Fight to save Sydney bushland

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Fight to save Sydney bushland

By Lachlan Malloch

SYDNEY — Residents and concerned environmentalists are vigorously protesting against the destruction of a large section of beautiful bushland in the Manly Dam catchment area in Sydney's northern suburbs. Property developer Ardel is clearing the Allambie Heights land for the construction of a 40-dwelling medium density housing development.

The bushland is the only metropolitan area where galaxias, a rare species of "climbing fish", can be found. There are also two hectares of Duffy's Forest, a special kind of vegetation community, of which there are only 30 hectares left in the world.

The bushland has been the scene of constant protest for three weeks as local residents, organised by the Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee, have attempted to blockade the site and prevent the land being cleared. Since June 7, the bulldozers have been greeted by a vigil, with a core of about 30 protesters, at the start of work at 7 o'clock every morning.

The largest demonstration was mobilised on June 20, when 400 people rallied near the site. Most of the protesters were local residents who had not been environmental activists before the project began.

PictureGreens MLC Lee Rhiannon was one of six protesters arrested at the gates of the site during a blockade action on June 16. The protest was dispersed when police dragged about 40 people off the site.

At the June 20 rally, Ken Higgs and Ann Sharp, from the campaign committee, demanded that the NSW government protect the bushland by issuing an immediate stop work order. The government should then buy back the privately owned land from Ardel.

Colin Lennox, the media contact for the campaign, told Green Left Weekly that the current protests were the culmination of a five year struggle to protect the bushland.

In 1993 the land, given by the NSW government in trust to the Spastic Centre of NSW, was rezoned by Warringah Council to allow medium density housing and then sold to Ardel. Ardel's development application was rejected twice by the council, but a subsequent appeal to the Land and Environment Court succeeded.

Lennox believes the court's decision was wrong: "If the development goes ahead, all the scientific advice available tells us the habitat which exists here will be destroyed".