Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary

Wetlands

The City of Bayswater contains a few environmental gems. Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary is one of them, and courtesy of a $3 million investment over the last few years, it will remain so. However, the public is just learning that right next door is private land.

Literally just on the other side of the main path are a couple of super blocks. No one would know this because it just looks like a part of the bird sanctuary. I didn’t know this either until a planning application came to council seeking approval for a significant sub-division. And what you are seeing now is just the start, because an application to subdivide the other, even more environmentally sensitive block, will soon follow.

There is no law which prevents the owner from developing; they are perfectly within their rights. When people subdivide big lots they either need to contribute some of the block for “public open space” or pay money in lieu of providing the public open space. These funds are then used by the council to activate/upgrade public open space in the vicinity.

Council (narrowly) supported the Officer’s recommendation which was to insist on the public open space rather than the money so that a buffer of sorts would at least exist between the proposed homes and the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary. The Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC), who I have previously criticised before, are the ruling body for sub-divisions, and despite the council, and Officer’s recommendation, they have approved the plans.

I know the wider public will be very distressed by the removal of these wetlands/swap and will want someone to blame. Categorically it should not be the owners. The two blocks have been owned by two different families for many decades; I think 40+ years. People buy land in order to make a financial return and this is now occurring. I was only informed about the WAPC approval yesterday and spoke to one of the owners about the turtles which inhabit the area. They are now getting an environmental consultant, at their cost, to investigate on Monday.  Hopefully this will be in conjunction with the City of Bayswater’s environmental Officer’s.

If the land is of great environmental significance, then perhaps the City of Bayswater should have addressed this years ago. Buying the block, re-zoning it were all opportunities. Certainly I hope the private ownership was factored in when committing $3 million to the Bird Sanctuary and doing the designs.

Surely the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) and the Department of Environmental Regulation (DER) should have played some role in ensuring the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary is protected as much as possible. The DER have issued ‘a guide to the assessment of applications to clear native vegetation‘ which doesn’t seem to have been followed.  And if true that the DPAW has given clearing permission without any conditions then that is a dereliction of duty. At the very least there should have been a turtle and fauna survey with the aim of relocating the animals to the actual bird sanctuary on the other side of the path.

And as for the WAPC, they need to answer why they feel there doesn’t need to be a buffer between the development and the newly designed Bird Sanctuary. Or perhaps they just don’t care as long as it’s promoting infill and development.

Power to the people.

(Please be aware that these views are my own and have not been endorsed by the City of Bayswater)

Follow Up – 24 July 2016 – Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary – Part Two
Follow up – 8 September 2016 – Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary – Part 3

20 thoughts on “Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary

  1. Losing this small but beautiful swamp and fauna habitat is appalling. The City should have considered purchasing all or even some of this land. Because to destroy this habitat and then allow houses to be built in such close proximity to the Eric Singleton wetland and the pathway which leads to Riverside Gardens is complete planning lunacy.

  2. This is very disappointing. I would be interested to know who is on the board of WAPC. Is it out of the question for Bayswater to approach the two owners and purchase the land from them? Perhaps instead of cash Bayswater could pay by issuing high interest Bayswater Environmental Turtle Bonds !!

  3. The authorities in this city are on a path to rampant destruction of green spaces & irreplaceable wetlands. Councils should be ahead of the game knowing what they know about the WAPC. Creation of up to date Town Plans with extensive community consultation, strong By-laws, low density zoning buffer around sensitive areas, even creating perpetual trusts for our parklands instead of “vesting” in the crown. Senseless destruction in the name of financial gain is the game of the day, & we need good defences otherwise we will forever be belatedly crying over the dirty deeds of government.

  4. Chris, thanks for bringing thesec important facts to my attention. I agree with your statement, “And as for the WAPC, they need to answer why they feel there doesn’t need to be a buffer between the development and the newly designed Bird Sanctuary. Or perhaps they just don’t care as long as it’s promoting infill and development.”

    Is it another example of the selfish interests of a few with the primary motive of financial gain versus what is in the long term interests of the community?

    Let’s leave something for our grandchildren, that we all can be proud of.

  5. Why shouldn’t the owners be blamed, and shamed, for doing something that is so obviously overly destructive in a very sensitive environment? If this were a ‘corporation’ doing something so obviously wrong the ‘digital pitchforks’ would out and be aimed by all against that ‘corporation’, regardless of what the legal situation is. Why should this situation be any different?

  6. Why shouldn’t the owners who are destroying this environment be blamed, named and shamed? If it were BHP, Rio Tinto, or whoever, who were attempting this, and getting away with this, as you say, ‘to make a financial return’, then the gloves would be off and it would be open season on them…but, because it is individual families, why is it any different?

    1. Thanks for your comments Ben. I can give you examples of BHP, RIO etc get away with damaging the environment in their chase for $’s. I see business, and individuals, as having a propensity to seek to maximise wealth. I see it as the government’s job to inhibit this propensity when our environment is threatened. Would the suggestion that the owners not develop the land, which they have been paying rates and land tax on, be similar to suggesting we all sell our houses in order to pool the money and buy the subject land so it can stay as is? So far I haven’t seen anyone offer this, yet it’s been suggested the owners should pretty much do that.

  7. Thanks for your response Cr Cornish. I note you state that you state you were unaware that this land was under private ownership until the recent development application…who then, from the council, was involved and responsible for the relevent due diligence (ie surrounding ‘environments’ and their status, and future potential inmpacts?) when considerable amounts of money was recently (2014, 2015??) spent on these wetlands, and why weren’t the councillors, including yourself advised? I respectfully disagree with your premise that it’s an individual’s propensity to maximise wealth…at what cost? And to whom? And, I re-iterate, why shouldn’t the owners be named, blamed, and shamed for what is clearly an unacceptable development in this area? I suggest that the developers could and would still make a considerable financial gain (perhaps more?…given that increasingly this is what society is demanding) by incorporating appropriate design and buffers that are sensitive to the surroundings?

    1. Hi Ben, It transpires the long-term Cr’s were aware it was in private ownership. Certainly never came up in the last 4 years I have been there – the planning of the redevelopment of the bird sanctuary started before that. I mentioned in the article, “Certainly I hope the private ownership was factored in when committing $3 million to the Bird Sanctuary and doing the designs.” So, I hope between the consultants, Swan River Trust and City staff the design factored in the private ownership of the two super-blocks. We’ll just have to disagree on the bit about landowners rights.

  8. Hi Chris
    If you look at page 11, Clause 9 I think you will see how the Native Veg Clearing Exemption was obtained from DER? Still puzzling over this ‘loophole’ because it strikes me as being quite pro-development.
    https://www.der.wa.gov.au/images/documents/your-environment/native-vegetation/Guidelines/Guide_1_-_Exemptions_and_regulations_for_clearing_native_vegetation.pdf
    BTW I was at the site several times on Monday and I saw no fauna consultants so I think that should be followed up.

    1. Thanks for sharing Mary. Yes, that would be the loop hole, and a pretty big one at that. All the more reason for the WAPC to investigate things a bit more thoroughly their end before approving sub-divisions. This is especially the case when a relevant local government references the environment as a reason to insist on the public open space requirement being used as a buffer zone. I have also discovered that this proposal never even went to the actual WAPC commission members as it is not mentioned in their minutes. This means the approval was dealt with by the staff under some form of delegated authority. FYI, I was there early yesterday afternoon and saw a couple of people down there, will check tonight though that they are working in conjunction with the City.

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