History of our achievements
BACKGROUND OF THE WOLLI CREEK PRESERVATION SOCIETY
The Wolli Creek Preservation Society (WCPS) was originally formed in 1983 to actively oppose the construction of the M5 East motorway through the Wolli Creek Valley. It was incorporated in 1987. Over the decades, the valley has faced some dire planning proposals, particularly the proposal for an eight-lane surface motorway through almost the whole of the Valley’s bushland. This proposal was defeated, but WCPS members have had to fight hard to retain and to restore the bushland. There is still a way to go in restoring its bushland but bringing the valley under the protection afforded by Regional Park status is a step in the right direction, enabling unified management decisions to be made.
WCPS, having campaigned hard to prevent the surface motorway, worked tirelessly to promote awareness of the natural values of the valley as the largest area of near-natural bushland in inner south-west Sydney. This awareness was essential to gaining wide public support for its retention. Many activities, including guided walks and the establishment of the Two Valley Trail (along the Wolli Creek and Cooks River Valleys), were aimed at this. Talks were organised for members and the public to highlight specific aspects of the flora and fauna. Presentations were made to interested community groups, and bushcare groups were established to allow clear demonstration of community commitment to preservation and restoration of the bushland.
SAVING THE VALLEY
WCPS was formed in 1983 to fight to save the valley’s bushland and has campaigned ever since to achieve this.
Regional Park campaigns
Much of the Wolli Creek Valley’s extensive areas of bushland are of significant conservation value, given its inner-urban location. The bushland supports a great diversity of flora and fauna, in multiple ecosystems and provides many passive recreational opportunities for visitors. Wolli Creek is one of the few remaining creeks in inner Sydney that has retained much of its natural banks. Due largely to community effort the area has survived, and is an essential part of the region’s natural heritage.
How has it survived? The Wolli Valley was saved from most building development in the colony’s early days by its rugged terrain and by being away from the main transport routes associated with southern Sydney’s expansion. This mostly followed railway lines, over the location of which there was much politicking and probable corruption.
From 1949, the Valley was preserved but neglected because of a major road reservation under the County of Cumberland Plan. This was eventually known as the M5 East corridor. 1978 saw a NSW government road proposal for an eight-lane motorway as a surface road from Redfern to Liverpool via the Wolli Valley.
This was delayed for many years due to the negative findings of the government’s Kirby Inquiry into the proposed Kyeemagh to Chullora freight road, which recommended the preservation of the Wolli Creek bushland. Strong community objections, encouraged by the Inquiry’s report (1980) led to the formation of the Wolli Creek Preservation Society in 1983. The Society kept up a determined campaign against a motorway through the Valley (for more on this see below).
In 1988 the then Minister for the Environment, Tim Moore, announced that, with the lifting of a road reservation, the bushland areas of the valley were “now guaranteed permanent preservation”, but they were only protected by Open Space zoning.
In an effort to achieve greater protection for the Wolli Creek bushland, WCPS called for the creation of a Wolli Creek Bush Park. Following a long campaign, in 1993/4 WCPS worked with Clover Moore, then the State member for Sydney, who introduced a Bill aimed at creating a Wolli Creek Park Trust to hold the lands. But Parliament was prorogued before the Bill could be debated and it didn’t resurface. But there was now a new form of protection potentially available: a Regional Park under National Parks and Wildlife Service management.
Campaigning against motorway destruction of the Valley’s bushland continued and in 1998, following the adoption of a tunnel solution for the M5East, the then Labor Government announced the prospective establishment of a 60-hectare Wolli Creek Regional Park. The government’s proposal did not include the creek itself, nor its southern bank. In 1999 the NSW Government announced that the M5 East would go underground as a tunnel under Arncliffe. The M5 East tunnel opened in 2002 and the formation of this Regional Park seemed imminent.
The Regional Park finally began to take shape in 2003 when NPWS acquired the 8.9 ha of Girrahween Park, below the Earlwood shopping centre. But despite WCPS pressure, it was not until 2004 that the then Minister of the Environment signed off on a Plan of Management and Masterplan for the Regional Park, essentially the same as the draft plan prepared four years earlier, and just in time for a public meeting called by WCPS..
Campaigning to accelerate progress on park formation continued but the Regional Park made very slow progress, in part because of the complexities of land ownership. Over 100 different lots, some of them in private hands, were within the park boundaries. Some required subdivision before transfer, one had sensitive Sydney Water infrastructure within it and one had significant contamination. And, of course, additional resources were needed to undertake extensive surveying, mapping and negotiation with the various owners.
But there was not much evidence of action in the ensuing two years, until another public meeting was called by WCPS in 2006. “Where’s Our Regional Park?” we asked. All public owners seemed to indicate that there were no barriers to the transfer of lands to the NPWS
A generally positive and constructive meeting ended with strong expectations and some acknowledged problems: agreements had to be reached between (the then) Department of Environment and Conservation, Sydney Water, the Department of Planning, and Canterbury City Council to allow essential rezonings. and the RTA road reservation over the valley had to be lifted. Excitingly, there was the promise of the addition of Wolli Bluff at Undercliffe at the eastern gateway to the Regional Park lands.
There was then a period of very effective co-operation and support for the bushland of the park among the various State agencies, the City of Canterbury, and WCPS. Major improvements occurred and more were in the pipeline. In 2008, WCPS signed its first Memorandum of Understanding with NPWS to set the parameters for ongoing co-operation.