The Port Expansion has begun.  The Sydney Morning Herald marked the occasion with an article featuring SPC spin on the Penrhyn Project – see text below.  Following that article is an unpublished response.

The Planning Minister will introduce a new SEPP – Three Ports State Significant Sites Proposal – which effectively overrides Randwick and Botany Bay Councils’ planning powers in areas around the Port.  This will be on exhibition for comment until June 27th  – details:  John Ross, Sector Strategies and Systems Innovation, Department of Planning, GPO Box 39 Sydney NSW 2001 or email    Phone: 92286541.  The new SEPP was foreshadowed sometime ago -see details at

  • Proposal title: Three Ports State Significant Sites Proposal

  • Description: In recognition of the importance of port activities to the economy of NSW, and consistent with the directions outlined in the Government’s Ports Growth Plan, the Minister for Planning considers that the ports and related employment and industrial areas at Newcastle Port, Port Botany and Port Kembla should be declared as State significance sites. This would be done through the listing of the sites in Schedule 3 (State significant sites) of State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Projects) 2005 (Major Project SEPP). The State significant site provisions of the Major Projects SEPP will provide greater consistency across the three ports, and recognise the importance of associated industrial land and key transport corridors for the ongoing operation of the ports. The provisions would also specify revised assessment regimes for the three ports bringing project approval processes in Port Botany more in-line with those of the other two ports

  • Local government areas: Botany, Newcastle, Randwick, Wollongong

  • Exhibition location:
    – Department of Planning, Information Centre, ground floor, Lands Building, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney
    – Department of Planning, Hunter Regional Office, Price Waterhouse Coopers Centre, Level 2, 26 Honeysuckle Drive, Newcastle
    – Department of Planning, Southern Regional Office, Level 2, 84 Crown Street, Wollongong

  • Start date: 28 May 2008

  • End date: 27 June 2008

  • Submission to: John Ross, Sector Strategies and Systems Innovation, Department of Planning, GPO Box 39 Sydney NSW 2001 or email    Phone: 92286541

  • Documents available: Three Ports State Significant Sites Proposal

Authority to ensure estuary not lost to birds with Port Botany expansion John Huxley
May 29, 2008, Sydney Morning Herald  (bottom of Page 3)
BY THE time work officially started yesterday on the controversial $1 billion Port Botany expansion, Hazel Watson had been up for a couple of hours patrolling the foreshores, not so much looking for trouble as heading it off.

Every day, morning and afternoon, for the next few years, Ms Watson will count the shorebirds using the near-by Penrhyn Estuary. She will monitor their behaviour and blow the whistle on any construction activity that appears to disturb them.

“Long term I’m interested in bird numbers – are they rising or falling? – but also in anything that causes them to stop feeding, roosting or to get alarmed and fly off,” said Ms Watson, 25, who arrived from England last week.

Ms Watson is working as a volunteer for Birds Australia, an independent body contracted by Sydney Ports to monitor birdlife on the estuary’s mudflats and salt marshes. She will also use her findings in a PhD thesis at the University of NSW.

All reports of disturbances will be taken seriously, said Marika Calfas, the Sydney Ports’ manager of planning and environment. “They will be sent immediately to the site contractors, with a view to modifying work practices.”

The state-owned corporation is also spending millions of dollars rehabilitating and extending the estuary habitat by removing mangroves, extending the sandbars and planting more salt marshes.

The estuary is on the east Asian-Australasian flyway used by thousands of migratory birds, such as the bar-tailed godwits, which every year commute 12,000 kilometres each way between Botany Bay and the Arctic Circle.

In the past decade, the estuary has been degraded by weeds, toxic sludge, rubbish and tide changes caused by airport extensions. But Catherine Price, Birds Australia’s projects co-ordinator, said it was far from a lost conservation cause.

She welcomed plans for an estuary clean-up, based on long-term surveys by an international wading-birds expert, Phil Straw, and, despite misgivings among some local residents, said she was confident Sydney Ports would act upon Ms Watson’s reports.

“Ideally, at the end of the day we’ll end up with a much-improved habitat,” she said.

The project is one of a number aimed at protecting and enhancing Sydney bird habitats. Last weekend, Birds Australia opened a discovery centre in the Newington armory in Sydney Olympic Park. More than 180 bird species have been seen in the park.

Back at Port Botany, work began quietly yesterday, with little obvious inconvenience to the birdlife.

Ms Watson said she felt lucky to have landed a great “Sydney beach job”, which she had spotted on a birding internet site. But faced with a half-hour migration to and from her Hillsdale habitat, twice a day, she is planning her first big purchase: a bike.

 TO JOHN HUXLEY (30/5/08)

Your article on shorebird habitat at Penrhyn Estuary(Herald 29/5/08) touches on a situation that environmental groups may find themselves in when dealing with billion dollar developments – particularly Government developments.  Over six years ago, when the Port Botany expansion was first proposed Dr Crawford, the then head of the Healthy Rivers Commission identified offsets for environmental loses. Crawford anticipated the government’s final decision regardless of the findings of a mandatory environmental impact statement let alone the various inquiries which followed.  Obviously out of step with the government’s intention,  Commissioner Cleland in his report on the Commission of Inquiry into the Port Expansion, published October 2005, recommended that Port Botany should not be expanded in the configuration proposed by Sydney Ports Corporation because of environmental impacts and Sydney Airport.  Cleland suggested a smaller expansion that left Penrhyn Estuary, and the adjoining recreational facilities, basically in tact.    There has traditionally been tension between bird watchers and other recreational groups in this area.  Measures to maintain the area for everyone, at the same time enhancing environmental values, could have been put in place.  However, given the intention to expand the Port it no doubt suited the NSW government, through it various agencies such as Maritime and Ports, to allow the area to decline and the conflict to continue.  Many people have assumed, regardless of the economic arguments against this expansion, that there would be no fighting the government.  It was not surprising then that some special interest groups decided very early against openly opposing the project to instead take what they could get in compensation as well as enjoy the rewards which may accrue from being a government ‘team player’.    Last year the Ports released a project offsets package and in this stated that ” in the event of failure of the shorebird element of the project, $340,000 would be made available for appropriate offsets.”  Effectively the current shorebird habitat which hosts rare and threatened species protected by international agreements is valued below the average building block in neighbouring suburbs.  The compensation is also a small fraction of the sum that Sydney Ports agreed, at the Commission of Inquiry, to pay Air Services to ensure that appropriate technology will be available to allow container ships to dock at the new berths.      There is a chance that the new ‘enhanced’ bird habitat will be successful but because of recent cost-cutting on the terminal design that chance, slim enough according to evidence produced at the Commission of Inquiry, has diminished.  The government and the project supporters have the benefit of time and short memories on their side, as according to Sydney Ports the success or otherwise of the Penrhyn Shorebird Habitat cannot be called until 2017.  In the meantime Hazel Watson and others ignorant of the economic impacts and struggles to save Botany Bay, get to enjoy a  “great ‘ Sydney beach job'” and in their innocence promote Sydney Ports as being environmentally concerned.


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