The battle to save Willow Grove continues

Save Willow Grove picket June 22. Photo: Zebedee Parkes activistwithacamera.exposure.co

The North Parramatta Residents Action Group’s (NPRAG) appeal against the Land and Environment Court decision to allow Infrastructure NSW to destroy the historic Willow Grove site along Parramatta River was heard in the NSW Supreme Court on July 2.

The decision will be handed down any day now.

NPRAG’s legal team lodged its appeal in the Supreme Court on the morning of June 22, while a mass mobilisation of hundreds of residents, supporters and unionists defended the Green Ban on the site.

Residents were alerted the previous afternoon that vehicles had entered the grounds of the 1870s Victorian Italianate villa and workers were unloading ladders and tool boxes inside the home.

It later transpired that at 9:07am, just minutes after the NSW government’s undertaking that no work would be carried out on the site expired, Infrastructure NSW gave the order for the non-union contractor HAUS Building Services to start work.

Alerts were immediately issued that the Green Ban by the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union (CFMEU) had been breached. A dedicated team of community members slept outside of the main gates on Phillip Street all night until a community-union picket was set up the following morning.

Organisers were impressed to see so many residents at Willow Grove before dawn, joining the hundreds of CFMEU members defending the Green Ban at the site.

The combined efforts successfully prevented any work from being carried out on Willow Grove for the rest of the day.

By 4pm, NPRAG heard that it had been successful in its application for an urgent injunction to prevent any further work from being carried out.

In the appeal hearing, NPRAG’s Senior Counsel Tim Hale made the case that the decision by Justice Tim Moore of the Land and Environment Court was incorrect, being based on merit rather than administrative grounds.

NPRAG argued that NSW planning law was not followed in determining the site for the Parramatta Powerhouse Museum. It should have considered alternative sites and alternative designs for the project that would preserve the historic St Georges Terraces and Willow Grove.

The Green Ban still stands and residents and unionists are standing by to mobilise again to protect and defend Willow Grove, should the Supreme Court case fail.

[If you would like to receive an alert if and when the Green Ban is breached again register here to join the Save Willow Grove campaign phone tree. Donations to NPRAG’s legal fund can be made here.]