Bankstown Bushland Society Comments on the Draft Local Area Plans, December 2014
Bankstown Bushland Society submits the following comments re the Draft Local Area Plans now up for review:
The Society’s chief concern is with the protection of Bankstown’s remnant bushland. In 2013 Fairfield City Council nominated all its remnant vegetation along watercourses for Environmental Protection, and, as we understand, all the nominated areas were accepted and approved. We note that within the documents there is no discussion of Environmental Protection zoning for any bushland in Bankstown. We note, however, that in the Draft Local Area Plans for Bankstown there is no discussion of the suitability of any bushland containing Endangered Ecological Communities for Environmental Protection zoning.
Does Council no longer consider any of its bushland suitable for Environmental Protection zoning? The stated intention in the Draft Plans to “Protect and Manage Local and Regional Significant Conservation Lands” is well and good, but would be the more meaningful with Environmental Protection zoning to back it up. For instance, regarding Deepwater Park: in 2007 Council received the following advice from DECC (now Environment & Heritage) “DECC notes that Council’s Biodiversity Strategy has identified Deepwater Reserve as environmentally significant and that it should be zoned to Environmental Protection (Conservation) to reflect the value of the land and to ensure that it is managed primarily for environmental purposes.” Instead, in the Draft Area Plan it says: “Maximise the Recreational and Ecological Functions of the Deepwater Park”, and “maximise regional foreshore access”. This seems counter to the closure in recent years of the Maxwell Avenue car park, which was ripped up, thereby rendering the foreshore in that area almost inaccessible to picnickers. The Society does not object to the reopening of the Maxwell Avenue car park, but opposes any plan to build a bicycle way through the foreshore bushland adjoining Webster Street and Kelso Beach Reserve. There are currently no tracks through this area, which is one of the last in Bankstown containing swamp woodland and wetland habitat for migratory birds, and should be maintained in this state.
The Society is also concerned about the future of Cumberland Plain Woodland on the site of the University of Western Sydney at Milperra (known locally as “Wonga Smith’s Bush”). In February 2012 Council approved the destruction of dozens of native trees in the area to permit construction of a child care facility. These trees were all remnants of the original Cumberland Plain Woodland and were a significant loss to the integrity of the site. This area at the corner of Bullecourt Avenue & Horsley Drive contains one of the last Cumberland Plain Woodland stands of its kind, and is an area deserving of Environmental Protection zoning; and yet in the Draft Local Area Plan it is earmarked solely for “Educational Facilities”. Although University management has stated it has no plans to develop the remainder of the bush, these are only good intentions, and yet not even these good intentions are reflected in the Draft Local Area Plan.
We fully support the classification change proposed for bushland at Smith Park, from operational land to natural area – bushland. The Society has undertaken volunteer and grant funded work here since 1993. It is one of only a handful of Transition Forest remnants in the area, the others being Kelso Beach Reserve, Monash Reserve and East Hills Park. One of the maps identifies the latter with the proposed zoning changes in the East Hills Neighbourhood Precinct, which ought to be changed to avoid confusion. These sites represent different aspects of the Shale – Sandstone Transition Forest community at its northern limit in the Georges River catchment, and should collectively be zoned for Environmental Protection.
We note that the Priority Actions key states the intention to: “Protect and Manage Local and Regional Significant Lands” for the open space of Riverlands Golf Course and adjacent lands. As the whole of this site is either of local or regional significance it is difficult to see how this action can be implemented while ever Council is considering rezoning the land for residential purposes, as is stated elsewhere in the Draft. The narrow buffer zone proposed along the degraded river front in no will achieve the objectives of the stated Priority Action. This same Priority Action is expressed for the Georges River National Park; therefore, we believe Riverlands ought not to be rezoned, and that funding be sought to acquire the land for the purpose of a future Riverlands Regional Park under management of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
BCC should carefully consider bushland comprised of Endangered Ecological Communities for potential zoning to Environmental Protection. This includes bushland in the Chullora Employment Zone (formerly Railway Workshops), identified by Muston & Associates. Stalled negotiations to have this land transferred to Bankstown City Council should be revived and the area zoned for Environmental Protection.
Bankstown City Council envisages 22,000 new residential units to be constructed by the year 2031, and yet no new open space. In fact, if Riverlands is rezoned to Residential there will be less open space. The impacts of rapid population pressure should be carefully considered. The Potential Heritage items identified, such as the old church and post office on Tower Street, Panania, should be recognised as actual heritage items. We believe the heritage values of the Small Village centres such as Panania and East Hills should be maintained. However, we fail to see how this can be done if the building limits are raised to four and six storeys.
Finally, we submit that Council should initiate a 1% environmental levy on ratepayers to pay for environmental and bushland rehabilitation projects. This will ensure ongoing funding for bush regeneration and maintenance of natural areas. A similar levy has been implemented by Liverpool and other councils.
Secretary, Bankstown Bushland Society