The new Eastern Walking Track in Malabar Headland National Park

Here is a great story on the new Eastern Walkway in MHNP. Photos and words (slightly edited) are by Claire Bettington, Treasurer of FoMH. Great work Claire!

 

On 4 July, the FoMH committee, some Members of Maroubra Beach Precinct Committee, and staff from Randwick Council walked along the proposed formal track in the Eastern Section, guided by Chad Weston from NPWS.

Please note: the Park is not open to the public yet, there are still muddy sections that need stairs and boardwalk, and workmen are on site. No one is permitted in the Eastern Section on shooting days.

I recorded the walk on my GPS, and have superimposed it on Google Earth imagery:

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We started at the Long Bay boat ramp car park, and admired the brand new National Park signs:

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And posed for a FoMH group photo at the new entrance sign:

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We followed the main track (some of you know this as “Mission Impossible Drive”) to Boora Pt.

There will be an alternative route from the car park, which follows the coastal track half way to Boora Pt, then ascends the spur to a lookout area on the bare rocks on top, close to where the windmill plinth was, now gone.

At Boora Pt, there is a bit of new landscaping:

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And the Boora Pt Trig Station has been freshly painted:

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Some paths have been blocked off where there are dangerous cliffs or other management issues, but marker signs have been installed, clearly showing direction and distance:

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At the erosion gully near Magic Pt, some steps have been installed shown here with Chad, our NPWS Ranger.

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Same steps, view from the bottom of the erosion gully:

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On the path to Magic Pt, rock fishermen on the wave-cut rock platforms:

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On the path from Magic Pt, new boardwalk at the Themeda patch, Maroubra Beach in the distance:

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Boardwalk over the mud saves the vegetation from trampling:

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More boardwalk is being installed, and the Rifle Range is going to have a secure fence around it to stop people entering it when shooting is happening.

We will keep you up to date with the progress of the boardwalks and more.

The Park should be officially open soon, so watch this space!

Shooters’ 50 year lease of Malabar Headland – a secret backroom deal

We at FoMH feel that the new 50 year lease arrangement is a secret backroom deal which was unannounced (except by Senator Leyonhjelm on Facebook), undiscussed and decidedly underhanded. There was no consultation at all. Just a few months ago we had the shooters and Minister Hunt in agreement that the rifle range would be relocated to another facility in “3, 5 or even 17 years”, and now NSWRA have a new confidential 50 year lease signed sealed and delivered.

It seems that there will be a massive increase in shooting days from the current one or two days per week to 5 days per week. This would mean that the new Eastern National Park would only be open to the public on two days per week, and perhaps not at all on weekends. We think this is an unacceptable situation that could have been avoided if consultation had occurred between ALL the stakeholders of Malabar Headland prior to signing any new lease. This is public land after all.

FoMH was not consulted or notified of the new lease. NPWS were also not consulted and had to confront the NSWRA in a meeting about the news! Local residents were not consulted about the increased shooting days.

FoMH has always recognised that without the Rifle Range, there would probably be no bush now to protect, and we do not view the new 50 year lease as a negative in regard to the protection of the precious ESBS bush. The continued presence of shooters should mean that there can be no development on the headland, although we don’t know the terms and conditions of the lease. We do know that our vision for the whole of Malabar Headland is now many more years away.

It is disappointing that the landfill will not be remediated any time soon, and that the Rifle Range will not become Public Open Space in the near future, but we appreciate that fixing the landfill is a very expensive proposition for any government and we wonder why/how shooters and horses/riders can utilise the unremediated landfill areas safely.

People are quite rightly upset about the complete lack of community consultation in this new lease arrangement and the secrecy associated with the terms of the lease, and how things have changed so quickly from the earlier statements of Minister Hunt. They are confused about how a new National Park can be closed 5 days a week and on weekends. They are worried about noise from increased shooting.

We trust that NPWS and the shooters will work closely together to ensure that there is a satisfactory compromise between public access and shooting access. We understand that if the shooters are not active on any particular day, the Eastern walkway will be accessible, and NPWS will leave the gates in the new fence open at all times EXCEPT when they are shooting. The eastern walkway is progressing at a fast pace, and will be opened very soon. We are hoping for an invite to the opening.

We will be working hard to ensure fair public access to the Eastern walkway and National Park! Why not join us?

 

Update on what’s happening on the Headland

There are a lot of things happening on the Headland at the moment. There is the construction of Eastern and Western walking tracks, plus fencing, signage and various civil works. Here is a great summary of the happenings from Claire.  Also included is Rifle Range operation dates for the next few months.

MHNP Works update

Eastern Walking Track Work

26 April – TBC Mid to Late June

A crew of 4 will be working from the 26th of April to mid-late June. Installing 350mtrs of temporary elevated mesh boardwalk in wet areas along the main coastal track. Work continues on the detailed design of this route and is scheduled to be completed this financial year.

Civil Works (East)

2 May – TBC 16-23 May

Repair of Access Road / Interim walking track. 2 stages, removal of bitumen and blue metal, replacement with VENM crushed sandstone. Future works will include hardened drainage elements and extending the road to Fisherman’s Rd Carpark (subject to approvals). The access road is for maintenance not public vehicle access.

 

Park Signage Installation (East & West)

TBC Mid May for 1 week

Installation of safety signage, way finding, park entry & ID signs, closed areas

 

DoF Fencing Works (East and West)

TBC May – TBC June

Fence installation to reduce informal access and ensure safety of park visitors, will be constructed on DoF land. DoF has indicated a desire to begin these works in May. Awaiting confirmation.

 

Heritage Structure Security/Stabilisation, Gate Installation (East)

TBC Late May to Mid June

Closure of southern searchlight block and 2 x engine rooms, stabilisation of southern searchlight block pending further assessment. Installation of vehicle gate and bollards at apex of access road to reduce motorbike and pedestrian access to observation tower and gun emplacements.

 

Bush Regeneration Contractors

14 April – 31 May

4 contractor crews will continue to work sporadically throughout April and May.

 

Storm Water Remediation (West)

11 April – TBC 22 April

Council have removed the damaged fence at Franklin St / Pioneer Park, they will remove the headwall in the coming days and backfill erosion with VENM crushed sandstone.

 

Western Walking Track

TBC

Community consultation phase completed (March 31). Randwick Council has indicated a desire to proceed to tender on completion, awaiting confirmation.

 

NPWS Field Staff

Ongoing

There will be an increase in field staff operations, some of the works we will be doing in-house include; removal of commonwealth signage, repairing heritage structure security, cleaning up the railway line, weed suppression, pest species surveys, closure of informal tracks, etc.

 

Scheduled Rifle Range Operation Dates

Latest shooting range operation dates below as of 13/4: (may be subject to change)

16th May; 23rd May; 20th June; 11th to 16th July

 

Annual All Park Passes for Volunteers

Do you need encouragement to participate in bush regeneneration/bush care? For info about working in Botany Bay NP, contact NPWS directly. For info about working in Malabar Headland, see our Membership – Contacts tab.

Volunteers who have completed over 50 hours voluntary service in any one year on an NPWS approved program can receive one free All Parks Pass for one designated vehicle registered at the volunteer’s home address.

Now there is even more incentive to become a bush regenerator with us!

 

Half of Malabar Headland now safe from development

Friends of Malabar Headland (FoMH) welcomes the handover of the 70 hectare eastern section of the Headland to the state government for the creation of the second part of the Malabar Headland National Park. Our dream for the creation of national parks in the eastern and Western sections of the Headland is about to be realised, and for that we are very grateful. The total park will be 87 hectares, almost exactly half of the total headland.

We look forward to the park being opened to the public in June as proposed by the state government.

However there are many issues to be solved between now and then, especially considering that the park can only be accessed by the public on days when the rifle range is not operating. Issues such as security of the site on shooting days and more secure fencing will need to be addressed.

This will certainly be a unique National Park, not just because of its incredible location, flora/fauna and history, but also because the rifle range has the right to operate 7 days per week if it wishes, which would mean no public access at all in the eastern section!

Presently, the rifle range only operates on Saturdays, but the shooters have indicated that they would like to operate more days per week, with Sunday the preferred day. This would mean no weekend access for the general public.

FoMH have always understood and acknowledged that the existence of the rifle range has enabled the headland to be retained in public hands and, with the help of FoMH bush regenerators, preserved the remnant Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub on the site, and most importantly, not lost the headland to development. We hope that the shooters will work closely with National Parks & Wildlife Service to ensure that public access to the park can be maximised. In that way the park and the rifle range can peacefully co-exist until a new home can be found for the rifle range. This could take up to 17 years according to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

FoMH are still very concerned about the long term future of the remaining 87 hectares of the headland after the shooters relocate, despite Minister Hunt’s claim last year that the “whole site, all of it, will be retained in public hands forever”. Remember, even Barrangaroo is still in public hands.

All levels of government are facing huge fiscal challenges, and privatisation of public assets is one way to plug the fiscal holes in their budgets. The federal government even offers monetary incentives to the states to privatise public assets in their euphemistically titled Asset Recycling Program. The federal government has already looked into development options, and the rifle range site is estimated to be worth some billions of dollars. Cash strapped governments of all persuasions may be tempted to recycle this asset.

FoMHs vision for the other half of Malabar Headland after the shooters relocate, has always been to keep it as public open space, to be used by a large number of groups including horse riding clubs, model airplane clubs and the general public for active and passive recreation.

Our dream of the Malabar Headland National Park is near to fruition, but FoMH will continue to work towards our ultimate dream of saving the entire Malabar Headland for public recreation. As population densities in Sydney increases, the need for this open space also increases. Once it is developed it will be lost forever.

Please join us and help us achieve this dream.

Alison Road tree destruction and Public Land grab – wider implications

Dave Pyett, Chair of Friends of Malabar Headland (FoMH), has issued a media release about the destruction of a whole avenue of mature trees along Alison Rd, Centennial Park, the Public Land grab that allowed the destruction of the trees, and the wider implications of this activity for special places like Malabar Headland.

My name is David Pyett, I am the Chair of Friends of Malabar Headland.

Last Friday and Saturday 48 mature, large, heritage and other trees growing along Alison Rd Randwick were destroyed by the Baird Government, for development of the Light Rail and a station for the Race Course on what was formerly Public Land on the Southern edge of Centennial Park.

The shady bike path along the Alison Road boundary of Centennial Park, taken from corner of Alison and Darley Roads, Friday 8th January 2016. © Claire Bettington

The shady bike path along the Alison Road boundary of Centennial Park, taken from corner of Alison and Darley Roads, Friday 8th January 2016. © Claire Bettington

The trees were destroyed in a lightning fast operation which went on day and night over a 48 hr period.

Same viewpoint, Monday 11 January 2016. Trees pulped and chips spread on ground,  Of 50 trees marked for destruction, only the two Hills Weeping Figs on the right remain (for now) because they were further set back from the road.  © Claire Bettington

Same viewpoint, Monday 11 January 2016. Trees pulped and chips spread on ground. Of 50 trees marked for destruction, only the two Hills Weeping Figs on the right remain (for now) because they were set back further from the road. © Claire Bettington

This morning (Monday 11 January) I attended a “funeral for the trees” at the intersection of Alison Road and Darley Road, with Randwick resident, FoMH member and protester Claire Bettington, and Randwick City Councillor Murray Matson.

Whilst it is too late to save the trees and the land, it is not too late to warn people that the Baird Government has:

(1) Taken Public Open Space land for this section of the Light Rail and the Race Course Station, with no plausible logic, when a better alternative was obvious and already agreed to;

(2) Destroyed dozens of our living heritage trees, again with no plausible logic, when a better alternative was obvious and already agreed to;

(3) Changed the agreed to plans by a substantial amendment, exhibited just before Christmas 2014, a time of the year when hardly anyone was aware or available to comment.

I regard this as a manipulation of the Planning Laws and processes so that environmental and social concerns can be ignored, Public Land can be taken at will for any purpose the government deems fit and awarded to those in the private sector who may or may not be financial donors to the Liberal Party.

The message for us is clear: if the Baird Government can do this quite blatantly to the residents of Sydney and Randwick, then they can do it to Malabar Headland!

The implications for the impending handover to the State Government of the Eastern Section of bush on Malabar Headland are enormous, and if we are not careful, there will be no guarantee of the same protection for the Eastern Section as there is for the Western Section, now a National Park.

We remain ever vigilant for the future of Malabar Headland.

Kind regards

Dave Pyett
Chair, Friends of Malabar Headland
Mob: 0419 498 378

Please feel free to circulate, quote from and publish this media release in whole or part

Dear All

A film maker came along to the tree battleground on Alison Road and documented the efforts of protestors to stop the carnage – watch “Chainsaw Mike” on YouTube

Less than 48 hrs later, 48 trees had been reduced to woodchips, for no reason at all. Only two trees survived. The Light Rail should have been built on the Randwick racecourse side of Alison Road, as originally agreed.

Please share widely, and let Premier “Chainsaw Mike” Baird and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance know how you feel about the destruction.

These were our trees on our Public Land.

With thanks,

Claire Bettington

Friends of Malabar Headland Facebook Site

Friends of Malabar Headland now also has a facebook site, which has more up-to-date information than this web site, and is used to update members and the public on what is happening with Malabar Headland in a timely fashion. Have a look here. We hope you LIKE it. You can also access the Facebook site by scrolling through the Links at the left of this page and clicking on the Friends of Malabar Headland Facebook Site.

Liberal Party pre-election “promise”

Greg Hunt the Federal Environment Minister and Rob Stokes, the NSW Environment Minister held a press conference at the Randwick Golf Club at Malabar on Thursday 18 March (Malabar Headland in the background) to announce that the Eastern Bush would be made into a National Park.

Representatives of the horse riding community were present. However the Friends of Malabar Headland, who have worked tirelessly for 14 years to protect the Eastern Bush from both human development and invasive weeds, were not invited.

Leesha McKenny then wrote an article for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Friends of Malabar Headland Chairperson David Pyett issued a statement in response to the announcement:

We cautiously welcome the latest announcement, but we remain skeptical until we see documented proof of a commitment of money in the budget to build a new Shooting Range elsewhere and to move the shooters to their new site. Nothing will happen to the Eastern Bush until the shooters have gone, as the Eastern Bush forms part of the Safety Template for the Shooting Range. That means that it will not become a National Park any time soon; Greg Hunt is fully aware of this fact.

At the moment, the Shooters have a licence to shoot at any time, seven days per week, between 9am and 5pm. The Commonwealth – landowner of Malabar Headland – have repeatedly told us that the Eastern Section of bush cannot be handed over as National Park until the Shooters have moved; indeed they have banned our group from weeding in the Eastern bush on days when there is no shooting, as per our previous arrangement for 14 years.

We were not invited to attend this morning’s announcement.

Note: On a target shooting range, the safety template is the area behind and adjacent to the targets that stray or ricocheting bullets might enter. When the range is in use, no one can safely enter the safety template.

At Malabar Headland, the operational range is the long, full bore range on the northern side of the site. The safety template of this range extends east, north and south of the targets. It includes the scenic walking track along the coast from South Maroubra to Magic Point and the beautiful bushland to the west of the track – that is, some of the finest bushland and most magnificent scenery in the proposed national park land.

FoMH mourns loss of Brian Vazey

Friends of Malabar Headland are mourning the loss of Brian Vazey, a founding member and pioneer of bush regeneration on the headland.

Brian Vazey

Brian Vazey

Brian passed away last Thursday, 12 March 2015. He was an active bushcare worker on the headland for many years and was also active in the campaign for upgrading Mahon Pool at Maroubra.

Brian pursuing Bitou in the pioneering (and less safety conscious) days of FoMH bushcare

Brian pursuing Bitou in the pioneering (and less safety conscious) days of FoMH bushcare

Our sympathies are with his wife and fellow activist Margaret, their three children Robyn, John and Megan and their families.

Vale, Brian Vazey
Friends of Malabar Headland

Congratulations to Peter Ryan OAM

FoMH warmly congratulates our former long-serving Chairman on his award for services to conservation of Malabar Headland. Peter, an environmental scientist, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Australia Day Honours.

Peter commented: “The headland is like a rare jewel, it has such a large bushland area, right next to suburban areas, near the beach, it’s visually stunning.”

“If our group wasn’t around, the western site would have been developed by now and possibly the rifle range area as well. Friends of Malabar Headland has always been there to protect the headland’s natural and cultural heritage values.”

 

Are We Saved Yet?

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FoMH welcomes the recent media announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Hon. Greg Hunt MP on behalf of the PM and Federal Government, regarding Malabar Headland. His enthusiastic support for, and emphatic commitment to retain the entire Malabar Headland site in public hands forever and that there would be no development on the site, was a great relief to us, and to many, many people locally and throughout Sydney and beyond. You can view one of Minister Hunt’s interviews in the previous post below.

There are however, a number of questions and areas of uncertainty that need to be resolved. Some have been raised in the previous post, and here are a few more:-

Do we need a Malabar Headland Protection Bill passed by federal parliament that enshrines this permanent protection?

Remember the “never-ever GST” or “no carbon tax” or “no cuts to health, education, pensions”, etc: promises by successive federal governments which didn’t happen. People are rightly sceptical of these type of promises.
Whilst no-one would dispute Minister Hunt’s unequivocal support for saving the Headland, is that really enough to save it? A permanent protection bill similar to that proposed in 2012 would protect it in perpetuity. See our May 2012 Post here.

Just some weeks ago NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm announced an agreement that would allow the NSW Rifle Association to relocate from ANZAC rifle range to an upgraded, world class facility near Fairfield. He stated that he received a written agreement from Finance Minister Mathias Cormann that the Commonwealth will fund a $15 million upgrade of shooting facilities, thereby freeing up Malabar Headland.

Can the Commonwealth confirm that this relocation will take place and provide a timeline for it to occur?

FoMH’s long-held vision is for the relocation of the rifle range to a suitable facility within Sydney basin, allowing the opening up of this land as public open space and national park. You can view our vision in our 2002 draft Community Plan of Management for Malabar Headland here.

The Department of Finance consultant (Coffey) report makes it clear that for full remediation to take place on Malabar Headland, the shooters first need to be relocated. Other potential users of the site (and former users such as Equestrian and Model Planes) are barred until the site is remediated.

Is there a budget and timetable for remediation?

At present, and despite Minister Hunt’s statements, the reality is that only about 17 hectares (or just 10%) of the total site is permanently protected, being the western bushland now the Malabar Headland National Park. For decades we have heard many ministers and MPs from all the major parties professing their support for saving the entire headland. It appears that the shooters can soon be relocated and therefore remediation can begin in earnest. Now is the time for all of us to work together to ensure this actually happens, to allow the site to be permanently saved, remediated, accessed and used by the community as they have been promised for many years.

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