highway through it.”

And against all this public scrutiny, the council has reverted to some underhanded tactics. Building owners around the square, who have been posting CAWB (Community Action for Windsor Bridge) banners, have been ordered to remove them under the pretense that they constitute “advertisements”. And in another turn of events, a petition by the same group has gone missing mysteriously from its storage place in the Vault.

Strange happenings indeed in Old Windsor…

Thompson Square 1870’s
Hawkesbury City Council Library

Check the following related government project links:

State Significant lnfrastructure Application

Application Report

Presentation NSW Govt

Options Report


In the month of June 2012 it was reported by various news sources that the famous Zig Zag Railway of Lithgow was in danger of closing, and indeed, has since closed. The iconic railway, which operated from 1869 to 1910 and has mainly been run on a voluntary basis for the last 35 years, has at least momentarily lost its latest battle, the threat of keeping up to date with piles of bureaucratic paperwork in the name of safety. Revered as a masterpiece of 19th century engineering, the railway offered visitors a spectacular ride zig-zagging up steep cuttings and high viaducts of the Blue Mountains sandstone panorama and has been a favorite outing for Sydneysiders and tourists alike for many many years.

Recently the Independent Transport Safety Regulator (ITSA) issued an ultimatum for the rail services to shut down by June 17 based on what it described as 150 instances of breaching ongoing safety issues. In an interview with The Lithgow Mercury, Michael Forbes, general manager of the Zig Zag, described some of the grievances being extolled by bureaucratic decision makers.
“Virtually all of the issues relate to the mountain of paper work imposed on organisations like ours by ITSR,” Michael Forbes said. “We get the same regulatory requirements as imposed on mainline rail services. If we need volunteers to man the trains or carry out trackwork it’s never a problem. But trying to get someone prepared to wade through the paperwork is a different story and as a result we have got behind,” he said.

To expect volunteer run organisations such as this to abide by every public transport standard guideline is like trying to get the weekend football sausage sizzle to conform to the safety regulations of a McDonalds. Practically it can’t be done, and to force it into play is nothing short of bureaucratic bullying. The Rail Regulator agrees there has not been any danger to passengers. There has only been one recorded fatality at the site, the case of a photographer getting a little to close to the edge of a cliff and falling off. Many more deaths would’ve likely occurred along the shoddy roads that lead there, which are maintained by the same governments presently inflicting this torment.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, bowing to public pressure, said the government would provide expertise to address the safety concerns. “The Zig Zag Railway holds a special place in the hearts of many in NSW, and I have instructed Transport for NSW to provide its expertise to the organisation to see if it can meet the necessary safety obligations,” she said in a statement. But in a more foreboding recent proclamation, she added ‘it may be that the problems with Zig Zag are insurmountable’.

The Heritage Council of NSW on its own website praises the immense value of the Zig Zag Railway to NSW.
“The Great Zig Zag Railway is internationally recognised as a great feat of nineteenth century technology. Ever since it was first opened in the 1880s people have come from all over the world to marvel at this engineering masterpiece. It includes an extraordinary collection of railway bridges (also known as viaducts), tunnels and escarpments. The Zig Zag Railway runs a number of train tours which include commentary and photo opportunity stops. This is a must do during your visit to New South Wales.”
Well at the moment its not so much as a must do, but more of a can’t do.

What the Railway does have going for it is a proud history of heritage-tourism service, moving more than 2 million passengers over the years from all around the world, and a plethora of support, as we all know, rail buffs are a unique and resolute breed. A Save the Zig Zag facebook page has been created and visited by many already.
Click .

So Inheritance has no doubt there is light at the end of this railway tunnel, in the long term. But for now this is a lesson, not to let our finest heritage attractions be buried under mountains of modern day bureaucratic paperwork just to keep the NSW Govt public servants ahead of their dwindling relevance in heritage matters. In the public eye they are failures; failures to protect our heritage, our history, failures to act in the public’s interest, failures in the running of the state. The only thing they are good at is condemning, as they have done here. And, as is being played out here, only public response will overturn this putrid state mentality.

Title image Mike Smith courtesy The Telegraph

Now only a memory? Steam power crosses one of the several sandstone viaducts of the Zig Zag railway. Image source Destination NSW – Lithgow