Confronting those who prey on the vulnerable

I’ve had a role over the years in raising awareness about cults and their destructive behaviours.

Being interviewed by Ch.9 about cult law reform in Canberra for a national conference in 2011.

Sadly, there are individuals and groups who exploit others, robbing them of their critical thinking faculties, and then their relationships, their money, and finally their dignity. It makes me angry, and it should make you angry too.

Frustratingly, Australian law is ill-equipped to deal with cults. The paradox of our pluralist, postmodern society is that people are entirely free to choose to join groups even when it’s objectively clear that the groups are exploitative, nonsensical, and laughable even while they are sinister.

For a healthy society, the balance between religious freedom and not tolerating those who cynically exploit it deserves to be debated, and refined, every so often. The dilemma was best put by the philosopher Karl Popper, who spoke of the Paradox of Tolerance:

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”

–The Open Society and Its Enemies, 1945

Far from being an attack on religious freedom, it should be accepted that the most damaging thing for the good works of mainstream faiths are the presence of bad religious actors who poison the well.

There is a pressing need for reform of laws relating to fraud, psychological abuse, health regulation and guardianship of the vulnerable. I have been committed to this fight for many years, authoring submissions on behalf of advocacy organisations to the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council, the federal Department of Social Services over a proposed repeal of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, and the Ruddock Inquiry into Religious Freedom concluded last year. I’ve appeared on TV, radio and the Press many times to make my case.

To the degree I have a modest role in public debate, I am committed to continue advocating for these reforms and I seek your support.

On Sunday night, a major exposé was screened on the Channel 7 Sunday Night Program of the predations of a cult called Universal Medicine, led by the creepy Serge Benhayon. “U.M” was founded and has a significant presence in Australia, especially on the north NSW coast.

This exposé comes off the back of a recent, and major NSW Supreme Court victory over Universal Medicine. The fight was won by tireless campaigner, Esther Rockett. I am proud to say I made several donations to the fighting fund that led to this victory, over a period of four years.

I recommend the Channel 7 story to you — it perfectly encapsulates the cult phenomenon, and the need for the community to be better aware of cult tactics. “Dumb” people aren’t the only people who join cults. Smart people at a point of emotional vulnerability in their lives are equally likely to succumb.

If you ever encounter Universal Medicine or any other group showing the same M.O, run a mile. I can put you in touch with community support groups like Cult Information and Family Support (CIFS — I used to be on the Committee and remain a supporter) who can help.

If you have lost a loved one to a manipulative group, be they religious, new age, motivational or otherwise, there is help out there.

Congratulations to Robyn Preston, successful preselection candidate for Hawkesbury

For the last two months the Liberal Party has been engaged in the process of choosing its candidate for our state seat in Hawkesbury.

I put my hand up. Our media policy restricted me from confirming little more than the existence of my nomination, and I have abided by that rule.

Today, the preselection was held and the successful candidate was Clr. Robyn Preston, from Hills Shire Council.

I have worked with Robyn for many years, starting with a time together in the office of Kevin Conolly, the member for Riverstone.

I congratulate Robyn on her successful nomination, and we will work hard to ensure her election and the re-election of the state Liberal government.

What I had to say to our local party members during the preselection campaign helped me reflect on and articulate a lot of what I believe in as an elected representative on Council.

If you wonder what makes me tick, and what makes me so desirous of being a good local Councillor, then this material may be of interest.

I wish Robyn well. She’ll do a great job.

Click below for my campaign brochure:

https://councillorzamprogno.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Nathan-Zamprogno-Hawkesbury-Preselection-Candidate.pdf

And here are three of the short videos I produced which spoke to what I believe.

Commissioner rejects appeal on the Avina Caravan Park expansion

The 2016 story about the opposition to the proposal. Click here to read original story.

There has been a major development in the proposal to massively expand the Avina site, and I wanted to give you an update. 

In October 2016, barely a month into this term of Council, concerned residents approached me over the proposed expansion of the Avina Van Village bordering Oakville and Vineyard.

This caravan park has been a fixture within the local landscape for decades, and is permitted under the RU2 and RU4 zoning it sits in, where most other properties in the area are 5 acres or more — including productive farms.

We have long recognised the utility of a mix of accomodation styles in the Hawkesbury to our tourism strategy. Visitors to our area with a large boat in tow, or a horse float and need for temporary agistment, or maybe even pets that need some space to run about — they all benefit from the availability of this kind of accommodation.

Unfortunately, some developers see in caravan parks a convenient loophole to push through inappropriate development. The proposal Council received in 2016 was to massively expand the Vineyard site from twelve acres to forty-seven.  247 housing lots as small as 223sq.m were proposed. If this had come to Council as a housing development, it would fail at the first hurdle as completely inappropriate for such a rural lifestyle or agricultural zone.

Bizarrely, the proposal was able to be considered because the proposed structures were regarded as “removable dwellings” — like caravans. In reality they are houses, on concrete slabs, constructed on-site from prefabricated panels. It stretched credulity to think of them as portable in the same way as caravans. Nor would they have been constructed to conform to norms relating to energy efficiency, insulation, parking or open space required of any other housing proposal. There were also significant issues relating to public transport, road access and public amenity.

Under changes to planning law in NSW, the proposal was assessed by a JRPP — a Joint Regional Planning Panel. I disagree with planning panels because they remove decision making from democratically elected, and therefore publicly accountable, Councillors. Certainly people approaching me were expecting Councillors to play a role in representing their concerns.

At the planning panel meeting, apart from the mayor (who was on the panel proper), I was the only Councillor that turned up — on this occasion, to put my view as a private citizen and resident of the area. The JRPP rejected the proposal (unanimously), and I regarded this as a good result for the community.

The developer, Ingenia, immediately lodged an appeal in the Land and Environment Court. Since, I have been approached by people in other areas, like Forster, where Ingenia may attempt a similar playbook: Buy a caravan park, lodge a proposal to massively change and intensify its land-use by proposing an intensive housing estate not subject to the usual controls, advertise it as a “seniors living”, propose structures that exploit the loophole of referring to houses as “removable” or “portable” when they are anything but, and then litigate when communities push back.

I am not opposed to some adaptive reuse of land, and I’m not opposed to increasing our area’s stock of over-55s living options. However, I do object to inappropriate developments in rural areas that exploit loopholes that really should be closed in our planning instruments.

After a long delay and a failed mediation with Council, the matter was heard in the Land and Environment Court on 29 – 30 October 2018 by Commissioner Susan O’Neill. The evidence heard included testimony from 7 residents affected by the proposal. Hawkesbury Council were the defendants, despite the fact that the decision had been made by a planning panel and despite the fact that Council’s own report to the planning panel was to approve the development — an unwieldy feature of the new laws — A Council can put a view, be overruled by a Panel, and then have to defend the Panel’s ruling in court.

The Commissioner considered these fundamental issues:

•   Whether the proposed development satisfies the objectives of the RU4 Primary Production Small Lots zone under the provisions of the LEP 2012;
•   Whether the scale and density of the proposed development is appropriate having regard to the character of adjoining rural properties and the rural locality;
•   Whether the proposed development should be granted consent having regard to Clause 10 SEPP No.21 – Caravan Parks, with particular regard to whether community facilities and services, including public transport, retail and schools are reasonably accessible to the occupants of the proposed development; and
•   Whether the proposed development provides for adequate physical separation from adjoining land.

Today (7th November), the Commissioner rejected Ingenia’s appeal. Click here to read the judgement. It stated

The orders of the Court are:

The appeal is dismissed.

Development Application No. 0685/16 for the staged alterations, additions and expansion of an existing caravan park to accommodate an additional 208 long term residential sites is refused.

(Link to judgement)Hawkesbury City Council won. The development is dead in the water.

This is a pleasing vindication. What do you think?

I join Dan Hannan in defence of the Enlightenment

There are too few genuine role models in politics. Tonight, I got the chance to meet one of mine.

Years ago I discovered the writings of, and then the many videos of Dan Hannan, one of the United Kingdom’s elected representatives to the European Parliament. I was hooked.

 I aspire to speak and to persuade clearly, robustly and intelligently. I have become therefore a life-long student of those who communicate well. If I model myself on anyone in this aspiration, I model myself on Dan Hannan, and on my other hero, Christopher Hitchens. These two are polar opposites on some questions, but as Hannan reminded me tonight when he quoted John Stuart MillHe who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.

Hannan is, in my mind, one of the most brilliant orators in conservative politics. When I discovered he was attending a Sydney function at the invitation of the Centre for Independent Studies, how could I resist?

His topic was “How identity politics is undoing the Enlightenment”. He made the point that western society is turning its back on the very basis of modernity when we judge the validity of an argument by some phenotypic characteristic of the speaker (such as race) or ethnicity, rather than the argument’s intrinsic merit. 

He skewered the doublethink professed by many competitive virtue-signallers when he pointed out that many of the great rights-crusades in history were predicated on the desire to treat people equally (such as for suffrage, or racial equality), but that social reformers today have lost their way, seeking to see certain viewpoints privileged precisely on the basis of the perceived minority status of their exponents.

His discourse, which also roved over the UK political landscape and the issue of Brexit, proved to be a great night. Dan was very generous to me when I buttonholed him and gushed like a schoolgirl.

I leave you with one of Hannan’s virtuoso performances at the Oxford Union, and this audacious claim: We should prefer, in our public representatives, either the ability to speak like this, or at least those with the aspiration to do so. Too many whom we accept into our parliaments simply cannot, and neither stir the heart nor persuade the intellect. And that is why the broader public become cynical about politics.

Road Safety and Schools

Representatives from all tiers of government inspect the pedestrian safety issues at Ebenezer Public School, including Principal Luke O’Brien, P&C members Jodie Black, Rochelle Miller, Rachel Kousal and Gordon Eckel, plus people from the RMS and the Police.

This morning I visited Ebenezer Public School to view the concerns school parents have raised about road safety. The school, adjacent to busy Sackville road, is buzzing with passing vehicles morning and afternoon.

What I saw amply justified the case put to me. Traffic counts done in February showed 65% of vehicles were exceeding the limit of 40km/h during scheduled slowdown times. Several vehicles were clocked at over 100km/h. One in five were heavy vehicles.

What the school needs is a better pedestrian crossing, or an adult to moderate the pedestrian flow. I saw a bus zone big enough for one bus, while two buses arrived and the second hanging out into the street, further blocking visibility. A BMW with a ‘P’ plate growled past — a parent standing next to me issued an expletive; “That muppet hoons past here all the time and never slows down.” He adds “We’ve had too many near misses. It’s only a matter of when, not if, there is an accident.” While he spoke, I witnessed ten year olds shepherding six year olds across the road. Shortly after, a vehicle brakes so heavily at the crossing that smoke comes off the brakes.

Ebenezer School traffic.

Requests for new measures have been denied. In my view, this is not good enough.

The threshold for new measures is a vehicle count of 300/hr and 50 unattended children crossing, morning and afternoon. The numbers compiled by the school fall just short of this count — and usually only in the afternoons. A petition has been presented to the State Member with 1500 signatures — extraordinary for a school with 134 kids.

And by the way, these thresholds are state-wide, meaning a school in the inner suburbs on a main highway has its needs determined by the same formula as remote schools, which is unfair.

Sense should prevail. Ultimately, the Minister for Roads (Pavey) should work with the State Member to grant an exemption for the necessary thresholds and allocate funding for a traffic supervisor (that’s a lollypop person to you and me) morning and afternoon.

I will continue to advocate for this.

Op Ed: The commercialisation of national icons

I read once that there’s an ancient tomb in Rome inscribed with a plea: ‘Bill-poster, I beg you, pass this monument by. If any candidate’s name is ever painted here, may he suffer defeat and never get an office.’

Strangely, that’s what I recall when I see the commentariat, furious this week over the use of the Opera House sails to advertise an event; in this case, a horse race.

Some of the swirling outrage says we live in a competitive commercial culture, and the Opera House is an international icon ready-made to boost an event that’s just as economically significant as Vivid, the Wallabies, the Ashes, or the Olympics; each of which have been projected on the sails.

Others say it’s a desecration of a world heritage landmark, and that the Opera House is not a billboard, and asking if stewards would permit advertising on the Statue of Liberty, or the Eiffel tower, or Big Ben?

But if that’s the basis of their objection, how ignorant of history these people are! The designer of the Statue of Liberty, Bartholdi, licenced his design’s likeness and flogged it mercilessly to advertisers. The Eiffel tower carried the word “Citroën” in lights from top to bottom for years. And even Big Ben has been lit, although a distinction should be drawn between sanctioned commemorations like Remembrance Day, and guerrilla marketing campaigns who projected onto the landmark without permission (usually late at night) to create a media storm.

A political cartoon from Puck Magazine, circa 1880s, entitled “Let the Advertising Agents Take Charge of the Bartholdi Business and the Money Will Be Raised Without Delay.” (ref.)

So despite the ABC’s conclusion that this is an “exquisitely Sydney stoush over the city’s premier billboard”, this teacher of history sees today’s debate as old, old news.

However, don’t think I’m making excuses — The fact that it’s happened forever doesn’t mean it isn’t in poor taste, and I want to be clear: this is.

My view is to lament that society is losing its ability to feel an aversion for the crass, which my Oxford defines as ‘lacking sensitivity, refinement or intelligence’.

Do you remember when over a century of tradition surrounding the Sheffield Shield was flogged off for branding by Pura Milk, a Filipino food multinational? Or when the Melbourne Cup was flogged to Emirates, a $37 billion airline conglomerate owned by the government of the UAE? That nation has an appalling human rights record, and where, for what it’s worth, gambling, with the exception of horse racing, is illegal. Oh, the irony. Or when the naming rights for Sydney’s Olympic Stadium was flogged to Telstra, and then ANZ?

These branding opportunities undoubtedly made sound commercial sense. They may have boosted the profile of the events or venues, or enlarged the prize pool, or negated some need for sponsorship by government or through ticket sales. But the cost to the dignity of our society is high.

We saw a similar thing when Woolworths tried to use ANZAC images to sell groceries, or when Coopers Ale tried to do something ‘woke’ by placing their beer in an advertisement about same-sex-marriage. They both copped a serve for it, and deserved it.

Here’s what they have in common: It’s crass.  And people are right to pull a face, and lament why it isn’t seen as obvious that some things should be off limits for commercialisation, regardless of the airtight spreadsheet-logic behind it.

I agree with our Premier that using the Opera House sails to promote this event is will be noticed around the world – the advertising value will be huge and there’s no denying it. And equally, I’d tell her that it’s a tasteless and demeaning gesture, and it should never have gotten past the thought bubble stage.

I’d like to know what you think.

We have a new Mayor!

It is timely to have a word about tonight’s vote for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

I witnessed some truly awful behaviour from the gallery in Council, so this is where I stand.

The Liberal Councillors are four among twelve. We collaborate as best we can. But in this term, having no majority, our lot is limited to choosing the least worst from options put before us by others.

We all know the pendulum will swing back some day. My job is to ensure that the Liberals deserve a majority at the next election, and never merely assume it as a right. We accept our accountability.

Tonight, knowing no Liberal could secure the role, I made a choice between the two candidates.

Mary: Vivacious. A great grass-roots networker. Broad minded. Compassionate. Mary has brought a flair and energy to the office of Mayor that had been missing for a long time.

Barry. Quietly spoken, deliberative, policy-and-outcome focused. I’ve witnessed Barry to have a depth of experience borne of 19 years in local government which has earned my respect.

I have nothing to bad to say about Barry or Mary. I enjoy a friendly relationship with both, and I accord them (as I do all my colleagues) the courtesy of believing they are honourably motivated to serve the community.

So I chose Barry. I didn’t choose on the basis of Party. Indeed, it was in the face of enmities others assumed we should hold against each other.

I didn’t choose on the basis of some “deal”. There wasn’t one. Those present observed unanimous support for an open vote and not a secret ballot. There was no “quid pro quo” as some said — everything was out in the open. 

Sadly, we got to witness another Labor Councillor and now state candidate, presumably bound by his party’s constitution to vote for his leader, betray that for all to see.

Here’s some unwelcome free advice: You do nothing to advance the case for your party’s ascendency to State government by joining their team and then knifing your colleagues before you even hear the starter’s pistol.

 If you want to know what a return to State Labor would look like—there it is.

Anyway, the Liberals made the choice that seemed least-worst for our community for the next two years. No vendetta. No Machiavellian intrigues. Just an opportunity to tweak the team and knuckle down and make the best out of the remainder of this term.

I congratulate our new Mayor Barry, and I thank our outgoing Mayor Mary for her service.

I have few illusions, of course. Labor supported the rate restructure that made our rating system less fair. And Labor supported the Special Rate Variation that will hike all our rates by nearly a third, because left-leaning governments will always raise taxes. Tonight’s vote does nothing for those who are rightly aggrieved by a system that has doubled or tripled their Council rates over the last two years. If you want the system to be fairer again, vote Liberal.

A spread of views in an elected chamber is what makes democracy work. We may contend passionately over differences of policy, but tonight some people got very angry, and personal, and cruel when they were displeased at the result. This has spilled over into social media, and in addition to juvenile tit-for-tat, some serial pests have infringed on the personal safety of Councillors, including women and children, and have made unfounded allegations about the conduct of Councillors for vexatious intent.

Let me be clear: This crosses a bright line, and it must stop. The twelve Councillors met specially to discuss this last week and we all agreed unanimously that the conduct of some trolls has gone too far.

Regardless of whether you support or oppose one side or another – argue passionately about ideas and values, but don’t be an asshole to another human being. I won’t tolerate it on any forum I moderate, and my challenge should sound familiar: you endorse any behaviour you walk past.

Please, be kind.

Demanding clarity on the future of the Hawkesbury

(Edit– 27th June: The motion I put to Council on the 26th passed 11 votes to 1. Audio of the debate can be accessed below:)

Original post:

The whole messy process that has unfolded since March about road corridors has brought the issue of development in the Hawkesbury into focus.

Everyone can see the  massive surge of housing and commercial building that has marched down Windsor Road and is now knocking on our door. Indeed, some of this urban development is even now in our Council area, because the “Vineyard Precinct” of the North West Growth Sector (NWGS) is within the Hawkesbury City boundaries.

Residents and landowners on acreage properties adjoining the NWGS are justified in their concerns that this development will eventually overtake them as well. Everyone is entitled to some certainty about their future on the land, which includes some of the Sydney basin’s diminishing stock  of prime and currently productive agricultural land, plus remnant Cumberland woodland.

As a Councillor, I’ve tried to apply pressure to planning officials with the State Government to be honest and co-operative about what the long term future of these areas are, largely defined by the suburbs of Oakville, Maraylya, Vineyard, and even parts of Pitt Town and Cattai.

What I’ve received are mixed messages, and this isn’t good enough. Some of the documentation associated with the Outer Sydney Orbital hints at areas “north of the Vineyard Precinct” for some kind of industrial use. The “SEPP”, a planning zoning that makes the NWGS possible, actually encompasses a far larger area that the current development. Speculators — real estate types and developers — are fomenting rumours about currently rural areas being re-zoned for future development and this is inflating prices, which inflates land value, which inflates your rates. I’ve said more about this in the video I made about the corridors proposal. Check it out.

The consequence is a persistent sense of dread, and an inability for residents to know what their future looks like, even while they are being rated out of existence on the properties that they bought with a working wage, and wanted to retire on.

Council has a particular responsibility here. Later this year we are renewing what’s called our “Residential Land Strategy”. This exercise will set out Hawkesbury Council’s desires for what areas will take what degree of development over a longer timeframe. Regardless of where you sit on the question of growth, Council needs to manage what could or should happen, and where. Here is the link to the current strategy, adopted in 2011.

In the RU2 and RU4 zoned acreage properties in the south eastern part of the city, our choices could range from “no change”, to “detached dual occupancy” (meaning two houses on a five acre lot, but under one title), to “large lot rural subdivision” (like we see at Windsor Downs, with block sizes at a minimum of one or two acres), and then upward through a range of subdivision options that resemble what we see on the eastern side of Boundary road. I am emphatically not in favour of that outcome.

However, for Council to deliberate well, we deserve clarity from a range of state government departments, including the Department of Planning, Transport for NSW, and the Greater Sydney Commission. And of course, the public also have a right to know, and my gut feeling is that we have not had full disclosure from these agencies.

I am therefore moving the Notice of Motion you see below at the Council meeting next Tuesday (26th June), and I invite you to spread the word, come along, and register your support for this call for honesty and clarity about what the government’s long term plans are for our homes.

Notice of Motion - Development outside the NWGS

The BLOR and M9/OSO Corridors, Part 2

This post is the second of two in response to a proposal to create two motorway and rail corridors through the Hawkesbury.

The first video provides some historical context to the broader phenomenon of State and Federal governments foisting large projects on unsuspecting communities. The challenge of balancing long term planning and the impact on individual communities has frequently been botched, and I cited the history of corridor sell-offs, and earlier proposals for airports, prisons, dumps and new suburbs, by both major political parties, as salutary examples.

What follows is a transcript of the video, with documents referenced on-screen linked or inserted as needed.

TRANSCRIPT:

In the first video, I provided a small history lesson about the litany of misguided schemes that governments of both hues have cooked up over the decades for the Hawkesbury, and how each one, after a fight from the community, was scuttled, and the government of the day had their asses handed to them, on a plate.

Today, let me be far more specific about the current corridor proposals. This video is also a part of my submission to Transport for NSW.

Point 1:  Both these corridor proposals are equally bad.

It is true that the Bells line of road corridor has gained more publicity here in the Hawkesbury, including through a very well attended meeting at Clarendon showground a few weeks ago. But the fundamental problem of both corridors are the same.

Both corridors divide rural communities, destroy productive agricultural and equine lands, diminish visual amenity, endanger ecological communities and threaten the futures that families thought they had by buying homes outside of what I call ant-nest Sydney.

And both corridors suffer from the deficiencies of process that have landed these proposals on unsuspecting voters, without sufficient community consultation, without  enough knowledge of the options to make meaningful contributions to the debate, and in a time-frame that is far too short.

The community has had barely 8 weeks to inform themselves and organise to have their say on  projects that may happen decades from now. What’s the rush?

Point 2: The River crossing has to be back on the table

We are free to speculate that the government will change its mind about the Castlereagh corridor. It may default to the original 1951 alignment, and it may choose to stop at the Hawkesbury Nepean river instead of crossing over it.

If that’s the case, then the question of an extra crossing of the river must be back on the table.

I always believed that only someone as major as the M9 could deliver what we’ve always needed – a new crossing of the Hawkesbury Nepean River, somewhere between North Richmond and Wilberforce.

The BLOR/ Castlereagh corridor (purple, at left) and the M9/ OSO corridor (blue, at right), and the floodplain. Castlereagh is a long way from where traffic relief is needed, which should be between North Richmond and Wilberforce

It turns out that we got proposals for two corridors, and neither delivered. The briefing Council received on the Castlereagh corridor actually suggested that it would help alleviate traffic on Windsor Road, by putting a new crossing of the river at Castlereagh, more than half the way to Penrith. Bollocks!

But what  a huge political win it would be for the party that redirected the M9 along, say, the south creek floodplain, crossed the Hawkesbury river downstream of Windsor bridge, and joined it to the Putty road, providing a link to both the Hunter and Newcastle as originally intended.

An alternative route that would cross the South Creek floodplain and cross the Hawkesbury River downstream of Windsor.

Point 3: Why are both corridors roads to nowhere?

The Bells line corridor is irrelevant unless there is a major amplification of Bells line itself west of Kurrajong Heights and over the range. There isn’t anything like a compelling case for this given that billions have been spent over the last two decades to upgrade the Great Western Freeway.

A summary of the major capital works spent on the Great Western Highway.

And the M9 corridor konks out at Maraylya. Here’s what the terrain looks like between there and Newcastle. Mountainous terrain, National parks, wetlands, another major crossing of the Hawkesbury River, and well downstream, so the river is broader and deeper.

The terrain north of Maraylya is hilly, heavily forested, and crosses both the Hawkesbury at a location that is deeper and wider than Windsor, and passes through National Parks

If there’s little prospect of the corridor being driven north of Windsor Road, why endure the political pain of taking it even that far?

Point 4: Why is the government’s material contradictory and incomplete?

Why do the government’s press releases and maps state that the corridor passes through Box Hill?

The Outer Sydney Orbital brochure referencing the corridor as passing through Box Hill. You’d think they could name the suburb correctly.

Below, the area in purple is Box Hill, in the Hills Shire, and on the left is the corridor. They are not the same.

Why does the draft EIS reference the M9 corridor as only running from Windsor Road and south to the Hume Highway at Menangle?

Why is the vegetation study in the draft EIS so incomplete?

I’ve created a tool in the program  Google Earth. The online map that Transport for NSW provides is difficult to navigate and doesn’t allow you to leverage other geographical datasets and overlay them on the corridor.

This overlay I’ve created allows you to see the Hawkesbury ends of both corridors and toggle them along with other useful data, like alternative routes and a vegetation study.

There’s a link to this overlay at my website, along with a longer video tour of what it shows. All you need is the Desktop version of Google Earth for Mac or Windows, and that’s a free program.

Nobody else seemed to be doing this kind of analysis, so I thought I’d do my bit.

What you can see here is the area of the M9 north of Windsor Road, in Oakville, Vineyard and Maraylya. Here is an overlay of the vegetation study map that appears on page 96 of the OSO Draft EIS dated March 2018.

The northern extent of the proposed M9 corridor overplayed on the vegetation study created by Transport for NSW.

This looks a little muddy, but the green areas represent “Threatened ecological communities” and the hatched areas represent “Cumberland Plain Priority Conservation Lands”. Even from this map, it’s obvious that the M9 corridor goes through threatened ecological communities.However, what concerns me more is that this map is incomplete.

The northern extent of the proposed M9 corridor overlayed on the vegetation study created by the National Parks and Wildlife service. This shows that TfNSW have vastly underplayed the significance of the remnant Cumberland woodland (specifically, endangered shale forest) in the corridor area.

Here is a 2002 map from NSW National Parks overlayed on the same area. It shows many more stands of Cumberland Shale Forest – areas that just don’t appear on the Transport for NSW Map. And it’s not because there has been mass deforestation since 2002 – the amount of tree cover in this area has remained pretty constant over the years, precisely because landowners look after them as rural lands.

If I toggle the layers, you can see a huge difference. The draft EIS has massively underestimated the tree cover, and the conservation value of the lands under the M9, and it seems apparent that the BLOR corridor study suffers from the same defect.

Point 5: What is the future of this part of the Hawkesbury anyway?

The government can’t have it both ways. It says it needs to reserve this corridor through the area because of future land use pressures. But this land is currently zoned rural, for acreage properties.

Here’s the property on the corner of Old Pitt Town Road and Speets road – part of the Sydney basin’s diminishing store of productive agricultural land. It’s also smack bang underneath the M9 corridor.

Here’s a map you’ve probably never seen. The red area is the area defined by the current North West growth sector. The part that’s in the Hawkesbury is this bit south of Commercial Road and Menin Road.

The outer dashed line represents the outer boundary of what’s called the SEPP – it’s the planning instrument that makes the North West Growth sector possible. It encompasses a much larger area – all of Oakville, the rest of Vineyard, most of Maraylya, and parts of Mulgrave and McGraths Hill.

Why stick a fuse in something unless you’re going to light it? We already know large chunks of land inside the dashed boundary, but outside the North West Growth Sector, are already subject to development, like this huge area north of Old Pitt Town Road. When will the other shoe drop?

Hawkesbury Council will be reviewing its Residential Lands Strategy later this year. I grew up in Oakville, and live there still.  My heart is to protect our rural amenity and provide a buffer between the development at our door, and our agricultural lands, the National Park, and the remnant Cumberland Woodland that still exists outside the boundaries of the park.

But as an elected representative, I have to weigh what is best for the whole community. If there has to be development in the Hawkesbury, this is the area closest to Windsor Road, closest to the new rail infrastructure, not subject to the pinchpoints of the river and its inadequate crossings, and relatively flood free.

I’m calling on the state government to be honest with the community and to tell us if there are any plans to subdivide land outside the current growth sector boundaries.

For example, there’s this from the OSO Draft Strategic Environmental Assessment, which says:

The Growth Area LUIIPs have assumed that the recommended corridor will be formally identified in the future, and will inform more detailed planning for precincts yet to be rezoned. For example, the DPE is considering land immediately north of the Vineyard Precinct as providing future opportunities for employment and industry related to the future OSO infrastructure, with detailed planning to commence once the location of the recommended corridor is formalised.

The areas north of the Vineyard Precinct are in Oakville and Maraylya, and are currently zoned “Rural”. Questions I have asked of departmental officials about the long term future of Oakville, Vineyard and Maraylya have been met with silence.

A map of the Vineyard Precinct. Note the lands to the north are zoned “Rural”

Point 6: Why weren’t we told?

Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres made much of saying that the announcement of these corridors was already the culmination of plenty of consultation with the community. Bollocks.

Here’s a glossy document that came out in 2014, three years ago, titled “A plan for growing Sydney”. And in that document is the only map I’ve ever seen that shows, before this announcement in March, where the corridors may have been.

“A Plan for Growing Sydney” (p14), released December 2014

It clearly shows the possibility for these corridors to affect Castlereagh, Grose Vale, Yarramundi, Bowen Mountain, Kurrajong in the west; and Oakville, Maraylya and Vineyard in the East.

No one I have spoken to in any of those communities were consulted. Not one. And not Hawkesbury Council, to the best of my knowledge.

Point 7: There are plenty of alternatives.

I’m not a town or transport planner. Maybe you are. But why has the government placed one option for each corridor before us, and left it to us to suggest alternatives?

I feel inadequate to the task, but here are some starters.

Stop the corridor at Windsor Road.

This option has the M9 corridor ending at Windsor Road.

Follow the South Creek catchment and cross the river downstream from Windsor (see map above)

Follow the alignment of the North West Rail Line extension corridor.

Or, there’s this proposed solution from a road lobby group, Roads Australia.

Lastly,  the funds could be diverted into local road solutions.

Point 8, and my last: Do not forget the political dimension.

I am an elected Liberal, and statistically, most Hawkesbury voters are Liberal voters. This isn’t a left-right thing – my last video showed you a long list of awful thought bubbles foisted on us by past governments of both hues.

But I lament that the bad way in which this issue has been handled by an otherwise praiseworthy state government has given a huge free kick to our political opponents.

The government has made a mistake in both these corridors. I can’t find it in my heart to attribute to malice what can easily be explained through stupidity.

The government simply needs to step back, realise it may well lose the next State election if it keeps this up, and without ego, change its mind – just as it was mature enough to do on the question of council amalgamations, greyhound racing, and stadiums.

I think it’s actually the mark of a good government to put things out there and then really heed criticism. It needs to do that now, because the damage has already been done.

Even if you’re watching this after the deadline for community submissions, which is June 1st, please let me encourage you to keep the pressure up, especially by calling and writing to the office of your state member of parliament, Dominic Perrottet, Stuart Ayres, and the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian.

My name is Nathan Zamprogno, and these views are my own. They are not Council policy and they are not the “Liberal Party line”, whatever that is. I’d love to know what you think.