Heritage values of the Gardens from a farming perspective

fredI am led to believe that the three lots combined paid an annual rental of approximately $35000 PA, how many of our other heritage sites actually generate income for the Crown? 

The La Perouse Gardens are a living relic of our past Chinese agricultural heritage, it is imperative that the three lots be combined under one title which has a long term rental ( at least five years with five year option) so that this highly productive and economically viable heritage asset remains, for generations to come.   Fred Haskins NSW Farmers Association

The gardens have been managed by Chinese farmers for around one hundred years , supplying fresh produce to the city of Sydney and beyond.

The farmers originally farmed the flood plains of the Pearl River in Canton China, and on becoming farmers in NSW selected the deep sandy Loam soils of La Perouse, Matraville, San Souci, and later Milperra  as these locations were similar to the growing conditions of their homeland.

Three farms remain within the close proximity of the City of Sydney, one at La Perouse, one at Matraville and one at Rockdale.

These three farms are probably the last farms in Australia that are still farmed in a similar technique , to those many Chinese farms that most country towns had supplying fresh vegetables during the period 1860  to 1960.

There are about  two and fifty Chinese farms located in the peri urban areas of western and North Western Sydney, however these farms are on clay soils and are farmed using similar agricultural technology and equipment as European Farmers.

The high rainfall 1000 mls PA at Mascot Airport, high water table, and deep sandy loam soils, which give good drainage, are very essential to be able to grow many of the Asian root vegetables they produce.

This type of country due to the high water table limits the use of heavy equipment, resulting in the agricultural practises used today are not that far removed from those of fifty years ago.

Irrigation using sprinklers and pumps were introduced in the late 1960 s, as were walk behind rotary hoes.

Previous to the use of sprinklers, the farmers used the ancient pole across the shoulders carrying a bucket at each end to manually water crops . This tool was known as a “Darm Teal”.

Recently small four wheel drive tractors ( under twenty horse power) have also been purchased, however their use is restricted to drier periods of the year.

The high use of manual labour and the sandy loam soils allows these farms during prolonged wet weather periods to be able to continue to sow and provide produce, where as those farmers on the clay soils in western Sydney, are not able to use their tractors, but also lose their crops due to soil water saturation.

Agricultural Production

The La Perouse Garden is very productive, due to soil type, drainage, and high rainfall. The gardens require very little irrigation . Unlike horticulture west of the range they are not on a stressed river system DPI stats show 11 megs PA are require to produce these intensive horticultural crops. As was stated previously 10 megs PA is delivered by annual rainfall. They are within close proximity of the Centre of Sydney and fresh food produce shops.

Environmental

The farm acts as a filter purifier to the water inflowing from suburban areas upstream before these waters are deposited into Botany Bay. ( photos taken during the heavy storms last April, clearly show this effect.) The farm is within close proximity to Port Botany and acts as a sentinel for introduced exotic pests escaping from the terminal ( recent examples are the Giant African Snail and Fire Ant incursions at Port Botany)

Social and Tourist

The location and topography of the farm being in a valley water course allows spectacular views of the workings and lay out of the farm from the Cemetery from the north, Bi Centennial Perk from the  west and Hill 60 from the south. How many other cities of the world can boast a highly productive profitable working horticultural enterprise within a few kilometres of the city centre.

Economics

I am led to believe that the three lots combined paid an annual rental of approximately $35000 PA, how many of our other heritage sites actually generate income for the Crown?

The La Perouse Gardens are a living relic of our past Chinese agricultural heritage, it is imperative that the three lots be combined under one title which has a long term rental ( at least five years with five year option) so that this highly productive and economically viable heritage asset remains, for generations to come.

Sydney’s historic Chinese market Gardens

Sydney’s historic Chinese market gardens,  ABC Rural, Fiona Pepper, 10th August

Robert and Jin

Not far from the middle of Sydney there are seven hectares of heritage listed farming land, where vegetables have been grown for the last 150 years.

The low lying, sandy patch of land, not far from the beach in the eastern suburb of La Perouse, was originally farmed by the first settlers.

For the last 80 years three Chinese families have grown herbs and Chinese vegetables on the land.

Robert Parsley

Robert Teng and his family have been farming the property for the last 38 years.

The Teng’s are now the last remaining Chinese family farming the market garden.

On every inch of the seven hectares parsley, coriander, spring onion, bok choy, or radish is being grown.

When asked to compare how he farms to the way his father and grandfather would have, Mr Teng said he has more freedom to farm what he wants.

“There are differences, [I am] freer here to grow virtually what [I] want to grow, depending on my customers needs.”

Robert shed

Daphne Kelley, former President of the Chinese Heritage Association of Australia, explained that Chinese market gardens were a huge part of the history of Chinese settlement in Australia.

“It’s very important because Chinese, who originally came in numbers to Australia during the Gold Rush days, back then there was a lot discrimination against the Chinese,” she said.

“Because so many occupations were not open to them, one of the main occupations they went into was food production and market gardening.

“To the Chinese community it’s a stage of settlement and it’s nice that there are still a few area’s remaining that people can see were the food actually comes from.”

Mrs Kelley explained there have been some threats to the La Perouse market gardens in recent history.

The Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park sits on the market garden boundary and since 2008 the cemetery has been interested in expanding.

However, given the land is very low lying with a high water table, Mrs Kelley said if the land was to be used for residential or other purposes that would involved a lot of infilling and engineering works.

Latest Land Grab by Botany Cemetery

map gardens

Map of the Botany cemetery and Bumborah Point (furthest vegetation on bottom left) which is included in Botany Cemetery expansion plans. Source: Supplied

FIRST it was the 150-year-old, heritage-listed Chinese Market Gardens. Now the Botany Cemetery has set its sights on using Aboriginal-significant land for its expansion plans.

In addition to using roads on the western and southern boundaries of the cemetery for burial use, the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) has proposed to acquire part of Bumborah Point.

The land is south of the cemetery on the coast and is rec­orded as “containing Abo­riginal shelters, middens and rock engravings”.

bumborah

Botany cemetery has proposed to secure land at Bumborah Point for its expansion. Source: News Limited

Chris Ingrey, chief executive of La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council said it was ­“highly likely” Aboriginal people were buried on this land.

“Bumborah Point is significant to the Aboriginal community, and the land council has a cultural and legal interest in the site,” he said.

“Culturally, it’s highly likely any midden on a coastline is a burial site.”

The expansion plans avoid encroaching on the previously sought market gardens – “subject to Randwick Council’s cooperation to assist” in gaining the newly-flagged land.

 

murray

Randwick Greens councillor Murray Matson has fought to protect the Chinese Market Gardens from a cemetery expansion. Picture: John Appleyard Source: News Corp Australia

While the Trust has no ownership or approvals to use the market gardens for burial use, it was granted a licence over one of the lots, owned by Crown Land, in 2010 to investigate if the land was feasible for use.

A Save the La Perouse Market Gardens spokesperson said the decision by Crown Lands to hand management directly to the Trust had delivered a valuable ‘bargaining chip’ which the Trust is now playing in its claim for public land around Bumborah Point.

robert 3

Chinese Market Gardens near Botany cemetery. Photograph Desmond Ong

“It is time that we identify a date by which Botany cemetery is officially designated as full and closed to the use of new burials”.

“This will then require a recognition that a new site has to be found elsewhere in Sydney,” Cr Matson said.

Randwick deputy mayor ­Anthony Andrews said the proposal was a “win-win” for the community. “We will maintain our market gardens but also ­address the issue of shortage of burial spaces.”

Chief executive of SMCT, Graham Boyd, said he wasn’t able to comment on the proposal, because of “protocol policy reasons”.

Proposal on Chinese Market Gardens and Bumborah Point Council 28th July 2015

CemeteryProposal to go to Randwick City Council 28th July

On 16 June 2015, Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW provided a briefing to Councillors on the Botany Cemetery (Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park) expansion proposal. This proposal primarily involved the Cemetery relinquishing its licenses and interests in the Chinese Market Gardens; Randwick Council gaining management control of the market gardens site; and Randwick Council assisting the Cemetery to secure land for its cemetery use from the adjacent Bumborah Point area, parts of Military Road and
unformed Crown Road land.

Recommendation
That:
A. Council commence discussions with all stakeholders including Crown Land, OEH,
LALC, utility agencies, service providers and SMCT to identify all issues affecting
the proposed Botany Cemetery expansion into Lot 4858, Military Road and the
unformed Crown Road and the feasibility of addressing these issues.

B. Council commences consultations with Crown Lands Department on the future
operation and ownership of the Chinese Market Gardens site and the proposed
transfer of the unformed Crown road on the southern side of Botany Cemetery
to form part of the Cemetery.

C. the findings on the discussions/consultations with the stakeholders and
agencies be reported to Council for Council to consider its in-principle support
for the Botany Cemetery expansion proposal as detailed in the SMCT Briefing
Document.

Robert Teng “Last man standing at Chinese Market Gardens”

Last man standing at Chinese market gardens, August 16, 2014, Michael Koziol  (courtesy Sydney Morning Herald)

Robert 1A dying breed: Robert Teng tends his Chinese market gardens. Photo: Nic Walker
Death is catching up with the market gardeners of La Perouse.

For the past 100 years migrant Chinese families have farmed these lush green fields for parsley, shallot, mint and bok choy – a seven-hectare oasis amid the shipyards, runways and fumes of the city’s industrial belt.

But looming large on the adjacent hilltop is a neighbour intent on putting all that to an end. Like many of Sydney’s cemeteries, the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park is fast running out of space for bodies and tombstones. Since 2008 it has wanted to seize 60 per cent of the garden in order to expand.

Robert 2Robert Teng in his shed. Photo: Nic Walker
Only one family remains of the three that used to farm the garden’s three plots. One couple retired, while the Ha family, who had farmed the grounds for 80 years, left about nine months ago facing drainage issues and uncertainty over the site’s future.

Robert Teng is the last man standing.

For 38 years he and his family have toiled to produce radishes, English spinach, Chinese broccoli and other vegetables for local and far-flung buyers. Most mornings he will tend the plot, before driving to grocers, restaurants and the Flemington markets to make deliveries. Customers are loyal because they know his produce is clean, fresh and local.

“My continental parsley [has] a good smell. I sell plenty,” Mr Teng says. “The soil is very good … good water.”

His workday, spent under Sydney’s unforgiving sun, is long and repetitive. The soil is a deep sandy loam and can only be farmed by hand or with light machinery. Mr Teng’s wife, sons and daughter, mother-in-law and cousins all farm the site, gently plucking parsley from endless rows and depositing the bunches into small wooden baskets, which they wheel back to the shed for washing.

The workload has increased since Mr Teng started tending the Ha family’s plot as well. The cemetery’s trust was granted an exploratory licence to assess the third, unfarmed plot, but has been accused of neglecting its maintenance duties and allowing noxious weeds to grow.

Mr Teng is prepared to farm the entire seven hectares but needs security of tenure. He has to renew his lease each year and is worried about the cemetery’s plans. “I would like a long lease,” he says.

Locals say a high water table makes the garden unsuitable for burials. The cemetery’s 2012 bid to encroach upon the plot was rejected by Randwick Council, which has zoned the area for agricultural use.

But Greens councillor Murray Matson fears the government could intervene and ask for the Crown land to be rezoned. He said the market garden was a “local icon” and an important sustainable food source.

“It’s part of the community – it’s always been there for them. If you go to La Perouse and ask anyone if they want to keep it, they’ll say yes.”

Randwick Council has now called on the state government to strip the trust of control over the third lot and return it to agricultural production.

The Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, which operates the cemetery, declined to answer questions and referred Fairfax Media to the Department of Primary Industries. A departmental spokesperson said the government was investigating ways to balance these competing interests and no new planning proposal was on the table.

“The government acknowledges the heritage significance of the site and the strong community support for local market gardens. The government also recognises the challenges associated with the shortage of burial space in metropolitan Sydney,” the spokesperson said.

Most market gardens have been relegated to the city fringe and the regions. Fred Haskins, a local representative on the NSW Farmers Association, fears that could be Mr Teng’s fate as well.

“If they take the second farm off him, within a couple of years he’ll be unviable and the whole thing will close down,” he said.

 

Visitors from Shanghai Jiao Tong University

WEB P1010791WEB P1010784WEB P1010780WEB P1010792 WEB P1010797WEB P1010802Robert Teng hosted a visit today from Professor Danfeng Huang and Rui Zhang from Shanghai Jiao Tong University along with UNSW doctoral student, Yun Ye.  Professor Huang is a group leader of horticulture in the School of Agriculture and Biology.

Note the extent of weed coverage on the third allotment which is now managed by the Cemetery Trust.  There is extensive coverage of Pampas Grass and Castor Oil Plant which are class 4 weeds under the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 in Randwick Municipality.  This problem could be solved if Crown Lands leased the area to Robert Teng for agriculture.

From Council’s website:  Class 4 (Locally controlled weeds)

Class 4 noxious weeds are plants that pose a threat to primary production, the environment or human health, are widely distributed in an area to which the order applies and are likely to spread in the area or to another area.

 

(Photos: with Robert Teng, in Bicentennial Park at Market Gardens Interpretation panel, Arthur Phillip monument marking landing on 18th January 1788; Molineux Point).

Storm damage to crops and irrigation at La Perouse Market Gardens

Yesterday’s storm resulted in extensive damage to crops and irrigation at the market gardens.  There is speculation around the cause.  Firstly, the volume of water running onto the site has possibly increased because of recent works to the detention area on Bunnerong Road.  Secondly, the third market garden, bordering Bicentennial Park is clogged with weeds and debris and could have contributed to the backup of water in the creek.  The third garden was in operation until 2011 and when the farmer retired Crown Lands issued a licence to the Cemetery Trust.

Third allotment Taken from Bicentennial Park border looking across third garden which is under licence to Cemetery Trust.
Car Photos (below) show damage to crops, irrigation and structures.  The extent of sediment deposited is shown in photograph of vehicle (left).
bridge underminedBridgecrop and irrigation damageCrop damage 4crop damage 5damage to crops 2damage to irrigationMore damagerubbish washed into the market gardens

Banks underminedBreaking banksDamage to pipes

Best Practice Farming

With Daphne, Robert Teng and Terry HaFred and Cheryl

(Photos: Top – Robert Teng and Terry Ha; Bottom:  Fred Haskins and Sheryl Jarezcki)

Backyard digging – Broadcast ABC Radio National 13 July 2013

There are around two thousand small scale farms dotted around the Sydney Basin. They grow much of Sydney’s leafy vegetables, and nationally, are a major source of Asian Greens. Market gardens have long been attractive work for new-migrants and their families. But is there sufficient support for growers from non-English speaking backgrounds trying to make sense of regulations written for rural farms? And who is monitoring pesticide use for growers’ health, for residue levels on produce, and run-off into our rivers?

Jessica Minshall takes Off Track to the Chinese Heritage Market Gardens in Botany.

Guests

Terry Ha
Chinese Growers’ Association of NSW
Daphne Lowe Kelly
Chinese Heritage Association
Sheryl Jarezcki
Social researcher and environmental educator
Fred Haskins
NSW Farmers
Giselle Howard
Director, Metropolitan, NSW Environmental Protection Authority
Dr Ben Kefford
Fresh water ecologist, School of Environment, University of Technology, Sydney
Dr Jeremy Walker
Social Researcher, University of Technology, Sydney

Credits PresenterJoel Werner  Reporter Jessica Minshall

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