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Goulburn Group lobbies to demand restitution for ‘destruction’ of wetlands | Blue Mountains Gazette

The community advocacy group demanded that a developer be ordered to pay compensation for what it called the “environmental destruction” of the wetlands.

The Goluburn Group’s letter to council comes alongside a cleanup notice and a fine imposed on the developer of a 28-lot Torrens residential development in the NSW Southern Tablelands town.

It followed torrential rain on Friday evening which washed away heavily loamy soil from the cleared block below Rocky Hill in the Goulburn Wetlands off May Street. It was the third time such an event had occurred since November, causing frustration and “distress” among wetland volunteers due to damage to infrastructure and the environment.

The council’s director of environment and planning, Scott Martin, said a stop work order from November was still “in play”. No work may resume until new stormwater and drainage measures are in place at the site to the satisfaction of Council.

“To date, we have not been satisfied. The last two rainy events have shown us again that (the controls) are insufficient,” he said.

Now the Goulburn Group (TGG), which launched the wetlands project, has added its voice to what it described as ‘major damage’ to the wetlands resulting from the ‘irresponsible clearing’ of May Street land. Paths and vegetation had been destroyed and water pollution would likely kill fish, reptiles and other species, President Urs Walterlin wrote.

“This was the worst of a series of such incidents that have occurred in recent months,” the letter said.

“It was an imminent environmental disaster, given the indiscriminate clearing of trees and other vegetation on a steep hill.”

“We are appalled that, despite objections and warnings on several occasions, inadequate measures have been taken to prevent what has happened. Wetlands are a major asset to our city, initiated by TGG, supported by the council and created through the tireless efforts of many years of volunteers at Friends of Goulburn Swamplands, the Goulburn Field Naturalists Society and the Australian Plant Society as well as many individuals.

“Our members are devastated by the scale of the destruction. We demand that the developer be held to pay compensation and carry out repair work after an assessment of the damage has been carried out. In addition, we ask the council to ensure that further work is undertaken at the development site to ensure this does not happen again.”

The wetlands turned into a sea of ​​muddy water as more than 50mm poured into Goulburn on Friday afternoon. Photo: Judith Ferneley.

Mr Walterlin said the group started the wetland just over 10 years ago, transforming it from a brick and rubbish pit into a thriving community asset.

The developer did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Martin said that in addition to the cleanup order, which included a fine, his officers were “keeping a close eye” on how it was done.

“We’re concerned about how they’re going to go about it. We want to know the methodology first because we don’t want any further damage,” he said.

The developer had built check dams on site and pumped them out before the heavy rains. Some drainage measures have also been implemented, but Mr Martin said more could be done. This included clean water diversions to stop the heavily silted flow downstream and rock dams to slow the speed and deposit the sediment.

Developers repaired damage to backyards and nearby structures such as retaining walls destroyed by the flood. They also cleaned up the wet areas. But FROGS volunteers were unhappy that excess silty water was pumped into the storm drains that flow into the wetland.

Mr Martin said Monday was the first time the owner had a recognized stormwater consultant on site, but recommendations for action “could be a few weeks away”.

The proponent had also previously been fined for alleged breach of consent conditions surrounding the clearing of vegetation. Mr Martin said controls should have been in place before the vegetation was “stripped”.

The wetland foreshore suffered deep scour following heavy rains last Friday.  Photo: Louise Launcher.

The wetland foreshore suffered deep scour following heavy rains last Friday. Photo: Louise Launcher.

“Instead it was done backwards and they are now trying to run an unmanageable site,” he said.

The development was approved in 2008 but was still “live” due to the actual start-up. Mr Martin previously said Goulburn postthe extent of land clearing would not necessarily be accepted today, due to a change in attitude towards nature conservation.

“The consent we allowed to clean up but unfortunately the way it was done didn’t help,” he said.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I think the developer now realizes that a staged approach to cleaning would have been better.”

Despite the amount of topsoil lost in successive floods, Mr Martin said the council was not concerned about the structural stability of the ground for housing construction.

Meanwhile, a real estate agent removed a sign advertising the housing estate, known as The View, on Wednesday morning. It is understood that all lots are sold.