Spring Gully, Bundeena, Update

Originally published in the  National Parks Association, Southern Sydney Branch Newsletter, Issue No. 105, Autumn 2014.

Map of Bushland under development threat within the Royal National Park, Spring Gully, Bundeena

Map of Bushland under development threat within the Royal National Park, Spring Gully, Bundeena

At its December meeting, Sutherland Shire Council resolved to defer handing over its 8.2Ha of bushland at the south of Bundeena, to National Parks. Council has resolved to instead call for expressions of interest to sell the land for Eco-tourism accommodation development.

The Council’s land is known as the former sanitary tip or nightsoil depot, however, only a tiny area was ever used and only 3,000 square metres (less than 4%) remains disturbed. The remainder of the land contains tall heathland and mallee, upland swamp, Kurnell Dune Forest and sand bangalay forest. Of significance is the quaternary period Aeolian cliff dune which dominates the eastern end of the land and which reaches its peak at Jibbon Hill just south on the adjoining Royal National Park. Also of significance is the bloodwood mallee that grows in a rare, possibly unique form in a transitional band around the base of the sand dune and the top of Spring Gully, between the Kurnell Dune forest and the sand bangalay forest. The bloodwood mallee is featured in Dr Geoff Mosley’s book ‘First National Park, A natural for world heritage’. A well used walking track runs over the land joining the Bundeena end of the coast track to the north-western end of the Marley fire trail.

Council also resolved to approve dedication of the unmade paper road reserves despite the overwhelming opposition of the local community. These unmade roads are relics of the 1886 subdivision of Bundeena. They run over wetland and across cliffs, waterfalls and ravines. There is no prospect that they can ever be built or would serve any practical purpose. The decision to dedicate them as public roads is simply a land grab by Council to gain legal control of the land under a provision of the Roads Act so the land can be sold for development to the adjoining land owner.

Adding together the former Scout land (5.6Ha), Council’s land (8.2Ha) and the unmade roads (1.5Ha) there are now over 15 hectares of bushland and wetland of high environmental value within the Royal National Park at the southern end of Bundeena under contention and threat of inappropriate development.  The local RFS brigade oppose any development of the Gully or the Council’s land to the south.

The Scout land was developer dedicated as a “recreation area” and gifted to the Scouts Association of NSW as community land during the subdivision of the south-east corner of Bundeena in the early 1960s. It is currently zoned for community use. As a result of lobbying by the local community, Council has placed Environmental Conservation zoning on the land in the draft Local Environment Plan. Council has, however, added “Recreation Camp” as a permissible use. Council’s definition of “recreation camp” is so broad it includes function centres, conference centres, and allows the development of tourism and recreation facilities including hotels or holiday resorts of substantial scale and scope – well beyond the definition of eco-tourism accommodation.

The owners of the former Scout land have indicated to Council that their preferred site for development of a tourist facility is the adjoining Council land, which, at face value, is mystifying given that they aggressively outbid the local community’s offer to purchase the land from Scouts to retain community ownership. The owners have made representations to Council that all the land in Spring Gully should be zoned as Private Recreation and not as Environmental Conservation.

This article originally appeared in the National Parks Association, Southern Sydney Branch Newsletter, Issue No. 105, Autumn 2014.