Letter from Renata Brooks

Key points:

1. Botany and Woronora Cemetery Trusts have been dissolved and their cemeteries are now managed by the new Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust.  This Trust, in consultation with Government and the proposed NSW Cemeteries and Crematoria Board, will need to consider its options and if it wishes to continue to pursue the proposal.

This is a reminder of the support that Lands has previously given the Trust:

2.   To deal with the looming shortage of burial space, the Minister has approved a schedule of land in the greater Sydney region that should be examined for future cemeteries.  The market gardens site is part of this schedule.  This work will continue under the auspices of the NSW Cemetery and Crematoria Board and in consultation with the relevant government authorities.  In relation to the market gardens site, the Minister has also asked the NSW Farmers’ Association to provide input for consideration by Government.

 

3.  A CMP, if required, would be entirely funded by the responsible Trust and assessed by the NSW Heritage Council.  However, it should be noted that Randwick Council was funded to prepare a CMP when the market gardens were first listed and failed to do so.

 

4.  Regrettably, the information you requested in relation to comparisons of rental rates is not readily to hand.  However, licensees are required to manage the land consistent with the provisions of the Heritage listing, in compliance with the Work Health and Safety legislation, and with appropriate environmental management safeguards.  All these factors contribute to the rental charged.

 

5.  In the Sydney basin, the Crown lands database indicates that there are only five sites for agriculture purposes leased or licensed, covering about 20ha (excluding the market gardens) and numerous grazing occupancies.  Clearly the role of Crown land in food production within Sydney is not significant.  

 

MAYBE IT SHOULD BECOME SIGNIFICANT.  JUST AS CROWN LAND USED FOR OTHER PURPOSES HAS BEEN ASSESSED FOR CEMETERY USE, PERHAPS THERE NEEDS TO BE AN ASSESSMENT FOR FOOD PRODUCTION PURPOSES (AS SUGGESTED IN EMAIL BELOW)

 

Finally, the Minister has asked me to thank you on her behalf for your invitation to visit the Market Gardens site.  The Minister appreciates your offer, but has advised that in late 2011 her senior advisers visited the site and provided her with a comprehensive briefing to inform her understanding of the issues and challenges at hand.

 

Again the contact for further information is John Filocamo

 

THIS WAS THE CORRESPONDENCE SENT:
Dear Minister Hodgkinson,

 

copied Chairs of Matraville and La Perouse Precincts, Mayor of Randwick, South Ward Email list, Councillors Bowen, Belleli, Tracey, White, Woodsmith, Matson, Hughes, Seng,

 

I have contacted your office on many occasions about the La Perouse Market Gardens. When I have received replies the contact quoted on most occasions has been Mr John Filocamo, Metropolitan Stakeholder Relations Specialist –South Region – Crown Lands Catchments and Lands. In conversations with Mr Filocamo I have formed the impression that he supports the takeover of the Gardens by the Botany Cemetery Trust. 

 

On July 9, 2012, I received correspondence from Mr Filocamo where he commented on me not ‘availing’ myself of consultation offered by the Cemetery Trust. In my response I suggested he was ‘out of order’ and I asked for greater transparency in the process. So far I have not received a response.

 

I don’t believe that the Premier when he talked in favour of greater consultation with local communities envisaged that we would be obliged to attend consultation meetings. Indeed, from my experience of the Orica Inquiry, which included the Premier’s session, I got the distinct impression that he wanted public servants to be more responsive to community needs and to use communication tools available in disseminating information in a timely and transparent manner. Crown Lands has not done this.

 

Our community has been in consultation on this matter for 4 years starting with the 2008 Crown Lands assessment that recommended against cemetery uses. This assessment is available on the Crown Lands website http://www.lands.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/77005/Chinese_Market_Gardens_draft_assessment.pdf. It was apparently updated in 2010 but this update was not circulated to stakeholders who had made submissions in 2008. I was emailed a copy by Mr Filocamo earlier this year after contacting the office of Ms Renata Brooks. The 2010 report is still not available on the website but I have detailed a comparison of the two reports here: https://laperousemarketgardens.wordpress.com/reports/comparing-2008-and-2010-crown-lands-reports

 

In the correspondence from Mr Filocamo, below, he notes:

 

The current Planning Proposal, under consideration by Randwick Council and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, provides a far more extensive site investigation than the Land Assessment and responds to the need for more information, particularly with the site modification being proposed. The Planning Proposal includes studies of the hydro-geological condition, site geology, onsite studies of both the ground water and surface water, a full soil contamination investigation, along with a full ecological assessment. Additional to the natural attributes of the site being examined, the social and cultural context of the site and the agricultural capability and suitability is examined by experts in their field. The NSW Heritage Council will have a significant role in assessing this proposal and the Trust continues to liaise with the Heritage Council to determine a suitable outcome. This is likely to require a full Conservation Management Plan for the site.

It is accepted that Crown Lands, as the landholder, has the right to examine possibilities for this site. But could you advise on the following:

 

1. Is this level of scrutiny applied to all Crown Land. Are you examining all sites for their potential for burial, and in the future for their agricultural potential given projected food security challenges. Crown Lands ‘owns’ around the half of NSW including land on which golf courses, surf clubs, scouting and other community facilities are located. Will they also be subject to such a rigorous audit or is this approach reserved for small landholders rather than bigger organisations.

 

2. Will the Botany Cemetery Trust be paying for the extensive hydro-geological reports and will Department of Planning be required to commission and pay for independent reports. They were for the nearby Southlands development proposed in 2006 by Orica and finally determined by Planning a few months ago. http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=19

 

3. Who will pay for the Conservation Management Plan(CMP)? If this is commissioned by the Cemetery Trust will there be an independent CMP commissioned.

 

4. What support are you providing for the farmers? This is a year when we are celebrating Year of the Farmer (see Gordon Ha pictured here http://photocompetition.yearofthefarmer.com.au/competitions/entry/3107) surely common decency requires that you have someone in the DPI ensuring that they are being given a ‘fair go’. When accused of selling contaminated food the farmers had to get tests done at their own expense. The Chief Scientist of the NSW Food Authority confirmed that their produce was safe and both Randwick City Council and the Cemetery Trust were advised of this. The Mayor wrote to confirm that this was so but still supporters of the cemetery make accusations – see the latest in Southern Courier 24/7/12 from Mr Paul Parris.

 

If this were a large organisation I doubt Cemetery Trust supporters would continue to make accusations after being told but he apparently recognises that the small lot farmers don’t have the resources to keep defending themselves.

 

5. As you may be aware Randwick Council, at its meeting 24/7/12 voted against progressing the Cemetery proposal. At that meeting Mr Passas and later Councillor Andrews made statements about how little the Market Gardens paid per sq. metre for their licences per annum. Could you please advise a list of what all Crown Land lease and licence holders in the Randwick Municipality pay per sq. metre for the land they occupy and could you also provide a comparison between rates paid by the gardeners for their plots against what is paid by other lease and licence holders on agricultural land throughout the State.

 

Finally Minister Hodgkinson would you accept an invitation to visit the La Perouse Market Gardens to meet local people like myself as well as the market gardeners.

 

with regards,
Lynda Newnam
resident, La Perouse

 

 

From: Laperouse
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2012 3:15 PM
Subject: Re: Chinese market gardens and Botany Cemetery

Dear Mr Filocamo,

I write in response to your email below:

 

1. I have been provided on many occasions with ‘the case’ for more burial sites but as yet the Department have not addressed my request, sent in January to the Premier and then referred on to Minister Hodgkinson, for a study to address the need for locally produced food now and into the future.

 

2. I imagine most citizens would agree when you state that:

“The Government must deal responsibly with this looming shortage in cemetery space in the GMA”. But the majority of those do not seek ‘food producing’ land to be available for dead bodies. Where is the investigation into contaminated sites as an alternative?

3. You quote the former Minister for Lands and for Planning, Mr Kelly, but what credibility does this person’s name lend to the Cemetery Trust’s proposal. The development is valued at over $100 million and requires extensive engineering works. There would be a considerable amount of ‘consulting’ and engineering work generated in the destruction of the market gardens. And as Council’s Independent Planning consultant, Tina Spiegel, noted in her recommendation on the LEP:

“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.”

4. The information provided on current planning and assessment processes is useful. Thank you for this. I note from what you write that there are a number of agencies involved and that Crown Lands, even though it is the landholder, will not necessarily be the final arbiter. Is that correct?

 

It would be useful in this context for costs of all work being undertaken to investigate the Cemetery Trust proposal to be made available. That would include costs incurred not only by the Cemetery Trust but by Crown Lands, Randwick City Council, OEH, Heritage Council, Department of Planning and the market gardeners.

 

5. The following comment

 

“The Trust continues to consult with the local community to develop its proposal, within the planning constraints of Council and Heritage requirements. In this context, I have previously asked that the manager of the Botany Cemetery, Mr George Passas, contact you to offer a full briefing. I understand that he has contacted you to do this but that, to date you have not availed yourself to this opportunity. I also understand that you did not attend the Trust’s community consultation sessions held on 29th, 30th March and 3rd April, 2012.”

 

is out of order. What right do you have to advise Mr Passas the CEO of the ESMP to contact me. Mr Passas did indeed ring me – on my unlisted landline. I am a private citizen I don’t get paid to turn up at consultation meetings. Just because a proponent puts on a ‘consultation’ session does not mean that I or anyone else is obliged to attend. Why would you assume I have the time to show up to afternoon sessions on the 29th March, 30th March and 3 April. I do understand the proposal. It is clear that one or both of the current farmers will lose their business/es. I spoke to Stephen Fenn this morning and said that this was the bottom line and he did not deny it.

 

Notwithstanding I did speak to Mr Passas when he phoned. It was a long conversation and we talked not only about the Market Gardens but also about the implications of the 3 Ports SEPP which is and will continue to be a major impediment to the operation of the ESMP. The Trust should have lobbied harder for burial space in the late 90s when land was available on Military Road.

 

It is shameful that Gordon and Terry Ha and Robert Teng and the previous tenant of the western lot (bordering Bicentennial Park) have been subjected to more than four years of uncertainty and harassment. I don’t use the term harassment lightly. It has been a battle of Goliath and David proportions between the Cemetery Trust and its high profile religious leaders against simple farmers. Farming is hard work and Terry, Gordon and Robert don’t have the resources to ‘market’ their imagine in the media and yet they have on many occasions been obliged to do so simply to defend their right to continue farming, to continue making a simple living. They have even been accused of supplying contaminated food and have been obliged to pay for independent testing. And even when the Chief Scientist of the Food Authority vouched for the safety of that food the Trust continued to make claims to the contrary. As evidence I cite Alan Jones – http://podcasts.mrn.com.au.s3.amazonaws.com/alanjones/20120217-aj-graves.mp3 , the submission by the Trust’s consultants to the LEP, and speakers at the LEP hearing on the 22nd May in Randwick Town Hall. One of the speakers was a Laboratory Officer from the University of Technology, Sydney. He prefaced his damning remarks by saying he was a microbiologist from UTS implying that he was an ‘expert witness’. These are just a few of the examples that I can think of ‘off the top of my head’. But I would add another – Crown Lands. Your department/section has not been even handed. In the submissions to the Draft LEP you have supported the Trust and in conversations both you and Mr Fenn have referred to the Trust’s ‘compromise’ positively. I will repeat what I wrote earlier, the compromise is not a compromise at all. It means that at least one of the farming families will have to leave and if it is possible for the other to stay their current lot will be redefined. It means grave-sites brought closer to the back fence of the La Perouse Primary School. It means loss of visual amenity for the local community. In exchange for fields of leafy green vegetables the area gets more tombs and ultimately landscapes such as this https://laperousemarketgardens.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/cemetery-092.jpg . It means the Cemetery now located wholly in Matraville taking land in Phillip Bay. And as Tina Spiegel said it is not sustainable in the longer term because before long the Trust will be seeking out more land.

 

6. I make a further point concerning consultation: Crown Lands needs to operate transparently. Could you please ensure that documents pertaining to this case are made available on the internet. Stakeholders have a right to be able to access information easily. They shouldn’t be expected to attend ‘consultation sessions’ at the whim of a proponent. Put all the information on the internet including the proposal and comments to date as well as the ‘revised’ Crown Lands Assessment of 2010/12. Given the interest in this matter it warrants a dedicated webpage.

 

Finally, when I was speaking to Mr Stephen Fenn this morning I mentioned Food Security and asked if he had listened to the Deputy Director General, Catchment and Lands, Dr Renata Brooks, speak about this issue. He said he hadn’t. For your benefit and his I provide this link http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2011/04/26/3200648.htm

 

Regards,

Lynda Newnam

 

Sent: Monday, July 09, 2012 12:53 PM
Subject: Chinese market gardens and Botany Cemetery
Dear Linda

I refer to your email of 18 June 2012 to Ilse van de Meent of Minister Hodgkinson’s Office regarding the proposal by the Botany Cemetery Trust to expand onto adjoining land currently occupied by Chinese market gardens. I have been asked to provide you with a response to the concerns you have raised to date.

The New South Wales Government has a long history of providing public burial places for its people. Burial space has been set aside in public cemeteries since the early days of the colony, which has continued to ensure that most sections of the community have had access to affordable, conveniently located land for burial.

As the Sydney Greater Metropolitan Area (GMA) has expanded, priority has been placed on utilising available public land for other purposes such as housing, industrial infrastructure, open space for recreation and essential public facilities such as schools and hospitals. In addition, rising land values have increased the cost of acquiring large sites for cemeteries.

As a result, land available for new burial sites is limited. While there is currently sufficient burial space to meet the short and medium term burial needs of most sections of the community, the general community within the GMA will be faced with fewer burial choices by the middle of this century.

In 2002 there were about 680,000 gravesites available in the GMA. At current burial rates more than a third of the currently available grave sites are likely to be used by about 2020 and, if additional land is not acquired to accommodate increasing demand, critical shortages will start to occur by 2036.

The figures you quote in your email reflect changes in the commercial environment in which the Botany Cemetery Trust has been operating, namely other competitors, including those in the private sector. Additionally, it is apparent significant changes to the demographics in ESMP’s catchment areas of communities preferring burial space for interment has caused increased demand in the last few years. As a result under current rate of take-up by these communities, Botany Cemetery will be full within 8 to 10 years. These communities have been very clear about their concerns in relation to this.

The Government must deal responsibly with this looming shortage in cemetery space in the GMA. The La Perouse Market Gardens site, and other identified lands, form part of a broader strategy of Government to address this pressing community need. The Botany Cemetery Trust continues to assist Government in developing this proposal whilst, at the same time, acknowledging the wider heritage values of the site along with its environmental values and recognising social, economic and ecological implications.

The Trust continues to consult with the local community to develop its proposal, within the planning constraints of Council and Heritage requirements. In this context, I have previously asked that the manager of the Botany Cemetery, Mr George Passas, contact you to offer a full briefing. I understand that he has contacted you to do this but that, to date you have not availed yourself to this opportunity. I also understand that you did not attend the Trust’s community consultation sessions held on 29th, 30th March and 3rd April, 2012.

The Land Assessment that was adopted by Minister Kelly in May 2010 states

“It is necessary for the Authority (former Land and Property Management Authority) to give consideration of the possible Development of the site, being the principal land allocation issue, at this time. It is beyond the scope of the Land Assessment to consider possible land use following modification of the land. Therefore, it was deemed necessary to engage an independent consultant to investigate the possibility of Development where modifications may be necessary.”

The current Planning Proposal, under consideration by Randwick Council and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, provides a far more extensive site investigation than the Land Assessment and responds to the need for more information, particularly with the site modification being proposed.

The Planning Proposal includes studies of the hydro-geological condition, site geology, onsite studies of both the ground water and surface water, a full soil contamination investigation, along with a full ecological assessment. Additional to the natural attributes of the site being examined, the social and cultural context of the site and the agricultural capability and suitability is examined by experts in their field.

The NSW Heritage Council will have a significant role in assessing this proposal and the Trust continues to liaise with the Heritage Council to determine a suitable outcome. This is likely to require a full Conservation Management Plan for the site. .

The Planning Proposal is currently with Randwick Council for assessment. The preliminary assessment involves input from key stakeholders, including the Office of Environment and Heritage, for the Heritage Council. Should the proposal be accepted by Council and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, I understand the broader community will have the opportunity to comment before the application is determined.

The planning process involving all these agencies, and including consideration of submissions from interested members of the community, will determine the future use of the site

If you wish to discuss this matter further I may be contacted on 8836 5313.

John Filocamo | Metropolitan Stakeholder Relations Specialist -South Region- Crown Lands

Catchments and Lands

Department of Primary Industries

Level 12, 2-10 Valentine Avenue, Parramatta | PO Box 3935 Parramatta NSW 2124

T: 02 8836 5313 | M: 0413304788 I F: 02 8836 5365 | E: john.filocamo@lands.nsw.gov.au

W: www.lands.nsw.gov.au | W: www.dtiris.nsw.gov.au