Mr Alan Jones today interviewed Botany Cemetery Trust CEO Mr George Passas about the Chinese Market Gardens.  Listen to the podcast at this link.

Mr Jones spoke about the ‘Green’ mayor  and Randwick Council being full of Greens.  But the fact is Randwick has a Liberal Mayor and only 3 of the 15 Councillors are Greens.  There are as many independents as Greens, along with 4 Labour and 5 Liberal.

Mr Jones said the gardeners were  drawing water from the “Bad Botany Aquifer” .  It is true that we can’t sink bores in La Perouse and Phillip Bay but the Aquifer is not BAD in this area.  The Government has banned bores across a large area to restrict the draw down of water.  The contamination is explained at this Orica link in detailThis link to a presentation by Dr Noel Merrick is comprehensive.  Experts have suggested sourcing water from part of the Aquifer – see link.   To refer to the Botany Aquifer as ‘BAD’ shows a lack of understanding of the extent of this vital water source.   Also note the Market Gardens are in Phillip Bay.  The Cemetery is in Matraville and Orica is northwest of this area in Banksmeadow.  Mr Jones made reference to other Market Gardens being 700 metres away in Rockdale.  The distance between the Phillip Bay and Kyeemagh Market Gardens is about 9.5km.

Mr Jones refers to Randwick Council as ‘stupid’ and claims they are responsible for the Heritage listing.  The Market Gardens were Heritage Listed by the State Government in 1999.  See this link.

He also refers to the gardeners as paying a pittance but they pay far more per hectare than many other Crown Land leaseholders in the area eg. golf courses and of course the Trust doesn’t return anything to Crown Lands.  They have substantial assets.

Mr Jones also said the gardens were 25ha but the area is 7ha.  He also said one of the gardeners left in May but it was October and there is already an expression of interest to lease the property.

Mr Jones said that the previous Planning Minister had approved the redevelopment under Part 3A. Mr Kelly, the previous minister, approved an application under Part 3A only a short time before the demise of the Labour Government in March 2011.  On another matter involving the Lands Department, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) found Mr Tony Kelly engaged in corrupt behaviour – see Media Release 12 December 2011 and was subsequently expelled by the Labour Party.

Mr Jones in what could be interpreted as a reference to Randwick Council said to Mr Passas “you’re dealing with fools obviously”.  This could also be taken as a swipe at the Planning Minister Brad Hazzard because the Minister suspended the Part 3A process for the proposed Cemetery development when the O’Farrell Government came to power.  The Department of Planning has made it clear that this is a matter for Council to decide on not for the Department of Planning.

What Mr Jones didn’t mention was:

1.  that the Gardens are floodplain and the Crown Lands report of 2008 prepared by an Environmental Scientist recommended against use for grave sites because of the high water table;

2.  the need to support local food production – the Market Gardens are not subsistence plots as Mr Jones claimed but provide fresh produce to local businesses (fresh food outlets and restaurants);

3. the Cemetery is impacted by an encroaching Port.    The Cemetery is located on Military Road and is locked in at both ends by land zoned by the State Government for port uses.  Large heavy vehicles impact funeral corteges and cemetery visitors. It would be more appropriate to convert vacant warehouses in Military Road to grave sites than use up food producing land located on floodplain.

4. current Cemetery land could be used more efficiently.