Record of Environmental Action
My family has lived on Portion 68 Holsworthy since 1942. In the early decades we rejected may offers to purchase from developers and sand miners, including one from the Liverpool Council to use the wetland as a rubbish dump (Mr. Crawford, head of Planning at the time, could confirm this), despite considerable economic hardship brought on by my fatherŐs age and chronic illness. I have no hesitation in claiming that had we not held our commitment to preserving the region all of the bushland north of Sirius Rd would have been lost to urban development long ago.
We believe that the present condition of the wetland is due to my fatherŐs action in the 1940s in blocking the pipe draining the wetland through the artificial cement dam on the north east corner of Lot 68, constructed long before our time in order to farm the wetland floor. When we acquired Lot 68 there was no wetland; the open area that is now some 400 metres across was drained and dry, and carried a thick forest of Casuarina Glauca. Before human habitation the wetland would have been more or less as it is now, formed by the river bank levees that are built up by silt deposits in flood times. By blocking the artificial drainage the original condition was restored.
Around 1980 I attempted to get the Council to restore the damage caused by the construction of the illegal road across Portion 75. This has been a major damage to the Castlereagh woodland on the western slope running down from Sirius Rd, but Council has not taken any action on the problem.
I have put considerable time and effort over decades into protection of the river bank on the east of our block against erosion caused by speed boats. Arial photos would show that this erosion problem has cut in some 10 metres to our land since the 1940s. I was able to get speed limits set, but Council and Maritime Services have not done anything else despite several meetings, delegations to the site, inspections, letters, etc. I have actually transported several tonnes of broken pavement in a box trailer and packed it in an effort to save several of the large Mollucana trees. This problem has been too difficult for me to solve and in recent years a number of big trees have fallen into the river. This is listed as rare river land forest, and we understand that the only instances in the Liverpool region are the small sections in the Deepwater and Voyager point areas.
We have continually given time to maintaining and protecting the bushland north of Sirius Rd, including putting out fires, preventing chain sawing for firewood, dealing with trail bikes, and arranging for getting stolen cars to be removed. I have fenced off tracks used by car thieves. We collect rubbish dumped along the tracks and pay for its transport to the tip.
For many years the higher ground at north east of Lot 68 where the house was built was an arid sandy patch supporting only tough grasses. It is now under dense cover, including by over 200 large eucalypts which we have grown by seed. Most of these are around 20 metres in height.
We devote considerable time to bushland regeneration outside our block. Both Portions 75 and 72 have serious problems and I have put much scarce time and energy into removing major weed infestations on these blocks, in an effort to stop their spread especially into the wetland. In each of the past four years I have spent over 100 hours weeding, in a successful effort to get on top of the most difficult riverbank areas, mostly not on lot 68.
I have spent much time over the years on various environmental protection campaigns and committees. Especially significant was the desperate effort a few local people made in the late 1980s to oppose moves by developers who owned Lots 72 and 75 to have these rezoned for urban development. This resulted in Minister Knowles setting up the Train Inquiry which established the high environmental value of the 100 Ha north of Sirius Rd and recommended its preservation and acquisition by the State. The Council subsequently rezoned the area as environmentally protected. This was the most significant turning point in the history of the region north of Sirius Rd. When we began that campaign we felt that we had little chance of success and had we failed then there would have been housing right across the area today. These efforts would be confirmed by Alison Megarrity previous State member for this region, Craig Knowles and Sharon Cullis of the Georges River Environment Alliance.
Every year we approach Mr. Dereck Steller within the acquisitions division of the Department of Environment and Climate Change to see if funds are available for state purchase of the two private blocks 72 and 75.
During the negotiations with Delfin for the Sanctuary Development I attempted (unsuccessfully) to organise removal of the many tonnes of cement building rubble on Lot 6 opposite Deepwater Motor boat Club.
I put time and energy into attempting to get the Council to carry out a study of the quality of the water entering the wetland before construction of the Sanctuary housing development, and also yeas later before the Barracks site development. Nothing was done and now it is not possible to assess the effect of these developments on the wetland. In the last few years we have become aware of spread of Combungi, a sign of eutrophication, and of unusual algal growth in overflow water.
We worked with the initiative of Kathryn Collins of DECC to enable a grant for weed control on the river foreshore. A considerable amount of valuable work was done, mostly on land bordering Lot 68. Large scale and costly remedial work to control Aligator weed in the wetland was considered but my input enabled this to be avoided. I knew the occurrence of the weed was highly seasonal and that a parasitic beetle largely eliminates it each summer.
We indicated our willingness to be involved in proposals for the Georges River Corridor Preservation project, and for the creation of a walking track along the length of the river (when it was likely to run on the southern bank.)
I attempted to get the Council to deal adequately with the large scale clearing carried out by Mr. Hodge on his property, without success.
I made a submission to the Council re the proposal to develop the bush land south of the railway line at Heathcote Rd, the Sanctuary.
Late in 2013 I submitted a detailed case against the proposal to build a mansion on Lot 72 Sirius Rd, pointing out a number of considerations which I suspect the Council officers involved would not have been familiar with, such as the reports stating the value of the region, including the Train Report, the damage to scarce Castlereagh woodland that would result, and disruption of the riverside wildlife corridor.
We welcome bushwalking and bird watching groups, and environmental action groups, and make our picnic and meeting facilities available freely. We have had a long term intent to establish arrangements with the Hammondville nursing home for regular recreational visits.
For about twenty-five years we have been running guided tours of our environmental and alternative lifestyle educational site and have now taken perhaps 7000 people through. I have sent to the Council copies of about 100 letters testifying to the value of this project, some from overseas sources. Our concern is to introduce people to a particular and uncommon perspective on the ecological crisis, focused on the need to dramatically reduce consumption via transition to simpler ways. Few environmental agencies or sites are based on this world view so the importance of our project is recognised by various people around the world. We meet all development and running costs ourselves and do not charge visitors.
One of the themes we deal with in this venture is the fact that more sustainable ways will have to be more self- sufficiency at the household, community and national levels. Our house has never been connected to the electricity grid, the sewer system or the city water supply system, or had access to garbage collection or postal services. We use rainwater tanks, PV panels and 12 volt lights and workshop power, and have vegetable gardens, fruit trees, a greenhouse, sheep and poultry. We save seeds and propagate many of our plants. The site illustrates various Permaculture principles, such as having the animals mow the lawns and keep the firebreaks clear, recycling wastes and water to gardens, layout and design to maximise the extent to which functions are carried out automatically.
Another theme we illustrate is to do with the way settlements built along the lines we indicate can be very leisure-rich, involving many arts and crafts, workshops, working bees, animal care, food production, firewood collecting etc., all of which can provide rewarding activity, build community bonds, enable development of many skills, as well as being productive. We have a large workshop, a craft attic, pottery, forge, and areas for woodwork, wood turning, leather work, lead light making, basketry, spinning, sculpture, candle making, paper making, and model making. Visitors realise that if communities had these kinds of resources and activities throughout then much less time, energy and money would be spend on commercially provided leisure, or travelling away for holidays. I never go on holidays É and never have enough time to do all the interesting things I want to do.
I have been a member of the board of advisers for the Minto Community Garden on Hansens Rd., and have given considerable time to meetings, planning and drafting submissions etc.
Since the early 1970s I have taught and written on sustainability issues. My main course is entitled The Global Crisis; Transition to a Sustainable Society. I have published several books on the topic, including Abandon Affluence, Zed Books, 1985, The Conserver Society, Zed Books, 1995, Saving the Environment; What It Will Take, UNSW Press, 1998, Renewable Energy, Springer, 2007, and The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World, Envirobooks, 2010. I spend approximately one-third of my time writing academic and popular papers on sustainability themes.
For some time we have intended to put Lot 68 into a Voluntary Conservation Agreement, when our access situation is settled.
In 1988 I received The Fraser Australia Day Environmental Award from the Council for my contribution to the environment.