While Ku-ring-gai Council was in caretaker mode prior to the election in December, the mayor Cedric Spencer signed the documents giving the go-ahead for the project to install synthetic turf at Norman Griffiths Oval in West Pymble. This was despite the considerable community opposition and the fact that a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) had not been completed. The opponents were assured that the project would not go ahead if the REF proved that the impacts could not be satisfactorily managed. We have written about the concerns with this project – see STEP Matters 208, November 2020.
The main concerns relate to chemical pollution and cork infill run-off from the field into Quarry Creek that runs into Lane Cove National Park and changes in hydrology that could danger the surrounding Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest vegetation.
There is considerable frustration about the lack of information about progress over the past 9 months in the design of the project and the analysis of environmental impacts. It appears that members of the West Pymble Soccer Association have been privy to information provided in meetings with council staff. STEP and the local bushcare volunteers were promised that a community reference group would be set up to inform them about the project as well as the soccer club.
This situation has led to one of the volunteer bushcarers, Bronwen Hanna, to resign as convenor of the Quarry Creek group. Here is her letter.
Re: Resignation as KMC Coordinator: Quarry Creek and Little Yanko Bushcare Sites
It is with great regret that I inform you of my decision to resign as Ku-ring-gai Council’s Bushcare Co-ordinator for Quarry Creek and Little Yanko sites. Given the hours of effort that myself and other volunteers have put into the site, I am disappointed in the way that council staff have treated our attempts to ensure the site continues to flourish.
Firstly, KMC staff have declined all requests to meet and discuss questions around mitigation strategies which would allay concerns about impacts of a synthetic field upstream which have recently raised by the NSW Chief Scientist. What has made this more difficult for me is it appears that West Pymble soccer club and the NSSA – who potentially stand to gain financially from this development through reduced soccer fees – have been furnished with information that should also be made available to our group as affected stakeholders.
It may be that council’s plans will mitigate any impacts that have occurred in other projects. If this is the case, I find it hard to comprehend why staff would not be happy to meet with volunteers with valid concerns. Unfortunately, volunteers have been forced to seek information through GIPA requests – requests that have taken up a great deal of time. We have had to pay for information which I believe should be freely available to residents who are working for the public interest.
Secondly, council appears to have rejected our requests for independent expert monitoring of Quarry Creek before and after the field’s construction (which we asked for in our original submission on the project). This is hard to understand given previous substantial investment through grants funding and rehabilitating the creek through rain gardens, vegetated swales and Lofberg Oval stormwater harvesting, as is the rationale that council cannot afford to undertake water/microplastic monitoring given council is spending $3.6m on the project.
I note also that council have not responded to NSW National Parks concerns about the project, nor abided by its own resolution to keep National Parks informed about the project as it progressed.