BY JOHN GAUCI
Jamieson Park is a 42.8 hectare bushland reserve in Sydney's northern beach suburbs. It is under the control of the Warringah municipal council. On June 2, 60 concerned local residents gathered near the Jamieson Park Sailing Club to discuss saving the park's bushland.
The site is part of the farm acquired by James Wheeler in 1842 and contains evidence of the family, including archaeological remains of farming activities, the remnants of a jetty and remnant exotic trees, and an orchard.
"We are losing one of the last remaining areas of bushland in Warringah", executive member of the Save Jamieson Park Committee, David James, said. "A complex of 130 apartments is being built on the shores of Narrabeen Lagoon, despite huge community and council opposition. This development will lead to the destruction of protected flora, the loss of habitat for 73 species of birds and other fauna and the loss of our existing walking track."
In May 1998, the NSW land and environment court approved construction of the Greenhaven Retirement Village a complex of 130 self-care units on previously undeveloped bushland adjacent to Narrabeen Lagoon and to the west of the existing RSL War Veterans Village. This was despite extensive community and council opposition to this over-development of an ecologically fragile and sensitive area.
No development of this site took place until March this year, when the connector road through Snake Gully Crescent was commenced. This resulted in massive destruction of the existing vegetation, including large angophoras and spotted gums. Community concern was mobilised by two well-attended meetings on April 27 and May 4 in Jamieson Park.
Warringah Council and its mayor, Julie Sutton, expressed support for the Save Jamieson Park Committee, reclassifying the unmade road reserve from Pipe Clay Point to James Wheeler Place into an extension of Jamieson Park.
Warringah Council also expressed support for a plan of management for the endangered forests along the western boundary of the Greenhaven development and disallowance of any other than emergency use of access to the development from James Wheeler Place. Despite this, the threat to the park and the surrounding environmentally rich habitat continues to grow.
James said: "It is time to take action to stop this over-development. With so much unit development in the surrounding suburbs, we cannot afford to lose the very little virgin bushland left."
Much of the Greenhaven development is in a flood-prone area through which a creek currently runs from James Wheeler Place to Narrabeen Lagoon. The proposed development will occur on both sides of the creek and storm-water will drain into it. A water retention pond is to be constructed so as to manage the discharge of sediments and pollutants into the lagoon. The danger is that the proposed over-development of the site will cause flood levels along the creek to rise.
There are concerns about the proposed water retention pond's long-term maintenance and pollution control measures, particularly in view of the current state of water quality in Narrabeen Lagoon. Significant concern also exists in relation to the acid sulphate soils on the site which may be washed into the lagoon, thereby adversely affecting water quality.
The Save Jamieson Park Committee has raised two further concerns about the Greenhaven development. The first is why it should not have to comply with current best practice arrangements for high-hazard bushfire areas. This second is that any fuel-free zones and fuel-reduced zones must be contained within the development and not seek to use council-owned land and Jamieson Park as part of the Asset Protection Zone, or fire buffer, as is currently the case.
The site is vulnerable to bushfires, with much of it now classified as a category one, or high fire risk, zone. Since the original land and environment court decision, bushfire protection requirements have changed significantly. No longer are fire protection buffer zones of 15-30 metres deemed acceptable; now zones of up to 90 metres are required.
Will the RSL Veterans Retirement Village management take responsibility for any injury or loss of life arising from fires within this category one bushfire zone?
Local residents are also concerned that occupation of new units will not be limited to war veterans. When land was allocated to the Greenhaven development it was zoned specifically for use as a "war veterans' home". The development is currently for 130 single- and double-storey residential units, with some of the blocks valued up to a million dollars. Not many war veterans are likely to be able to purchase such expensive apartments.
To contact the Save Jamieson Park Committee, phone Susan Monti on (02) 9981 1835, or email <savejamiesonpark.com.au>.
From Green Left Weekly, July 9, 2003.
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