Tag Archive | Sutherland Council

‘THE SHIRE’: A TALE OF THREE JETTIES

There’s something almost surreal about standing and looking over an object that fits into its environment perfectly, that enhances its surroundings simply by being there, that seems like it has been there forever, but is set to disappear from view, for the whimsical short term gains of a clearly ignorant and questionably shady council.

Three jetties in the Shire (one at Gunnamatta Road, Cronulla, as well as the Scylla Bay Boat Ramp and Wharf, Como, and Burraneer Jetty at Lugano Avenue, Burraneer) have been earmarked for removal by the pathetic Sutherland Shire Council due to maintenance costs the council is simply not willing to wear. This is the same Liberal dominated council headed by (until recently) Mayor Kent Johns who is reportedly under investigation for accepting political donations for his Federal Campaign from property developers in exchange for reciprocal favours, at the same time rezoning large tracts of the Sutherland Shire to allow massive and unprecedented high rise developments, getting rid of the ombudsman who oversees corruption and even going so far as to protect developers from legal action against any wrongdoings. See the details here.

The corrupt Mayor Kent Johns. Image John Veage, Fairfax Media.

The questionable ex-Mayor Kent Johns. With power brokers like these at the helm of council, heritage is in trouble. Image John Veage.

For the locals of these areas, the jetties represent something more than just a form of aesthetic beauty. There is a function performed, a duty as it were, to the people of the Shire. Somewhere boats can tie up, kayaks can launch, a lazy line can be cast, and a sunny afternoon squandered happily away. There is nothing quite like sitting on the edge of a rickety jetty, dangling your feet over the edge, and mulling over a quandary or two while admiring the view of the world listening to softly lapping waters. Australia is a country designed for these jetties, and their loss makes us all a little poorer. Certainly our bays and hamlets would seem rather naked without them.

Heritage they are of course. Standing for many years and serving their purpose with quiet esteem, requiring very little to maintain in return, and beautifying the outlook like nothing else can. The Burraneer jetty stands watching the return trip several times every day of the 74 year old M.V. Curranulla, the Cronulla-Bundeena ferry, the oldest commuter ferry in fact in Australia working to a regular timetable. The jetty returns the favour, giving the passengers something to look at too, adding unquestionably to the maritime heritage of the bay and the Port Hacking River.

It appears as though this particular jetty suffers from sag due to insufficient and rotting piles holding its weight. A few more piles added and a bit of straightening would solve this problem, a far better alternative than the destruction of the wharf.

MV Curranulla ferry, the oldest continuos route in Australia, chugs nearby.

MV Curranulla ferry, the oldest continuous route in Australia, chugs nearby.

The other, at Gunnamatta Road, Cronulla (over 100 years old and formerly known as the ‘Hospital Bay Wharf’ built for taking quarantine cases from coastal vessels) doesn’t appear to have condemning maintenance issues at all. This one has received the most public attention, and may have garnered enough support to be saved yet, attracting a petition of 850 signatures in only 14 days, despite the council ignorantly rejecting and insisting the submissions be lodged electronically.

A third jetty, the Scylla Bay Boat Ramp and Wharf, at Verona Range, Como, is also proposed to go, but this one would at least be replaced under council plans.

At the time I investigated the Burraneer Jetty, it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining through an azure blue sky onto glowing waters. The Bundeena ferry chugged closely by as it had for many decades. I admired the reflections from crowded rock pools and sandy shallows up to the splintered hardwood timbers of a timeless whitewashed jetty.

While over at Gunnamatta Road, the view from the hill above was sublime. Stepping down the 1912-built steps carved out of sandstone onto the wooden landing is like stepping closer into a scene from paradise. Postcard-perfect, soaked in sunlight and there for us all, free of charge. A beautiful piece of man-made infrastructure that enhances its surrounds immeasurably while allowing the user to actually immerse himself and become part of the scene – such a rarity in any form.

A local was nearby, an old-timer looking over the scene. “Are you a local?” I asked.

“Since 1939” was the reply. But he seemed oblivious to the imminent loss of the wharf…

“That’s the wharf they want to get rid off” I commented.

“I hope not… This place is magnificent” was the reply.

If only he knew.

All images below by Inheritance 2013. Click on one for slideshow.

SMH story: Sutherland Council favours those with Liberal connections
SMH story: Rainbow Connections
SMH story: Cloud over ex-minister’s campaign donations
SMH story: September 21, 2013
SMH story: September 22, 2013
SMH story: September 26, 2013
SMH story: October 2, 2013

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‘THE SHIRE’: HERITAGE HATE ON THE BOIL

Thomas Holt Estate

I call it ‘heritage hate’, when a certain entity or governing body decides that there is nothing worth working towards with regards to the heritage of an identified item or area. It is not seen as important enough to warrant the necessary study, funding, or interest by the governing body needed to maintain and protect that heritage to an acceptable level. It is simply wiped from the agenda, and given the lowest possible afterthought despite the public’s perception, wants or needs regarding these matters that really belong to us all, and concern not only ratepayers of today but the children and grandchildren of generations to come.

The current state government led by Barry O’Farrell is an exponent of heritage hate. It seems as though now filtering down from the Liberal political machine at state level, that many Liberal councillors also share that sentiment at the local level. The heavily Liberal dominated Sutherland Shire council led by Mayor Kent Johns have embarked on a campaign of heritage hate soon after coming to power, writing a draft LEP that is so geared toward developer interests and non-protective of the shire’s great assets that it has prompted a backlash of over 2000 submissions, with many residents now wondering what lies in store for the future of their beloved Shire.

Heritage hate shows itself in many forms. One significant item that came up in the news recently is a cottage of Thomas Holt estate. The historic house at 5 Evelyn St. North Sylvania, formerly known as ‘The Gunyah’, was built in the 1870s as part of the original Thomas Holt Sutherland estate. It was one of three workers’ cottages and is the last remaining building of the historic estate, and one of the oldest houses standing in the Sutherland Shire. Thomas Holt himself was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the Sutherland’s history, having accomplished numerous watermarks within his lifetime. The fact that this is the very last remnant of his famous Sutherland Estate makes it an extremely vital link to the history of the area and the early days of the colony south of Sydney.

A superstar of his day. Thomas Holt

A superstar of his day. Thomas Holt

The cottage is actually owned by Sutherland Council, being bought by a much more forward-thinking council back in 2003, for the purpose of future restoration and preservation as a living piece of local heritage. Now they have announced they will not be restoring, nor preserving the cottage. They won’t even be giving other potential buyers a chance. Instead, they have opted for the self-professed ‘document, demolish and sale’ procedure (which could be interpreted as ‘take a few photos, send in the bulldozers, and cash in’), truly an astonishing course of action considering the council at the time of sale enforced heritage listing on previous owner Jan Buchanan (whose family owned the house for 70 years) and eventually bought the house for a sum of $610,000. “When I sold it, the council told me they had grandiose ideas about its restoration. They promised there would be a caretaker to look after it, but the last time I went to visit it was vandalised and run down. I had to walk away” she told Fairfax reporters.

The reasons given by council for erasing this valuable piece of local history are, of course, financially motivated. Originally it was estimated to cost around $200,000 to restore the weatherboard cottage. However that has now blown out to $495,000. Liberal Mayor Kent Johns said “In its current state it is derelict, it would be irresponsible to invest more council funds in this property.” Now I’m not sure exactly who quoted Kent Johns and his council half a million dollars to fix up a weatherboard cottage, but I love to see the speedboat their accountant gets around in.

This seems to be another case of heritage loss by pre-empted neglect. The fact that council is putting a questionable restoration cost onto this project when in fact the house was paid for years ago for the very purpose of restoration raises serious concerns over the current spending patterns of Sutherland Council. Ratepayers, who deserve better, are being taken for a pack of dummies by this irresponsible council who see fit to strip the area they represent of a very significant piece of its visible history. And the case of council acting as owner, development applicant, judge, jury, and executioner, is always a situation that is questionable by its nature.

Sutherland Shire should be well and truly proud to maintain a little piece of Thomas Holt’s legacy in the shape of this house, not looking to simply cash in to fill up a short term budget hole. Absolutely disgraceful…

Even the Sutherland Historical Society have something to answer for. Strangely, for an organisation that would normally be considered the guardians of local heritage, they have remained fairly quiet on the situation of potentially losing one of their oldest buildings, seemingly adopting the ‘lay low and see’ attitude. Questions posed by myself and others including historian and honorary life member Edward Duyker, and editor of Doryanthes arts journal Les Bursill OAM (also a life member) have not been fully answered. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Mayor Kent Johns, that proven purveyor of local heritage hate, is also patron of the Sutherland Historical Society.

Some members are questioning whether Mayor Johns is indeed an appropriate patron, and wanting to know exactly why the Society is not jumping up and down about this issue. Edward Duyker and others have also questioned the council’s negative stance on heritage moreover, after reading a passage in the draft LEP that slated the removal of a number of items that no longer meet the threshold for heritage listing. “What exactly is the changed threshold and what are the new criteria and what are the heritage items to be removed? Perhaps it is whatever suits local developers” Mr. Duyker notes… These questions remain unanswered.

'The Gunyah.' A cottage of the Thomas Holt Sutherland Estate

‘The Gunyah.’ A cottage of the Thomas Holt Sutherland Estate.

'The Gunyah.' A cottage of the Thomas Holt Sutherland Estate

built c.1870s, one of the oldest in the Shire.

The story of the Thomas Holt Estate cottage echoes that of another recent cottage demolition nearby, that of Bedford Cottage (otherwise known as ‘the Gardener’s Cottage’), located inside the Royal National Park at Heathcote, by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Royal National Park is quite an historic park in itself, being the first designated National Park in Australia, and the second oldest in the world, behind Yellowstone in the USA. How a historic cottage could be trashed within this environment is a wonder. What codes of heritage preservation do the NPWS actually adhere to?

This building was built between 1909 and 1915 for James Toyer, an important gardener in the St. George area who married the daughter of the first Royal National Park manager. It was the site of the depot for the first horse drawn and later motorised buses in the Shire, and was renowned for its intricate herringbone brickwork. It was one of the earliest brick buildings in the Shire.

Despite years of neglect by the NPWS, the foundations were sound, according to Heritage Building Consultant Gary Waller, who estimated $250,000-$300,000 to restore the cottage with  a new roof and re-lined walls. A twenty year campaign by local historic groups came to no avail, including one proposal by local radio station 2SSR to set up the house as a broadcasting station back in 2006. They were told by Minister the signal may be detrimental to the flora and fawna in the park, which they found “a bit strange as Australia’s first official military signal came from the park.’’

What a missed opportunity this could turn out to be. Restoring and transforming the historic cottage at the entry of the Royal National Park, right near the Loftus Tramway Museum,  into a museum of early bus transport as well as an interactive radio broadcasting museum. Its close vicinity to the Loftus Tramway Museum with trams in fact running right by would have added to the experience. So there you have it, another wonderful piece of history lost, an opportunity lost and a beautiful cottage reduced to a pile of smouldering rubble. Now that’s a fine legacy for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to leave behind in Australia’s most historic park. And Sutherland Shire Council wants to follow suite…

Bedford Cottage, photo Hans Stephens

Bedford Cottage, photo Hans Stephens

Bedford Cottage, photo John Veage, the Leader

Bedford Cottage, photo John Veage, the Leader

Bedford Cottage ruins, photo John Veage, the Leader

Bedford Cottage ruins, photo John Veage, the Leader

Other posts on the Sutherland Shire click here.

More on the Liberal state government’s campaign of heritage hate here.

SHARKS CRY POOR, TURN DEVELOPER

In a deal described as “like winning the grand final” by Triple M’s Grill Team, the NSW Government has approved a $330 million development on the site of NRL club The Cronulla Sharks home ground and current leagues club in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. This is a big win for the struggling club, who have cried poor for some time citing $13m debts linked to developer Bluestone Capital Ventures, which they will now be able to pay off almost wholly thanks to the massive redevelopment. In a deal slated for quite some time, Bluestone Capital Ventures offered to kill off the club’s debt to St George Bank in a land grab that would see them ultimately take 100 percent of the revenue from the sale of the first 300 units in the 600 unit complex. Without this cash injection the club argued they may not be able to survive into the future, but the question must be asked, should their own financial mismanagement over many years be considered a plus in gaining consent for property development, and now, if any club or association cries poor, can they too build highrise on their own plots as well?

The plan which was granted state significant status (read ‘developer green lights’) includes eight towers up to 16 storeys containing 600 apartments as well as a new shopping centre, combining with the club facilities to form a so-called new ‘town centre’. Nearby Caringbah and Miranda Fair deal quite well with the need for local retail supply in a time when more people tend to be buying online and venturing less into multistorey shopping complexes.  The football ground itself would lose much carparking under the plan, but its not a problem, because according to the development consortium ”an extensive network of park-and-ride centres” in nearby suburbs would be created along with ”significant improvements to current public transport”. So the Sharkies can do what successive NSW state governments haven’t yet been able to – these directors (who have run their own club into the ground to the point where only a massive overdevelopment will bail them out) should be running our state!

Image courtesy SMH

Over 2000 objections were raised to the plan, many by concerned residents who fear a massive overdevelopment in the already congested Shire (try driving around Cronulla on a summer Sunday), waterfront eyesore, traffic gridlock at peak hours, and lack of public transport options, not to mention development infringement on the neighbouring Ramsar listed Towra Point wetlands and mangroves. A minimum buffer of 40m was recommended by council and various government agencies including Dept of Primary Industries – Fisheries, Office of Environment and Heritage and Office of Water, however, the project was approved with only 35m setback along the 70m length of the loading dock. Stormwater and flooding are also major issues on a development of this magnitude so close to important sensitive wetlands – so far these are yet to be properly addressed.

In an area already coming to terms with new housing estates such as Green Hills and Breen developments, Sutherland Council also rejected the plans as being too dense for the site as well as raising concerns with traffic and parking, but that didn’t stop the NSW Planning Department from giving it the final tick of approval. Local Member for Cronulla Mark Speakman SC MP voiced his disagreement with the project arguing against the scale and bulk as well as unsuitability of the location as a potential ‘town centre’.

At a time when the Caltex refinery at nearby Kurnell has signalled its imminent closure, with the loss of around 630 jobs, does it really make sense to be building massive residential blocks just down the road? Sure, in the short term there will be building jobs to fill, but building jobs are temporary, and after that there will be alot more people housed in these developments than actually working in them, meaning they all have to travel outside for their working lives, meaning more traffic, more conjestion, perhaps more unemployment for the area long-term. Cronulla will really struggle with this influx of people and cars.

On the same day the Sharks development was approved, so too was a $238 million development of the nearby Kirrawee Brick Pits envisioning another 432 units. Two towers of 14 and 11 storeys and seven smaller buildings will take form on the Brick Pits site in a decision that bypassed Sutherland Council altogether under Part 3A. “We put all our concerns on the table and they just didn’t listen to us…Once again the state government has not taken into account the concerns of the community. They are just walking all over us” said mayor Carol Provan, whose council spent $500,000 fighting the development in court. “We certainly need more development but we don’t need it in a place that is so gridlocked” she said. Earlier proposals for 250 units up to six storeys were knocked back in August 2009 by the Land and Environment Court – now we are double that size, and its all systems go, so work that out.

A new Shark Park. Watch those wetlands…

So when is a rugby league club not a rugby league club? When they turn developer and choose to chase millions of dollars in financial gain putting their own interests and that of their developer backers before any concerns of the community they apparently ‘represent’… Well done Sharkies, multi-million cash windfall for you, nice new shiny amenities and the toast of the NRL club stratosphere. Bad luck if you live nearby and are used to the pleasant laid back beach atmosphere of Cronulla – your club has just turned all that on its head and done its best to try and destroy it completely.

EPILOGUE
Perhaps after the recent elections the Sharks would have found a more sympathetic Sutherland council, with a landslide swing towards the Liberals across the suburbs, particularly in Sutherland. Whether this is linked to voters’ inability to determine between local and state matters remains to be seen, but having councils stacked with Liberal brands would only service Barry O’Farrell’s pro-development push on the state. We are aware of at least one Sutherland Liberal councillor voted in recently is a property developer, which beggars belief to some – do we really want property developers running our councils? The fact that one in seven votes at the local election was invalid shows that many people either don’t know or don’t care who they are voting for, and so developer friendly councilors are being allowed to creep in under the radar en masse.

Ramsar listed Towra Point wetlands fringe the waters around the Cronulla Sharks site, and have been described as ‘the last substantial habitat in the Sydney region for migratory birds and the myriad of species which depend on the Towra Point ecosystem.’ What impacts will this development have on Towra Point? Follow the link here.

Kirrawee Brick Pit development presentation here.

Sharks PAC Determination Report here