Opinion by ANDREW WOODHOUSE
“Bzzz bzzz.” Hear that?
That, dear readers, is the hum of a “bee hotel” coming to a park near you in Lawrence Hargrave Reserve, Elizabeth Bay, if Sydney’s Lord Mayor and Queen Bee, Clover Moore, has her way.
Lock up your children. A 24-hour, 7-day bee hotel is not a honey-making hive or apiary. And it is not a normal hotel where guests stay temporarily, check-in and pay for their accommodation. In fact, a bee hotel mimics natural bushland settings where scattered, pithy stems and holes in timber logs are used as bee nests or homes.
Much to the chagrin of locals, Sydney Council’s new master plan for the historic Lawrence Hargrave Reserve, opposite the Kings Cross Police station, proposes a bee hotel and other alterations right next door to apartments and open play areas.
This idea has been tried overseas and has caused vexed complications.
Bee “hotels” reduce biodiversity
In Paris’ Jardin de Luxembourg sits a bee home. Allergies, risks of anaphylactic shock and bites have conspired to create resentment and calls for a halt to any more such “hotels”.
A recent article titled “Stop Putting Hives Everywhere!” in France Inter complained there were too many bee homes in Paris. The article quoted Dr Isabelle Dajoz, an ecological biologist and researcher at L’université Paris Diderot, who claimed new bee colonies have dramatically reduced biodiversity.
Mr Doug Purdie, Founder, The Urban Beehive, says “it’s against the beekeeping guidelines to have beehives close to … public spaces”.
This isn’t stopping Clover Moore’s bulldozer ethos.
Her plans were unveiled at last week’s so-called “consultation” meeting, really a fait accompli instruction assembly at the local Rex Centre.
Plans will be rushed through and approved after Christmas. There will be no development application, Environmental Assessment or Heritage Impact Statement and no publicly accountable tender process. Council refuses to say, or simply doesn’t know, how much it will cost, but it does seem cleverly convenient that it may be completed just in time for a look-at-me ribbon-cutting event before next year’s Sydney Council elections on Saturday 12 September.
The Reserve does have historic and social heritage significance. Its indigenous title is Bujari gamarruwa. It is named after the Australian pioneer, aviator and inventor, Lawrence Hargrave (1850-1915). His image was on the reverse of our twenty-dollar note from 1966 to1994. He lived nearby at 40 Roslyn Gardens from 1885-1893. Some of his most important work was carried out in his workshop at the rear of the house. This included his famous box kite, a sort of para-glider. In 1894 he moved to Stanwell Park where he launched his kite on its historic flight five metres above the beach.
Council’s Reserve design does not acknowledge its heritage significance. There will be no sculptural elements or interpretive features about Hargrave. Apparently, not even the original brass plaque from South Sydney Council’s opening in July 1991 will be retained. Nor will the memorial wall and brass plaque in memory of those who died in the Sea King (SK 50) helicopter disaster be kept, although the recent community meeting was led to believe this would remain in some form somewhere in the park.
This doesn’t gel well with the public statement by council’s landscape architect, Edwina Morris, who is quoted in City Hub, May 2018, as saying council will “respect the existing uses for the park … and integrate with them in … the Reserve”.
The costs to date of the community garden beds are $100,000.
“Intrusive elements” in Council plan
Council’s plan incorporates more intrusive elements such as three more community garden beds. To access the community garden users are required to pay a fee.
There will be a new club room of unspecified design and scope, and even – wait for it – an outdoor ping pong table! How this works or who provides the bat and balls, is unclear. Some heritage-style bench seats with their comfy, curvaceous wooden backs and stylish Art Deco arms with council crests will remain. They are part of the local bench design policy that is evident in the nearby Fitzroy Gardens and St Neots Reserve, but council’s overriding, official seat policy is for “a range of seating”.
It’s all top-down arrogance, ignorance and negligence, some say.
Council is in a rush, for whatever reason, to get this project completed ASAP, so public exhibition of the design is on its website only until next Tuesday, 3 December 2019.
Normally, such schemes are upfront on council’s “Your Say” section of its website. In this case, they are embedded in another section, just to make things harder, and located in the “Park and Playground Upgrades” section, then follow the links.
Or you can simply email firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
After all, whose council is it? Theirs or ours?