Council to vote on 'Sydneygong'
By Dick Nichols
SYDNEY — April 29 will be a critical day for the environment in Australia. That evening Wollongong City Council, run by right-wing "independents", will vote on whether to allow industrial and urban expansion near Helensburgh, at the head of the environmentally sensitive Hacking River.
The Hacking runs through Royal National Park, the Sydney sprawl's major southern "lung".
If the expansion goes ahead, it will be one more step towards "Sydneygong", a 100-kilometre urban mess spilling from Wollongong to Sydney.
According to Keith Muir, secretary of the Friends of Hacking River, "the proposal will put at risk 24 mammal species in the area dependent on the wildlife corridor between Royal National Park and the Illawarra escarpment".
Muir claims Wollongong council has not even worked out the location of pollution ponds vital to protecting the Hacking if development goes ahead.
The scheme has generated a wave of opposition, including the local Labor Party in alliance with Community Action Team independents, all environmental groups and Sutherland Council, which has jurisdiction over the region north of the national park.
Even such unlikely eco-friends as the State Rail Authority and Metropolitan Collieries oppose the projected expansion.
According to Muir, the April 29 vote will be "a real cliff-hanger", with two undecided councillors "sealing the fate of one of the most important heritage areas in New South Wales".