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Campaigns (17)

Protecting Powerful Owls

Coalition membership

The Powerful Owl Coalition is a group of concerned community environmental groups working in collaboration with the Powerful Owl Project of Birdlife Australia.

Birdlife Beecroft      STEP      Byles    RHH PYSE1image001

POC

This page is hosted by STEP on behalf of the Powerful Owl Coalition

Protecting Powerful Owls

More information

Birdlife Australia's Powerful Owl Project

Download a flier and give it to your friends and neighbours to read

Download our position paper paper which is designed to educate and encourage all levels of government, professionals, groups, communities and individuals to protect and increase the number of Powerful Owls in urban areas

Powerful Owl Facebook page

Powerful Owl Submission to the Sydney North Planning Panel on the Redevelopment of Hornsby Quarry (May 2020)

Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

POC

This page is hosted by STEP on behalf of the Powerful Owl Coalition

Protecting Powerful Owls

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Why they need our help

Human actions are causing a decline in numbers through development on bushland fringes, removal of trees and vegetation and road deaths

They are a threatened species — there may be as few as 5000 in the world

Their habitat supports amazing wildlife, enriches our lives and connects us with nature

Future generations deserve to see these birds in the wild

How you can help

Download a flier and give it to your friends and neighbours to read

Download our position paper paper which is designed to educate and encourage all levels of government, professionals, groups, communities and individuals to protect and increase the number of Powerful Owls in urban areas

Make your garden Powerful Owl friendly

Submit sightings to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (give the time, date, place, any interesting details and, if possible, attach a photo or recording)

Contact your local council and politicians if you become aware of inappropriate development or clearing

POC

This page is hosted by STEP on behalf of the Powerful Owl Coalition

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Protecting Powerful Owls

How to make your garden owl friendly

Maintain and protect your old trees and value your trees hollows  — they’re homes for frogs, possums, sugar gliders and birds

Install a nest box

Plant native trees and shrubs

Plant understorey trees and shrubs to support prey species

Plant shrubs in dense, continuous groupings for birds

Don’t plant climbers and plants close to trees as they can damage the bark

Keep thick mulch away from with tree trunks

Avoid changing soil levels under tree canopies to maintain healthy tree roots

Employ reputable arborists to prune trees (you may need council permission)

Plant a gum tree, but not too close to your house, for future generations of Powerful Owls – you will also enjoy its beauty, wildlife and shade

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Protect Ringtail Possum dreys (they look like footballs made of twigs)

Reduce hard surfaces such as paving

Let’s enhance our lives too

Residential areas with mature trees and canopies are more desirable and therefore valuable, than those without

By planting and caring for your trees and shrubs you will:

  • reduce the temperature of your home thus saving money on cooling
  • beautify your home
  • improve your streetscape
  • increase the amenity of your local area

and all the while you will be protecting Powerful Owls! What’s not to like?

POC

This page is hosted by STEP on behalf of the Powerful Owl Coalition

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Protecting Powerful Owls

What do they need to survive?

Huge old growth trees more than 80 cm in diameter, with hollow entrances of 40 cm or more

Roosting trees with dense canopies, particularly near rivers, creeks and gullies

Foraging areas of complex vegetation large enough to support abundant prey species such as possums and birds

Urban green spaces, bushland and leafy gardens

Safe flight paths through bushland and urban areas

Humans to help them survive and thrive

POC

This page is hosted by STEP on behalf of the Powerful Owl Coalition

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Protecting Powerful Owls

Do you know that they ...

Are Australia’s largest owl

Are an icon of the Australian night

Are charismatic, impressive birds

Top predators which help to keep our ecosystems in balance, e.g. by controlling possum populations

Are only found along Australia’s east coast

Live for up to 25 years in the wild

Have long and strong partner bonds

Grow up to 60 cm in height

Have a wingspan of up to 140 cm

Have striking yellow eyes

chicksHave large orange feet with strong, sharp talons

Are brown and white with brown chevrons on a white chest

Chicks have downy white chests and grey masks

Nest in large hollows of trees over 150 years old

Have a delightful low ‘hoot hoot’

Need to eat approximately one possum (or flying fox) per night

POC

This page is hosted by STEP on behalf of the Powerful Owl Coalition

 

 

Protecting Powerful Owls

POC2

Why they need our help

Human actions are causing a decline in numbers through development on bushland fringes, removal of trees and vegetation and road deaths

They are a threatened species — there may be as few as 5000 in the world

Their habitat supports amazing wildlife, enriches our lives and connects us with nature

Future generations deserve to see these birds in the wild

How you can help

Download a flier and give it to your friends and neighbours to read

Download our position paper paper which is designed to educate and encourage all levels of government, professionals, groups, communities and individuals to protect and increase the number of Powerful Owls in urban areas

Make your garden Powerful Owl friendly

Submit sightings to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (give the time, date, place, any interesting details and, if possible, attach a photo or recording)

Contact your local council and politicians if you become aware of inappropriate development or clearing

POC

This page is hosted by STEP on behalf of the Powerful Owl Coalition

STEP UTSKuringaiAerialHistory of the UTS Site

The land was privately owned until 1915 when the Commonwealth Government acquired it during the First World War for the army’s use as a rifle range.

It was acquired by NSW in 1961 'for and on behalf of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the purposes of the Public Instruction Act of 1880'.

The site was developed as William Balmain Teachers College and opened in 1971. Construction had been delayed by protests by local residents about destruction of bushland on the site and later, with the backing of Ku-ring-gai Council, by protests about the problems of traffic in the narrow streets. The architect, David Turner, stated that his main design aim was to keep the college as compact as possible, because the landscape was so wonderful it should not have been built on. When it was going ahead anyway, I thought I’d protect the environment all I could'.

In 1974, along with the other teachers colleges, William Balmain Teachers College officially closed. It then became Ku-ring-gai College of Advanced Education, a corporate body with its own council. It was no longer tied to the Education Department. However it did not own the campus land which remained vested in the Crown.

UTS Aquisition, the Access Road and Railway Station Imbroglio

After changes in the education system, on 1 January 1990 the campus became part of UTS. The campus remained Crown land until they and the other universities involved finally acquired the titles which were issued on 1 December 1994 for a fee of $1. From FOI papers obtained it appears that title was only granted to UTS and the other universities on the condition that:

... the site continues to be used for the same academic purposes.

In 1990, UTS lodged a development application with council for construction of an access road from Lady Game Drive through the environmentally sensitive College Creek area. A committee was formed and STEP's representative, who has a civil engineering background, proposed an alternative route through a less sensitive area. Over the years UTS submitted several revised development applications, as a result of very protracted negotiations, community meetings and submissions involving UTS, Ku-ring-gai Council, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, environmental groups and residents. Eventually in 1998 Ku-ring-gai Council granted conditional development consent, demanding that UTS produced a much needed Bushland Management Plan for the grounds. However this never occurred and the development consent expired.

The cause was the Parramatta to Chatswood railway link and the proposal for a station at UTS, which would provide the additional access necessary and thus cancelled the need for an additional access road.

Unfortunately, the planning and review process for the rail link concluded that a station at UTS was not economically viable. UTS had prepared a forecast of an increase to 6600 students by 2006, however economic consultants for the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning indicated even an increase to 11,500 students would not make the construction financially viable.

Furthermore, the Environmental Impact Statement noted:

The UTS site is also located at the tip of a peninsula, with only one access point through surrounding residential streets, in a bush fire prone area. Some of the environmental planning issues associated with expansion of the campus on this site are able to be resolved, however the major concern of traffic and transport impacts on the adjacent area still needs to be addressed. The strong concerns and opposition of local councils and local residents over any proposed campus expansion is also a critical issue that needs to be noted.

Dilapidation of the Campus

After abandonment of the access road and railway station proposals, UTS stated that the campus was suffering because staff and students no longer wanted to go there. In June 2005, Fay Pettit was able to write:

There have been a great many indications that for some time the Ku-ring-gai campus is being deliberately run down and its education function undermined.

Fay went on to give nine examples including the exclusion of the campus from UTS annual reports, the withdrawal of lecturers, the closing down of the popular evening courses and the neglect of maintenance. The campus is now in a sad state of dilapidation: a state that one may conclude arose from the university wanting it that way.

Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act

In late 2005, the NSW Government amended the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (1979) with the addition of Part 3A. The Environmental Defender's Office NSW published a paper which stated:

In effect, Part 3A of the Act dramatically reduces the involvement of the community in the original decision-making process and seeks to reduce any risk of concerned individuals or groups delaying or preventing significant development by limiting the grounds on which, or the circumstances in which, they can seek merits or judicial review. Instead, the Minister for Planning and the Director General, Department of Planning, maintain the power to make all key decisions regarding significant development, with advice from 'expert panels', limited input from other key agencies and little opportunity for effective criticism where the bureaucracy 'gets it wrong'.

In March 2007, CRI wrote to Frank Sartor, the Minister for Planning, requesting that he call in the UTS redevelopment and rezoning application using his powers under Part 3A.

STEP viewed this request as a tacit admission that the local community and Ku-ring-gai Council had rejected the proposal and thus these voices need to be sidelined.

On 14 June 2007, Frank Sartor registered the proposal as significant and pursuant to Schedule 1 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Projects) 2005 and is thus declared as to be a project to which Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 applies. The Department of Planning thus listed the UTS development on their Register of Major Projects.

Stringybark Ridge

STEP WattleWideStringybark Ridge, once the site of a long abandoned pony club, is part of the Berowra Valley National Park (BVNP). The main parties involved seemed then to be in agreement that this is how it should remain. All NSW national parks are governed by a legally binding Plan of Management (PoM).

2005
After more than two years of community consultation with a wide range of local sporting and recreational groups, neighbours and other community groups a new Regional Park PoM was supported by both Hornsby Council and NPWS. This PoM stated that the main recreational use of the park was for bush walking, with some provision for limited dog walking on three management trails.

2006
Hornsby Council, after a careful review of potential sports grounds in the Shire, adopted a Sports Facility Strategy Plan, which specifically discounted the possibility of ever again using the old pony club site for active sporting purposes. All of which would seem to indicate that the future of Stringybark Ridge as an easily accessible urban lung for the local community, rather than as a basis for team sporting ovals, was assured.

2012
Despite the agreements reached above, then mayor, Nick Berman, unilaterally wrote to local state MPs asking for their support for the Stringybark Ridge site to be made available to provide additional team sporting facilities for soccer, cricket, AFL, netball and ‘other sports’, including attendant amenity blocks and spectator support arrangements and parking (see STEP Matters 165, p2–4 for full details of the ensuring events).

March 2015
NPWS issued a new draft PoM which, while specifically required under the relevant legislation ‘to protect and conserve’ the area, in point of fact proposed a spectacular reversal of their own previous policy.

Page 18 identified Stringybark Ridge as a potential area for a number of purposes, including ‘activities of a recreational, sporting, educational or cultural nature’ and Hornsby Council proposed building change rooms, amenities buildings, kiosks, parking and to erect tower lighting. The facilities would be used both mid-week and over weekends.

The draft PoM went on to state that NPWS would, in consultation with the community and Hornsby Council, prepare a precinct plan for Stringybark Ridge to articulate the specific activities and facilities for future use, including possible planned future use.

STEP's Position

STEP understands and is sympathetic to the fact that local sporting groups sometimes wish for additional sporting facilities. However, our primary purpose has always been, and remains, the protection of our remaining natural urban bushland. No-one is making any more urban bushland and with Sydney’s population set to grow substantially over the next two decades, Stringybark Ridge is in many respects a test of how our local society and political leadership will address the competing interests of urban growth and urban bushland protection.

We all know that it is bad debt management to pay off one credit card by racking up the debt on another and the same goes for our management of our ecological debt. Ultimately the quality of our urban life style is a wholly owned subsidiary of the health and quality of our natural environment and we as a society need to protect both. Taking our local environment for granted is no more sensible that taking our global environment for granted. One is simply a subset of the other and we can no longer plunder either with impunity. With human population impacts now so large in urban environments such as Sydney, past ways of thinking that there is always going to be enough ‘free land’ for all requirements can no longer prevail.

Stringybark Ridge is ideally suited to provide the vast majority of local residents safe and close contact with the natural bushland. The PoM quotes research which has time and again indicated the health advantages of this type of exercise.

Stringybark Ridge is also one of the relatively few significant ridge top sites still located within urban national park boundaries, making for easier walking by the many middle-aged locals.

The PoM (p20) also confirms that in terms of physical activities in NSW, walking is by far the most popular undertaken by any group (55%). Hornsby Council’s own Unstructured Recreation Facility Plan (2009) reflects essentially the same finding, this time across the totality of the shire as a whole.

While the Environmental Defenders Office NSW has questioned the legality of the proposed sports fields’ construction, if approved Stringybark Ridge will establish a precedent which other well-organised pressure groups will likely use in an attempt to have new team sporting facilities and amenities built in national parks throughout NSW. A netball complex here, a BMX track there, more space for team sports somewhere else.

All perfectly understandable in one sense, but signalling the death of a thousand cuts for our already small amount of land set aside for conservation. It is common knowledge that there are currently ‘on hold’ well-developed plans to also have an extensive mountain bike track system built around the Stringybark Ridge site, for which initial site planning has already commenced, and there is little doubt that this will be the next cab off the rank if the sports fields are approved.

After that, what? Quad bikes and motorised trail bikes?

STEP understands that in a civil society all groups are free to approach local elected officials to help them achieve their goals. We however also expect our elected representatives to fully represent our interest in protecting urban bushland and with regard to the Stringybark Ridge that effort seems to have been manifestly absent. While the bushland has no vote, the mass of local walkers who do so all want to have their interests protected, but we need to remind them. After all, the team sporting lobby groups do so all the time.

What Next?

The PoM was on public exhibition until 6 July 2015. Submissions are now being reviewed (with input from the Metro North East Regional Advisory Committee and NPWS). A final plan will be considered for adoption by the Minister for the Environment.

UTS Ku-ring-gai Campus


STEP EucalyptForestFrom 1990, STEP was involved with the conservation of urban bushland at the University of Technology Sydney (Ku-ring-gai Campus) at Lindfield. Click here for some history of the site.

In 2003, UTS announced its intention to cease using the site as a university and, in conjunction with CRI Australia, to seek rezoning for a residential development on the site of approximately 560 buildings. Ku-ring-gai Council refused the rezoning and the NSW Government took the issue out of Council’s hands. On 14 June 2007, Frank Sartor registered the proposal as significant and pursuant to Schedule 1 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Projects) 2005 and is thus declared as to be a project to which Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 applies.

STEP's Position

STEP joined a committee, the Community Reference Group (CRG) which immediately expressed very serious concerns on numerous grounds. Although the CRG strongly opposed the proposal, UTS and the Government were able to say that the community had been consulted. The whole procedure, STEP’s position and the issues involved were summarised in STEP Matters (Issue 140, July 2007). Click here for a copy of our submission to the Department of Planning.

The Minister for Planning issued a determination on 11 June 2008. This approval entrenched the preferred project report submitted by consultants for UTS.

We lost a university and some bushland and gained dense housing in a precinct with high fire risk and poor road access. However over 9 hectares (22.6 acres) of bushland was transferred to National Parks. In addition, the community input succeeded in winning some improvements including a reduction in the number of dwellings approved for the site, the retention of a full-sized oval for community use and in retaining heritage buildings on the site.

The land was sold and is now being developed.

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