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Saving an urban catchment area

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Jacqui Marlow, committee member of Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment, looks at a unique catchment area in Sydney’s north.Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment was protected by the Askin government in the 1970s with a special Local Environment Plan (LEP) that required 20 hectare blocks with only one house. This means that the catchment has been largely undeveloped but the pressure for increasing amounts of housing is starting to tell on this almost pristine area.

The Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment is 55 sq km in area, much of which is in its natural state. It is arguably the only known extensive and heavily wooded catchment that is part of a large city.     

The catchment has a variety of ecological environments and many species that are threatened. It is a haven for bushwalkers and mountain bike riders and the lagoon is used by several sailing clubs, model boats, kayakers and fishermen. There is also a pathway (used by thousands of people) that circumnavigates the lagoon, a result of tireless work by Jim Sommerville.

An Eastern Pygmy Possum orphan found and raised by Joan Reid, a member of Sydney Wildlife.

It is the only coastal lagoon in a peri urban area of a major city in Australia that has an intact catchment. The catchment also cleans the water that goes into Narrabeen Lagoon, making Narrabeen, Collaroy and Warriewood beaches unpolluted. The lagoon is silting up and getting shallow but nothing can be done until research on the seagrass is complete. Seagrass is incredibly important in fixing carbon as it fixes carbon at 40 times the rate of terrestrial trees.

Mona Vale Rd is about to be upgraded. Hopefully, if we receive the funding there will be extensive fauna fencing as well as underpasses and overpasses, making the road safer for both humans and animals. 
While the catchment is reasonably intact there has been urban development in Warriewood Valley and a proposed Ingleside land release.

There is also fauna fencing on Wakehurst Parkway, including two new stretches, evidence that Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) take their environmental role very seriously. This is important as a new hospital will increase traffic, especially at night.
The Jim Sommerville Bridge is on the Narrabeen Lagoon Trail as too is Jamieson Park (see below) Both are from http://www.hellosydneykids.com.au/

Developers keep taking the 20 Hectare blocks of land to the Land and Environment Court because they want to build things like retirement villages. The court upheld Warringah Council’s objection for a 1,000 unit retirement village citing its impact on the lagoon catchment. That is not always the case. One large retirement village was approved and the site was bulldozed, destroying all the eastern pygmy possums that lived there.
The whole area is changing. The rural industries, like the market gardens and egg farms at Oxford Falls, have all gone, as have most of the nurseries. There is a lot of pressure to subdivide the blocks of land. Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment want to improve the proposed car-dependent Ingleside land release by retaining bushland and protecting threatened species.


Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment have a public meeting every quarter with speakers addressing the issue affecting the lagoon.
The latest meeting had the NSW Planning Minister and local member Rob Stokes and Dick Person, the administrator for the newly amalgamated Northern Beaches Council.
They were there to address. the recent change to the Crown Laws Act, as much of the bushland in the catchment is crown land.


Currently there is a claim from the Metropolitan Land Council. The land council want to acquire the crown lands and add it to their land to create a new national park administered by Aboriginals. This process has stalled.
Below: The late Jim Sommerville opening the Lagoon path with Anthony Albanese and Michael Regan (from Warringah Council)

Meanwhile, the state government cannot do anything to protect the bushland. Rob Stokes said that until the land claim is processed the government can do nothing and Dick Persson is similarly restrained. We are waiting for a new LEP to replace LEP 2000 which will mean that retirement villages and nursing homes could no longer be built.
It seems all is limbo, a modern day catch(ment) 22.


Corymbia Circuit : Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment http://www.narrabeenlagoon.org.au/
Jacqui Marlow was interviewed by Ruby Vincent. Summary text by Victor Barry. Images from Jacqui Marlow. January 2017

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