Independent challenger for Mackellar, Dr Sophie Scamps, has suggested an alternative proposal to the controversial redevelopment of six areas of native bushland around Frenchs Forest, Belrose and Oxford Falls.
The six sites, owned by the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC), face clearance and rezoning for multiple redevelopment schemes, including industrial sites, sports fields and a 450-home housing estate at Lizard Rock in Belrose.
The schemes, summarised in the NSW Govt draft Northern Beaches Aboriginal Land Development Delivery Plan, have attracted widespread criticism from a coalition of community and environmental groups.
Principle objections include: threats to wildlife, endangered species and habitat; bushfire risks; the limited infrastructure to cater to a massive influx of new residents; and the vulnerability to vandalism of nearby Aboriginal heritage sites.
(Editor’s note: While ultimately the site is a state planning matter, it is a particularly major issue for the Northern Beaches Community, and there’s a federal election brewing.)
Mackellar incumbent Jason Falinski stated his position in February, essentially not supporting the proposals because of inadequate infrastructure. You can view his social media post on the topic here.
Dr Scamps told Manly Observer she also opposed current plans and any development on the site, suggesting there is “another way forward”.
“I would like to see all parties reconsider a plan which would see the parcels of land owned by the MLALC in Mackellar turned into an Aboriginal Owned National Park. The former site of Waratah or Skippy Park could be turned into the gateway to the National Park as well as an Aboriginal Knowledge and Visitors Centre.”
Waratah Park comprises 12.6 hectares of bushland adjoining Ku-Ring-Gai National Park at the end of Namba Rd, Duffys Forest. It is here, between 1967-1969, that 91 half-hour episodes of the iconic television series Skippy the Bush Kangaroo were filmed, plus a feature movie.
Skippy featured an intelligent eastern grey kangaroo that accompanied (and frequently rescued from assorted hazards and dangerous wildlife) Sonny, her nine-year-old human companion, who lived at ranger’s headquarters in the then-fictitious Waratah Park.
Closed to the public in 2006, on 12 March 2015, Waratah Park was granted heritage protection.
Northern Beaches Council’s also oppose MLALC’s applications for native bushland clearance for housing and industrial schemes. On 23 March 2022, Council released its submission that the redevelopment proposals, currently under consideration by the NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE), were “inappropriate”.
A council statement said: “The Northern Beaches Council is calling for the Development Delivery Plan proposed for land owned by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council to be reconsidered in light of numerous and significant environmental and bushfire issues.
“Council’s submission to the Department of Planning and Environment’s proposed Development Delivery Plan details a number of serious concerns relating to the process and review of work so far, environmental impacts on threatened species, wetlands, waterways and core habitat, and, bushfire risk and infrastructure issues.”
Dr Scamps, who declared her candidacy for the federal electorate of Mackellar on 4 December 2021 with a campaign launch at Avalon Beach, explained to Manly Observer why her Waratah Park proposal is the obvious solution for all stakeholders.
“I believe this proposal would be beneficial for all parties. It would help save our local environment by stopping the destruction of our bushland and protect endangered species in the area. It would stop overdevelopment in the area and preserve our precious way of life in Mackellar.
“It could also be a win for the MLALC as the NSW State Government could, under their policy to increase the size and number of National Parks in NSW, purchase or lease the land over the long-term providing a perpetual revenue stream for the MLALC to help them in their mission.
“In addition, the National Park could provide long term employment opportunities for Indigenous people and would have economic benefits.”
Dr Scamps confirmed she had made a submission to DPIE about her alternative proposal prior to the 22 March deadline for public comments on the proposed redevelopment schemes.
DPIE told Manly Observer, “The Department is now considering the submissions made during exhibition and feedback will be collated in a publicly available submissions report.”
Further information on the MLALC land redevelopment proposals