UPDATE 9.1.12:  Letters in Sydney Morning Herald today in response to Growing vegies becomes a question of life and death, page 3.

Gardens are historical

Forget the Opera House. Sydney’s remnant Chinese market gardens are true Sydney icons (”Growing vegies becomes a question of life and death”, January 7-8). Hard-working immigrant Chinese played a major role in the development of Sydney and the state. Given their present numbers, they will do so again. For more than a decade, my local and overseas tourist guests have marvelled at the beauty of these gardens, always thriving despite the salty sand-soil. The noisy, orange-breasted native parrots are a delightful bonus. Captain Phillip drew his first fresh water from the site, and there are remnants of Sydney’s huge electric tramway network right outside the gate. History is where you look for it. The La Perouse Chinese garden must be saved. Kevin Eadie Drummoyne

The Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park should not be in a position where it is running out of space and attempting to take over land from the Chinese gardens. Why didn’t the trust object when huge warehouses were erected adjacent to the cemetery? These buildings cover a vast amount of space and are often deserted and up for lease. In addition to occupying what, with foresight, could have been burial ground, they are a mammoth eyesore when viewed from inside the cemetery. Why interfere with the Chinese gardens and spend vast amounts of money trying to reclaim a flood plain for burials when it is the warehouses that should be removed thus allowing the cemetery to continue naturally up to Bunnerong Road.  Helen Francey Phillip Bay

The conundrum is not ”should open land be used to bury the dead or to feed the living”. It is why don’t we do both? I can think of little better use for my carcass than as nutrient for a nice bed of eggplants. Paul van Reyk Petersham


As part of the new Local Environment Plan (LEP) Randwick City Council has recommended the rezoning of the Chinese Market Gardens from Residential 2B to Small Lot Primary Production:

“CHINESE MARKET GARDENS – 1-19,21-39 Koorooera Ave, 1002-1100 Bunnerong Road & 1R Kooringai Ave – Council recommendation:
Due to its uniqueness in terms of local food production, biodiversity, heritage and scenic values, the site is proposed to be rezoned RU4 Primary Production Small Lot to preserve the primary agricultural use on the site, while protecting the State significant heritage and scenic character of the land.”  

Council has received community support for this proposed rezoning but there is strong opposition from the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Trust(ESMT) which is seeking to take over 60% of the  7ha property.  The Trust outlined their plans in their 2010 Annual Report 

The Chinese Market Gardens are Heritage Listed, the gardeners supply fresh food to local businesses and Flemington markets.  There is increasing interest in sourcing vegetables (particularly fresh greens)  locally.

Councillors are meeting staff of the ESMT on February 21st.  There will be a site inspection followed by a presentation.  Councillors could note the following:

1.   There are opportunities within the  Cemetery and Memorial Gardens estates to use land more efficiently.






2.  The Crown Lands Report of 2008 recommended against grave sites for the Market Gardens because they are situated in floodplain:  Link to report   The lowest lying of the 3 gardens is currently vacant.

3.   Land on higher ground on Military Road could be used.  Currently there are a number of heavy vehicle generating businesses impacting on funeral corteges and cemetery visitors.

4.   The Market Gardens are part of Sydney’s multicultural farming tradition – see this link and this blog   (Photos below:  L- to Bicentennial Park;  M – Ha family farmers; and R – to Bunnerong Road)

Previous story links:  Link 1  Link 2  Link 3

Terry Ha and brother Gordon Ha and their family have been cultivating the land of what is known as the Chinese Market Gardens for about 50 years and are fighting to prevent the State Government from transferring their land for use by the Botany Cemetery. Photo: ELENOR TEDENBORG


7 Responses to “Australian Year of the Farmer – Chinese Market Gardens Phillip Bay Under Threat”
  1. Gilbert Grace says:

    It would be a real pity to lose these gardens. Their heritage value comes from the network they form with the gardens near Muddy Creek and an example of what was once lining either side of Cooks River. I have seen a community garden plot in Hurstville which must be tended by asian gardners as the similar system of sleuces feeds and waters that plot. It’s great you bring it to everyone’s attention.

  2. Alex Wisser says:

    Every time I drive past the market gardens I feel this city is really a wonderful place. To have something so unique so near to the heart of a major city is almost unheard of in other parts of the developed world. To loose these gardens would be to lose an asset we would never be able to replace.

  3. admin says:

    Link to submission to retain gardens from The Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network – http://www.pacific-edge.info


  4. Barbara Ross says:

    Please defend this site from corpses. It is unique. It reduces the milage of a green vegetables.
    For children to see vegetables growing is a valuale lesson.
    The living need quality in their lives and surroundings. It is so good to see the gardens it brings us back to our roots.

    Could some of the land be made availble for ommunity gardens. There would be a lot of people who would be only too happy to grow vegetables for the local community.

    The area on Anzac Parade at Little Bay is being over developed, so please leave us some green space. We need gardens to absorb Carbon. May be we could get carbon credits as well as fresh vegetables.


  5. Dr Anthony Pun, CCCA National President says:

    It is difficult not to feel cynical when the Cemetery Trust argued that the arable land should be used for burial purposes when the broadest interest is really growing food for the city.
    In a previous public relations attempt, the Cemetery Trust have made scaremongering claims that the water used for the vegetable garden was unsafe. This mean trick did not work because there was no evidence to support their claim. When there is evidence about the high water table which makes unsuitable burial ground, they conveniently choose to ignore it.
    It is true however that every community is crying out for more burial land and it affects other cemetery trusts in the Sydney Metropolitan area. This problem cannot be solved by grabbing a piece of arable land in the city which in itself,is a short term solution. The long term solution is a serious State government consultation with the community in the planning and use of crown land for burial grounds for Sydney.
    The Cemetery Trust had used some communities to support their claim in the past. Playing divisive games with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities on burial grounds is a recipe for disastrous community relations. This is an issue of choice that affects all Australian, “burial ground” or “vegetable garden.
    A community garden project to replace any unused land is better than a burial plot. This project will give an opportunity for local citizens to learn how to grow food, enjoy a healthy outdoor life style and an appreciation of a piece of arable land that produces food.

  6. Coleen Greene says:

    Dr Anthony Pun is correct about the Cemetery Trust inconsisent policies and public relations.
    On the issue of “unsafe ” water the Trust relies on Boyd B Dent , Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosphy in Science UTS ” The Hydrological context of Cemetary operations and Planning in Australia” 2002
    The existing gardens and cemetary are compatible.

    The Government should be apologising that the Chinese Gardens are not already listed on the heritage site. This error of omission should be immediately corrected.

  7. Lance says:

    I feel it would be totally insane to do something as irresponsible as closing a food source in this time of global food shortages. Particularly to replace it with people who are not even alive anymore.
    Burials are the worst possible option for the environment, as explained here
    In a time of climate change, and shortages of arable land, I cannot think of a more backward thing to do. I am confident the gardens will be saved and even expanded in the near future.
    Demand by informed consumers is skyrocketing with modern communication technology. Informed consumers will always choose local produce and Sydney is fast loosing local farms to mining, and urban sprawl. (information from http://sydneyfoodfairness.org.au/)

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