In a first for Waverley Council, Mayor Sally Betts announced on Facebook that any proposal to build a sub depot at Hugh Bamford Reserve had been abandoned.
The mayor said she had made the decision to take the idea off the table at least a month ago and planned to raise the matter via a Mayoral Minute at the February 9 council meeting.
“I had wanted to wait until the end of the consultation period [February 19] before I announced the decision but when they called the rally I thought it would be irresponsible to allow people to rally against something that would not go ahead,” Councillor Betts said.
“I spoke to a lot of people involved and they asked if I could announce it on Facebook so they could cancel the rally.”
The mayor also used Facebook to counter what she described as misinformation, such as the claim that Hugh Bamford owned the land and bequeathed it to the council.
“The reserve was named after him because he was an active member of the community but it was Crown land,” the mayor said.
“And we had guaranteed Bondi United they’d have an even better playing field so that was never under threat. My comments to date were aimed at dispelling inaccuracies and misconceptions and not a reflection of my personal opinion.”
Cr Betts said the proposal had first come to council under a Green mayor and a Greens/Labor-controlled council.
“It has come back to council on numerous occasions and no vote has ever been recorded against it by any councillor,” she said.
“Now we will withdraw that option. If you put something to the community for consultation, you must be guided by the outcome and the response was unequivocal – the community did not want it.”
In fact the proposal sparked vast opposition, with the community rallying around the Facebook group Hugh Bamford Reserve: HB Protection Group, which attracted more than 2600 members and saw over 600 official objections sent to council. More than 320 people objected in a single day via the Facebook site.
A comprehensive campaign followed, including a BBQ rally with guests Luke Ricketson and Anthony Miniciello of the Sydney Roosters that was cancelled following the mayor’s announcement that the proposal was withdrawn.
Mayor Betts congratulated the group for running a professional and well-coordinated campaign. “It’s the best I’ve seen in my 12 years as a councillor and it’s a sign of true democracy at work,” she said.
Marietta Davis, spokesperson for the Hugh Bamford Reserve Protection Group, welcomed the mayor’s decision and said the group would in future focus on preserving the park.
“We now seek community and council involvement in permanently protecting the Reserve and enhancing its facilities for future generations,” Ms Davis said.
“We hope the council will save time and money in future by doing community consultation early in the planning cycle.”
Greens MP and local Lee Rhiannon thanked the community for its campaign.
“Protecting our iconic coastal areas from industrial development is paramount. This is a win for the community, common sense and the environment,” Ms Rhiannon said.
“The Greens will continue to work with the community, and through Council, to ensure our precious parkland is not sacrificed as a result of ill thought through development proposals.”