Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Save South Head Campaign
South Head in Sydney Harbour National Park is an oasis that attracts visitors from around the world to enjoy walking trails with stunning harbour views, abundant natural beauty and tranquil surroundings. The New South Wales government is considering a plan to give six historic buildings stretching across South Head to a single commercial operator for two function centres and accommodation, which will operate seven days a week. The lease will run for at least 40 years.
This national park is enjoyed by thousands of Australian and international visitors each day. Many visitors are unaware that Camp Cove Beach marks the site of the first contact in Sydney Harbour between Captain Phillip and the Gadigal people. Handing this site to a commercial function operator with no commitment or plan to activate the important cultural history of this land or to improve public access and visitation to this national park is a lost opportunity. While North Head, on the opposite side of Sydney Harbour, and Centennial Park and Bondi Beach, in my Wentworth electorate, have been listed on the national heritage register, South Head has no such protection.
Stretching from Camp Cove Beach to The Gap, the Gap Bluff development, under this plan, will cater for more than 400 guests daily, with functions running in two venues from 8.30 until midnight, seven days a week. Walking tracks will become parking lots, views will be blocked by vehicles, and public access to this precious parkland will be restricted. The recently announced Manly to Bondi walk, which will make Sydney Harbour one of the world's great walks, would run right through South Head and have to contend with functions. Extra traffic entering the venue and in the already gridlocked local streets will impede emergency vehicle access to The Gap and security operations at the HMAS Watson naval base. Despite the potential of these venues to bring 3,000 extra people into the national park each week, there is no plan from developers or government to increase public transport, policing, noise control or security for the naval base.
During the recent by-election campaign, I committed to doing everything I can to work with the Save South Head campaign and Woollahra council, which has rejected this proposed development, to pressure the New South Wales government to protect this invaluable historic green space for the enjoyment of all. Part of that plan should include listing South Head on the national heritage and New South Wales state heritage registers and ensuring a comprehensive community consultation process about plans for the site that includes the Indigenous community, historians, local residents, walking groups and the Navy, which operates the HMAS Watson on this headland.