Archive for October, 2021

The Gully Plan of Pretense 4th Oct 2021

Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

 

Back in 2004, Blue Mountains {city} Council’s pre-existing Plan of Management for The Gully, was entitled ‘UPPER KEDUMBA RIVER VALLEY Plans of Management Covering the Community Lands within “The Gully” Aboriginal Place‘. 

Yes, sixteen words made the title a tad lengthy, so Council bureaucracy abbreviated it to ‘PoM’.  Perhaps ‘The Gully Plan of Management 2004’ would have been just fine for most.    

Our research attests that the 2004 Plan for The Gully sadly is but the 18th report over many decades for this long abused and neglected small valley on the western fringe of Katoomba, increasing surrounded and encroached by profitable housing development.

Council’s 2004 Plan for The Gully was some 105 pages incorporating Council’s defined ‘Community (public) Land’ reserves of the following multiple bushland parcels :

  1. Frank Walford Park
  2. McRae’s Paddock
  3. Selby Street Reserve
  4. Katoomba Falls Reserve
  5. Katoomba Cascades
  6. Plus side watercourse/riperian gullies through Council’s recategorised as ‘Operational Land’ and sold off for profit, namely Katoomba Golf Course and the significant side valley innocuously identified as 21 Stuarts Road, Katoomba

 

All these lands lie directly upstream and feed downstream into Katoomba Falls and the Kedumba River water catchment.   The 2004 Plan was portrayed as holistically recognise, encompass and include the catchment value of entire remnant natural bushland valley upstream of Katoomba Falls (image below).  It was Council’s pretense.

 

Katoomba Falls

 

Yet of the many ‘Management Policies’, ‘Masterplans’ and ‘Action Plans’ that were specified in the 2004 Plan (of Management) over last 17 years Council’s management bureacracy has done precious little by way of implementation of any ‘management’. 

Many of the same bureaucrats involved with The Gully on Council over the years are still there, with increasing remuneration.   Whereas the bulk of funding for remedial works undertaken in The Gully has come from external NSW government grant sources and in most cases the works undertaken by local community volunteers unpaid.   

The 2004 Plan of Management for The Gully was basically filed by Council on the day Council approved the plan.  Council bureaucracy has sat back let others source any funding and conduct reparations.   Recent history confirms after seventeen years that Council was disingenuous about the 2004 Plan and never intended it to be a plan of management, rather just another compliance report for filing, something Blue Mountain Council has proven adept at, paying fortunes to external consultants.

All the while The Gully is but a ten minute walking distance from Blue Mountains Council chambers situated 300 metres away just across the highway.   In Council’s list of management priorities, The Gully may as well be situated in another local government area.  

Indeed, Council’s custodial responsibility has been perpetually avoided ever since 1957 and prior.  Council’s management performance in The Gully and its broader community of support has been characterised environmentally as one of destruction and neglect, and socially as one of contempt, obstruction, hauty recalcitrance, and divide and conquer politics.  From this author’s experiences since 2001, Council’s management bureaucracy has persisted with a culture of contempt for The Gully, and no councillor has dared champion the plight of The Gully’s neglected cause. 

Blue Mountains Council since 1957 has held custodial responsibility for community owned lands known as Catalina Park, Frank Walford Park, then Katoomba Falls Creek Valley and then Upper Kedumba River Valley, all currently referred to collectively as ‘The Gully‘.  The Gully was declared an ‘Aboriginal Place’ in 2002 under Section 84 of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

But Council is selective about what it labels as ‘The Gully’.  Council’s zoned ‘Community Land’ (mostly stilll natural bushland) is a larger parcel that what it identiifies as ‘The Gully Aboriginal Place’ within the entire valley.  You see the holistic natural valley of The Gully extends to the entire water catchment upstream, of Katoomba Falls – basically from the watershed of the Great Western Highway along the northern boundary,  the watershed of Narrowneck Road along the western boundary, and what is Parke Street along the eastern boundary.   Of course, this valley has been long developed by housing subdvision over the decades since colonial settlement in the 1870s and so the natural bushland and riparians zones have been bulldozed for settlement use on the bushland edge of the town of Katoomba.

So the lands that comprise The Gully are somewhat confusing to many.  This suits Council’s management bureaucracy’s agenda to do what it wants.   This author, a local since 2001 has been monitoring and researching Council’s bureaucracy ploys with The Gully and its communities since the late 1940s in the lead up to its 1957 forced evictions of poor people – black, white, brindle. 

 

Council’s review of The Gully’s 2004 Plan is long overdue

 

In 2020, Council stated on its Gully Plan review webpage thus:

“This Plan of Management (PoM) is 16 years old and does not reflect the contemporary cultural values and perspectives held by the Gully community.  Funding from the NSW Government, NSW Heritage Grants – Aboriginal Heritage Projects has been made available to review and update the Plan of Management for the Gully.”

Council began its review of the 2004 plan in 2017.   The bulk of the consultation process to review the 2004 Plan of Management of some 17 years prior was supposed to have be done in 2009, and with annual assessment of the progress of the implementation of Council’s approved 2004 plan, as evidenced as follows:

SOURCE:  ‘UPPER KEDUMBA RIVER VALLEY Plans of Management Covering the Community Lands within “The Gully” Aboriginal Place (Blue Mountains {City?} Council, revised edition 2004, Appendix C: ‘Summary of Relevant Strategies / Policies’, p.101.

 

Well, better late than never.  Council only undertook the plan’s review kicking and screaming in order to comply with NSW Government legislative requirements – and then it did so by outsourcing the task to a contractor and to an external consultancy using ratepayer funding.  The Gully being an Aboriginal Place listed under the National Parks Act 1974, Council reviewed the 2004 Plan and prepared draft Plan of Management for The Gully, following the NSW Government’s Guideline for Developing Management Plans for declared Aboriginal Places 2012.  The review of the 2004 plan was also prepared in accordance with Division 3.6 of the Crown Lands Management Act 2016.   Public exhibition of the draft Plan of Management was required under Sections 38 and 40 of the Local Government Act 1993, which requires not fewer than 28 days for public exhibition of the draft plan.

 

So who is  ‘The Gully Community‘ according to Council officionados?

 

Back in the days of when dozens of concerned local residents in and around The Gully catchment were campaigning to end the invasive car racing (1989 – 2006), those considered informally part of The Gully Community were quite a bush of mixed racial/cultural background that mattered not.   It was just about the cause of cariung for The Valley/Gully.  It included former residents of The Gully (before the racetrack was bulldozed through the valley in 1957), both Aboriginal (mainly of Gundungurra and Dharug ancestry) and non-Aboriginal  and intermarried families, descendants of those residents, subsequent locals living in and around Katoomba Falls Creek Valley, members of local community bushcare and activist group The Friends of Katoomba Falls Creek Valley Inc., and an informal collective know for a time as The Gully Guardians.

However, it is worth pointing out in the interests of transparency that Council’s definition of what it terms “the Gully Community” is unknown.  It is believed to be only Aboriginal people and of those only those holding local Gundungurra ancestry and of those only a select few and mostly a select group of women of Gundungurra descent.   This suits Council bureaucracy – compliant ‘Yes Folk’ to do Council bureacracy’s bidding secretively behind closed doors. 

So in October 2021 just gone, following Council bureaucracy’s selective and secretive consultation process, the latest Plan of Management for The Gully has been finalised.  This is plan No. 19.  But worse, it’s just a plan on paper and follows a sad Council legacy of precious little actioned implementation.   This latest plan has an unbudgeted pie-in-the-sky cost estimate of a whopping $4,742,910 (see summary cost table on page 113 of the 20121 Plan below in this article under ‘Further Reading’).    The focus group consultants must have had their all wish lists out and fueled by a huge budget and extended timeframe.   Council’s outlay for its review process of the 2004 Plan has not been made public – $250,000 perhaps or more?

The Habitat Advocate based within The Gully Catchment in Katoomba, is in possession of both the glossy printed version of the document ‘The Gully Aboriginal Place Plan of Management‘ dated 4th October 2021 of some 145 pages, as well as the digital version of the same title.  The latter we provide a full copy at the end of this article under ‘Further Reading‘ publically available for free to download and print by anyone.  The Gully is after all is gazetted ‘Community (public) Land’, so its plan is by extension, public, not restricted by Council’s presumptive copyrighting.

Council claims that it “consulted extensively in preparation of the Draft Plan of Management (POM), including with Gully families, at NAIDOC week, and with the broader community through an online survey over a period of four months.   The public exhibition of the Draft POM is an important part of community consultation and was open for a period of 60 days, longer than is required (42 days) under the legislation (Local Government Act and Crown Lands Management Act 2016).  The public exhibition period was advertised via media and advertising and closed on 26 July 2021.”

However, once again as in the past, Council’s consultation process was both selective and controlled.    Council only allowed and heard what it wanted to hear.

 

A.   Blue Mountains Council’s Selective Consultation

In  this review process, Council partnered with two favoured groups, being ‘The Gully Traditional Owners Inc.‘ (membership is not publicly available) and ‘The Gully Cooperative  Management Committee‘ (membership is not publicly available).  It is understood that the membership make up of both groups may well be dominated by the same few select individuals.  It is for Blue Mountains Council to disclosed this given that The Gully, whilst in part respected as an Aboriginal Place under the NPWS Act 1974, remains gazatted as Community (public) Lands.

 

B.   Blue Mountains Council’s Controlled Consultation

Between 2017 and 2021 Council published its review of its 2004 Plan of Management.  It published a webpage on the Internet, a subdomain ^https://yoursay.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/gully-plan  It ran a series of advertisements in the Blue Mountains regional Gazette newspaper and posted a number of physical signs around The Gully valley like the one below.   Council termed this its Exhibition Period.

However, all contributions from locals and the broader community was funnelled by Council compulsorily to the above webpage and to be submitted to Council via an online form.  In this way, Council could avoid genuine face-to-face dialogue with the interested community. 

NOTE:  ‘Have Your Say’ is simply outsourced software that is designed for community engagement, so that Council management and staff don’t have to.  ‘Engagement Hub’ is one such software product. 

 

And remember that the NSW Government pandemic lockdown which outlawed normal human face-to face conversation had not taken effect until March 2020.   In this way, Council sought to deliberately avoid genuine and open community exchange and conversation on The Gully and of Council’s intentions for The Gully.   Such aloof  and tokenistic ‘community consultation’ by Council bureaucracy sadly has become the norm by what ought to be local council in power to representative oof local community interests and values.  

Council claims that it has undertaken comprehensive “stakeholder engagement” as part ensuring community participation in the preparation of Plans of Management for this community land known as The Gully.  However, Council’s communications and engagement was restricted to “Aboriginal families of former Gully residents and their descendants, NAIDOC Week participants in The Gully (2018), and to  people who visit and use The Gully through the Have Your Say survey.  The latter was an online form for one way input, not dialogue, and not a forum.

Instead of Council reviewing the 2004 and its implementation or otherwise, Council ignored the 2004 Plan and instead focused on the view of stakeholders on:

  • What’s important?
  • What needs to be protected?
  • How should be The Gully be in the future?

Council bureaucracy’s planning framework and scope for reviewing the 2004 Plan was conveniently restricted to its formal relationship with The Gully Traditional Owners Inc. and within The Gully Cooperative Management Agreement.   

According to Council’s Gully Plan webpage “decisions on whether a suggestion can be included in the Plan of Management (for 2021) is measured against the core cultural values of The Gully as an Aboriginal Place, and whether the ideas are supportive of these core values.  The outcome of this consultation is presented in Chapter 5 of the Draft Plan of Management Talking with the Community. A complete summary of is presented in Talking with the Community Stakeholder Engagement Report – The Gully Aboriginal Place Katoomba.”

Notably input from the broader community and non-Aboriginal ‘stakeholders’ who inputed via Council’s outsourced ‘Have Your Say’ online form and was deliberately excluded. 

There was one other public forum offered by Council, its ‘Public Hearing‘ so-called staged by Council staff and management on Saturday 7th August 2021 by means of online forum via Zoom meeting software.   

This public hearing had in the lead up been promoted by Council as to focus on The Gully’s Plan of Management review.  Keenly, almost 70 individual members of the community enrolled to contribute to the public hearing. 

However from the outset of the Zoom meeting, Council’s outsourced consultant Ms Sandy Hoy was quick to disappoint.  Ms Hoy is principal director of the planning consultancy firm Parkland Planners based in Freshwater on Sydney’s northern beaches – once again Council goes off-Mountains to source its consultants. 

The so-called ‘public hearing’ was distinctly an online forum NOT to discuss the plan of Management, but rather for participants to input into Council’s alternative piece of legislation – Council’s ‘ The Gully Aboriginal Place Proposed Recategorisation of Community Land July 2021‘.

So as toward the end of October 2021, with submissions received, Council  declared “The Exhibition period for the Draft Plan of Management has now closed”.

Council’s final recategorisation document for 2021 was subsequently renamed thus:

 

This is a sneaky and mischievous Council that has form back to 1989 and indeed back to 1957 when it bulldozed Aboriginal settlements in The Gully. 

So this is The Gully Plan 2021, number 19 no less – again set for filing by Council bureaucracy for another decade or so.  

The Gully’s Plan of Pretense No.19.

 

And Council Propaganda on all this?

 

“Thank you to everyone who took the time to make a submission.  All submissions will be analysed and carefully considered as part of the consultation process.  Recommended amendments to the Draft Plan of Management will be conveyed to the Councillors when the Final Plan of Management is prepared for adoption.  This is currently anticipated to be at the 26 October 2021 Council meeting.

SOURCE:  ^https://yoursay.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/gully-plan

 

So contradictorily, on the one hand Council bureaucray’s public hearing staged on Saturday 7th August 2021 was promoted on its flyer to discuss and input into the 2021 Plan of Management,.  But then on the day of the ‘public hearing’ up front Council’s consultant Sandy Hoy instructed all participants that this was NOT to be the focus of the hearing, but purely on some other obscure document about Council’s land recategorisation in The Gully and somehown no related to the 2021 Plan.   Then on Council’s website the comment above reads ..“Thank you to everyone who took the time to make a submission. All submissions will be analysed and carefully considered as part of the consultation process.  Recommended amendments to the Draft Plan of Management will be conveyed to the Councillors when the Final Plan of Management is prepared for adoption.” 

How deceptively mischievous of Council’s community consultative process! 

 

Other points noted on Council’s webpage on The Gully: 

 

  1. Council’s community consultation has concluded with The Gully’s plan version dated 4th October 2021. 
  2. The Gully Aboriginal Place PoM 2021 was endorsed at the Council meeting 26th October 2021.
  3. The Gully Aboriginal Place 2021 Plan of Management was formerly adopted 28 Oct 2021
  4. Council claims that “there are no proposals to sell off, or develop, any bushland or public land within the Gully for private housing.  The Gully is comprised of Council Community land and Crown land classified as Public recreation reserve, as well as a number of Council and Crown road reserve.  In regards to concerns focused on the parcels of 38-46 Gates Avenue:
    1. The 5 parcels of land of 38-46 Gates Avenue are not within the Gully Aboriginal Place area as Gazetted in 2002. The Gully Draft PoM has been updated to include all and only land within the Gully AP area. Hence these parcels were not included in the revised PoM.
    2. The Gully Draft PoM does not propose any change to the classification of Council community land within the Gully AP, (or for 38-46 Gates Avenue). Changes from Community land to Operational Land is a separate process and would require revision of the Local Environmental Plan (LEP).
    3. There are no proposed changes to the land classification, or land categories of the land parcels of 38-46 Gates Avenue. They remain classified at Council Community (13/1-4/L1/2059) and Operational land (13/5/L1/2059) and remain categorised Natural Area Bushland.

 

As for point 4, this is contrary to the land categorisation mapping in the 2004 Plan.  Compare the following two maps of land categorisation.  The first map is in the 2004 Plan on page 7.  The second one is the 2021 Plan on page 25.  Spot the notable differences – the many bushland parcels missing from the 2021 map, notably the 5 parcels of land of 38-46 Gates Avenue on the corer of Peckmans Road near the Aquatic Centre.

 

Council has form over many decades in re-categorising Community Land to Operation Land under its custodianship – Hat Hill Airstrip, Wentworth Falls Golf Course, …

 

Further Reading:

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[1]   The Gully Plan of Management 2021 (Final) , 4th October 2021, Blue Mountains (city) Council), ^https://www.habitatadvocate.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/The-Gully-POM-4-Oct-2021.pdf

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[2]   Council’s Gully Plan, ^https://yoursay.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/gully-plan   [Editor’s note:  This outsourced webpage link is likely to be deleted by Council soon, given that its ‘consultation process’ has concluded]

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[3]   The Gully Plan of Management Report to Councillors, Item 12, 26th October 2021, ^https://www.habitatadvocate.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/The-Gully-Plan-2021-Council-Paper.pdf

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[4]    Gully Plan for 2021 is unbelievably No. 19, ^https://www.habitatadvocate.com.au/gully-plan-for-2021-is-unbelievably-no-19/

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[5]   ‘Have Your Say’ community engagement software, Engagement Hub, ^https://portal.engagementhub.com.au/

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[6]  Parkland Planners, Council’s outsourced planning consultant for its public hearing staged online on 7th August 2021, Freshwater, NSW, ^http://www.parklandplanners.com.au/about-us/people/

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[7]  The Gully Collection, ^https://www.habitatadvocate.com.au/consultancy/the-gully-in-katoomba/the-gully-collection/

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