At Tuesday night’s Randwick Council meeting (24th July) Councillors were asked to support the following recommendation (as contained in this report on the Botany Cemetery Trust proposal to takeover 60%+ of the Market Gardens):
a) Council resolve that the proposal proceed to Gateway for determination under section 56 of the EP & A Act, subject to the Applicant preparing an amended planning proposal which addresses outstanding heritage and other issues identified in this report, and resubmit those documents to Council and the Department for consideration prior to exhibition of the revised planning proposal.
b) Council’s correspondence to the Gateway should clearly articulate the matters to be addressed through further investigations as identified in this report.
c) Council acknowledge the advice of the NSW Heritage Council and seek to work collaboratively with the Heritage Council and the Applicant in the development of the Conservation Management Plan.
There were 14 Councillors present:
Councillors Belleli, Seng, White, Bowen, Tracey, Matson, Hughes and Woodsmith voted for Option 4 which rejected the Cemetery proposal outright and supported the RU4 re-zoning determined at Council meeting of 22/5/2012.
Councillors Nash, Smith, Procopiadis, Matthews, Andrews and Stevenson voted against Option 4 indicating they would vote for the recommended option (as above) – Option 2 – if it were put. This was the option that Cemetery supporters were urging Councillors to accept and it would have given a clear message that Council accepted in principle the proposal and that there was ‘just a bit of work’ needed to finalise it. The local community are experienced with developments presented like this, eg Prince Henry,Little Bay Cove,Orica Southlands. They have already had 4 years of consultation on the Market Gardens starting with the Lands Assessment of 2008 which recommended against cemetery uses. This report was ‘revised in 2010. Read a comparison of the two reports and wonder at the motivation behind the ‘change of heart’ in Crown Lands. Note that the Minister at the time (for both Lands and Planning) was Tony Kelly who has since appeared before ICAC and subsequently been expelled from the Labour Party.
Independent Planning Consultant (for Randwick Council’s LEP)
Ms Tina Spiegel was appointed by Council to run the public hearing, given her combined expertise as a lawyer, town planner and mediator specialising in development, town planning and environmental law. Ms Spiegel confirmed that she had no conflict of interest in matters concerning Council in general and in particular matters relevant to the draft LEP. This is what she recommended on the Market Gardens: “ Although there was a convincing and valuable representation by some speakers that the land should be used as a cemetery, the valuable contribution of urban agricultural lands should not be underestimated. The use of part of the land for cemetery purposes may only be a very short term solution for the problem of where to bury the dead.Under these circumstances it is considered that the proposed rezoning of the land to RU4 may be supported because it is a long term sustainable solution.”
In the Randwick City Council eNews released on 25 July the report on the vote read:
“Council last night voted to reject a planning proposal to expand the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park into the neighbouring Chinese Market Gardens site on Bunnerong Road, Phillip Bay. The proposal sought to rezone 60 per cent of the Chinese Market Gardens site for cemetery use.The land has a long history of use as a market garden, and is listed as a state significant heritage item, as well as a local heritage item in Council’s planning controls. It was also listed by the National Trust on their national heritage register this year.”
The Mayor’s (Scott Nash) Media Release also of 25 July includes the statement:
Randwick Mayor said: “I’m disappointed with the decision, because I think there’s merit in an expansion of the cemetery. People of the Islamic, Jewish and Orthodox Christian faiths do not allow cremation. We have to respect that. Sydney’s running out of burial space and so a proposed expansion of the cemetery needs to be considered.”
The media release also included:
“The ESMP planning proposal, lodged with Council and assessed by an independent expert planner, proposed co-existing with the market gardens as well as providing publicly accessible pathways near Yarra Creek and creating stormwater basins and ecological habitats within the market gardens land.”
Extensive modifications are required to accommodate graves on this floodplain site. The assessor noted that possibly 70% of the current gardens would be alienated making it impossible for both farming families to continue. Given the work involved -and local community do have experience of major works along Bunnerong over the past 3 years – it is unlikely that either farming family could continue. Perhaps the The Trust’s idea of co-existence is to reduce the Market Gardens to a series of interpretative panels and claim this as ‘heritage’.
In the Southern Courier report written after the Council meeting, journalist Leesa Smith wrote that ”Residents will not get the chance to have their say on the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park’s expansion after Randwick Council rejected the proposal at tonight’s council meeting.”
As comment writers noted (below the article), the local community has been ‘consulted to death’ on this subject. The Botany Cemetery Trust and their masters in Crown Lands have a problem accepting NO – a sentiment expressed many time by community and their representatives over the past 4 years.
The Cemetery Trust does not need to go to the State Government. It could be a good neighbour and look elsewhere for suitable sites as well as lobby, with Council and community support, for legislation that realistically addresses the future need for burial space.