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.

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REMINDER

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.”

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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.

Randwick Council handballs Botany cemetery expansion proposal to the state government, 25 July, Leesa Smith, Southern Courier

Eight out of 14 councillors decided not to put a recommendation forward to the state government, with some councillors convinced the government, as the landlord of the Crown land, had already made up its mind that the proposal would go ahead. 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.

The Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park Trust submitted a planning proposal to Randwick Council seeking to rezone approximately 60 per cent of the adjoining Chinese Market Garden site at Bunnerong Rd, Matraville to facilitate the expansion of the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park (ESMP) cemetery.

The council report, conducted by APP Corporation planning consultant Clare Brown, said rezoning of part of the Chinese Market Garden site to accommodate an expansion of the ESMP cemetery would deliver a benefit to the community.

“This community benefit must however be weighed against the loss of a significant part of an existing piece of community infrastructure which is recognised for its social, cultural and heritage significance to Sydney and the Aboriginal and Chinese communities,” Ms Brown said. “It also needs to be balanced against the loss of the agricultural land use conducted on site which contributes daily to the production of vegetables to the Sydney market.”

Ms Brown said the planning proposal presented a compelling argument for the expansion of the cemetery onto the market garden land but it fell short in terms of a conservation management plan and engineering investigations into what land that could be suitable for burial purposes and what could be utilised for ongoing agricultural purposes.

She found cemetery uses could be compatible with market garden uses and recommended the council note the deficiencies in the ESMP proposal, including the need to prepare a conservation management plan for approval by the NSW Heritage Council, and forward it to state government for a gateway determination.

If the state government gave a tick to the gateway proposal it would then have come back to Randwick Council and been subject to community consultation.

But the majority of councillors ignored the recommendation, opting instead to hand it over to the state government with no attempt to influence the final decision.

Labor councillor Tony Bowen spoke of the “elephant under the carpet” – that the state government wanted the plans to go ahead.

“They want us to do the heavy lifting and that in itself is a problem,” he said.

Fellow Labor councillor Alan White agreed that the state governement “are going to do it, so let them do it”.

But Labor councillor Geoff Stevenson believed that the council had to make a decision “no matter how long it takes”.

Greens councillor Murray Matson said the council had to make a stand or “other councils will not aspire to do so” in the future.

Disappointed and surprised by the move, the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park CEO George Passas described council’s decision to bypass community consultation as “shoddy civic duty”.

“The community have lost their consultative thread through their council,” he said. “It says to the government that council as a collective is not capable of making a decision.”

Matraville precinct chair Carlos Da Rocha was pleased with the decision but admitted the result could have been better.

“The councillors have heard us speaking and they have spoken loud and clear,” he said. “The state government now needs to make the right decision.”

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK OF THE COUNCIL’S DECISION BELOW:

Helen Franceywrites:
Posted on25 Jul 12 at 01:53pm

How can the Courier possibly make the statement that ‘Residents will not get the chance to have their say on the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park’s expansion” when for months there have been copious amounts of letters, petitions, meetings and opinions, from all and sundry, on both sides of the argument. Rather than residents not having a say this argument has been done to death and it’s time the market gardeners were permitted to carry on with their livlihood without the ESMP shadow hanging over them. Helen Francey

Ian Rosewrites:
Posted on25 Jul 12 at 01:32pm

Last nights decision to by Council to support option 4 is the right action to be taken, as now the issue is in an even more public arena.

It is way more in our community’s interest to have the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park utilise nearby former industrial sites for their expansion rather than wasting valuable fresh food growing land. Especially as food security becomes an ever more pressing issue, not to mention food travel miles.

If the ESMP is really interested in being a supporting asset to the community, they could do no better than rehabilitating nearby former industrial estates. As not only would they be value adding for all, there is really no better way to revitalise these areas than a Memorial Park.

I hope last nights decision wakes up the ESMP to look elsewhere as rehabilitating former industrial lands is giving back to our community.

I am asking the ESMP to please recognise our community’s desire for & the importance of locally grown fresh food.

When ESMP looks elsewhere, they will have a much more credible standing within the community because they will truly be adding value. Who wants to keep a former industrial site as is !?

Andrew Woodhouse Australian Heritage Institutewrites:
Posted on25 Jul 12 at 01:12pm

Any claim the community is being left out of the democratic process and “wil not get the chance to have their say over Randwick council’s rejection of the cemetery’s proposal to take over 60% of a small, viable farming business is a nonsense on stilts.

There have been thousands of for and against letters, huge public petitions, letters, heritage group submissions, on-line comments, e-mails, community meetings called by the cemetery and at least three previous council meetings involving the public to my knowledge. It’s almost democracy-overload.

Council’s comprehensive 52-page rejection of the cemetery’s proposal should cause it to re-think its own avarice.

Andrew woodhouse President Australian Heritage Institute email: heritageandconservation@hotmail.com

Lynda Newnamwrites:
Posted on25 Jul 12 at 12:17pm

Option 4 which had the majority support reiterated previous decisions of Council, i.e. that they (in response to community consultation over the past 4 years) want the full 7ha protected under RU4 zoning.

Communities around here have gone through similar processes many times where the proponent doesn’t accept NO and just keeps chipping away, eg. Ports, Orica, Landcom’s Prince Henry. Councillors have heard the voices of their local residents already what we need now is transparency in this process, particularly from state agencies like Crown Lands.

What was disappointing last night were the councillors who dismissed the value of the contribution that the current gardeners make to our community and to Randwick’s commitment to local sustainability. Both Gordon and Terry Ha, second generation farmers of this land, were in the audience listening.

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