Pitt Town

The sorry state of historic Bardenarang Creek, Pitt Town

Pitt Town local Gordon Douglas was on the phone with me, as he often is. "Nathan, have you seen the state of Bardenarang Creek since the floods? It's terrible!"

That afternoon I went to the famous Friendship Bridge on Pitt Town Bottoms Road to see for myself, and saw the reason for his concern.Repeated floods have left the creek in a very sorry state, with tattered plastic sheets from local farms spectrally draped in all the trees and choking the waterway.

The site has significant historic importance too. This was the site of the very first meeting between europeans and the Darug Aborigines in 1791. When I helped locals pull tonnes of rubbish out of that creek at a Clean Up Australia event a few years ago, I saw local pride in caring for our environment. But this is beyond the ability for volunteer groups to remedy due to the volume of debris and safety concerns.

I've raised this with Council staff to see whether creek-cleanups like this can be scheduled into our ongoing flood recovery works.


Is a Hindu temple appropriate for Pitt Town?

A number of residents have approached me about a development application which was lodged in late November for the construction of a $6.4M temple complex at 95 Old Pitt Town Road, Pitt Town.

The image below should provide some context: In the upper left is the Pitt Town cemetery and in the lower right is Pitt Town Sports Club.

The application as submitted to Hawkesbury council requests permission to

Council's DA Tracker website has the details (use DA0513/19 or the address as the reference). The application has been initiated by a group called Sri Mandir who are based at Auburn. They appear to be a different entity to the organisation who successfully sought permission to build a Hindu temple at Beddek St in McGraths Hill in October 2016. That group is called Sri Siva Jyothi Temple, who are based at Wentworthville.

With respect to the 2016 DA, this occurred during the time when Council was the consent authority. On that occasion I voted against approval, and the public remarks I made as to why are on the public record.

The Hawkesbury Social Atlas shows that at the time of the 2016 Census, the Hindu population of the Hawkesbury was 0.2% (130 individuals), vs 3.5% in the Greater Sydney area.

It would appear that the D.A is for a very ostentatious structure, being multi story and with 67 car parking spaces. The structures are "forward" on the subject block, and close to the road.

The residents who have approached me have expressed a range of concerns about the appropriateness of this development for this site, citing traffic, scale, noise, fire hazard and the effect on amenity. The development sits quite close to Scheyville National Park, as detailed in the Bushfire Assessment Report.

Under changes to NSW Planning, Hawkesbury City Councillors no longer vote on DA's before our Council. These planning powers were removed from many NSW Councils and given to unelected, unaccountable "Planning Panels". I and many other Councillors (Liberal and non Liberal alike) are opposed to this diminution of democracy in our planning laws.

Planning Panels may empanel people with eminent subject expertise in planning matters, but in our democracy, the expertise of public servants must be balanced with democratic accountability to the community.

If a Planning Panel makes an unpopular decision, frequently they have no "skin in the game"-- they can't be voted out by the public, and in some (not all) cases, don't even live in the communities they are affecting by their decisions.

Details about the Hawkesbury Local Planning Panel are at Council's website.

Hawkesbury Council has at least some part to play however. They act to receive and process paperwork related to DA's, and before the Planning Panel meets, will write a staff report either listing the consent conditions that should be applied, or alternatively, recommending refusal and citing the ways in which the DA would be inappropriate in that zone or at that site.

Residents have also expressed concern that the exhibition period, occurring over Christmas, and during a time of significant duress within the community with bushfires, has not afforded people enough time to digest and respond to the proposal. There is also a report (unverified by me) that not all the documentation currently on the DA tracker was made available in a timely fashion.

I think a public meeting should be held so that residents can receive information and understand the implications of this proposal.

As was the case with the McGraths Hill proposal (which curiously has not broken ground on their land since consent was granted in October 2016), I will be happy to support local residents as they seek representation to the Planning Panel, which will meet later this year (date unknown) to consider it.


Pitt Town Road upgrades

Back in August 2017 I joined members of the Pitt Town Progress Association, fellow Councillors and staff on a tour of the Pitt Town area to identify a long list of "action items". High on that list were upgrades to Pitt Town Road that were promised as benefits to the Pitt Town development.

These upgrades consist of the Pitt Town Bypass project, which received a $4.7M boost in the most recent State Budget (and which will be an estimated $8.2M for the whole project), and upgrades to other intersections between Pitt Town and McGraths Hill. I hope the Bypass will have shovels in the ground in 2020.

The most important of these other works is the intersection of Pitt Town Road and Saunders Road. Increasing traffic has rendered this intersection dangerous for some time. I know people personally who have had serious accidents there.

It is pleasing to see these works now underway, but many have asked me why it looks so elaborate, and what all the pipes sticking out of the ground are. I am advised that the pipes mark the location of various underground services such as water and gas.

There will now be dedicated turning lanes when coming along Pitt Town Road, in both directions, for traffic turning into Saunders Road, and for traffic turning into Pitt Town Bottoms Road (towards Lynwood).

Here is a one-page graphic of the works proposed, and below that is a more detailed PDF copy of the plans.

 


Scheyville silos, 2006

The forgotten history of Scheyville and Pitt Town

Scheyville silos, 2006

I value our wonderful history here in the Hawkesbury, and as a Councillor I want to do what I can to help other people get excited about it too. The late Dr Stubbs, when he was on Council was always a wonderful exponent of our history, and wrote extensively on many local topics, as well as being President of the Hawkesbury Historical Society. One subject that was very dear to him was the history of the Pitt Town, Scheyville and Oakville areas, since this is where he (and I) grew up.

Before Christmas, I had the opportunity of attending the graduating parade of the Cadet unit from 336SQN RAAF Richmond. They decided to hold the graduating parade on the parade grounds at the old base at Scheyville as a way of commemorating the military history of the precinct, and it inspired me to complete a project I began nearly a decade ago.

In 1983 Rex and Linda Stubbs completed a book on the history of the Scheyville area, which included key events from the history of Pitt Town as well. This excellent and concise work has been available in Windsor Library ever since, but has been inaccessible to  students, historians and researchers using the Internet, being only available in hard-copy.

It has long been my desire to update, digitise and republish the Stubbs' work, and the school holiday break afforded to me as a teacher has granted me the time to complete this.

It is therefore with much pleasure that I republish electronically, for the first time, Rex and Linda Stubbs' "A History of Scheyville".

Scheyville History book front page

Click the above image for the PDF file.

I owe many thanks to Linda Stubbs for her gracious permission to permit this republishing, and to Kylie Lowe for her editing support.

The book contains several fascinating (and partly forgotten) stories about how the Hawkesbury shaped early Australia; stories which deserve to be more widely known.

Did you know that an early (and failed) experiment in Australian socialism occurred at Pitt Town? If the experiment had succeeded, would Australia have become a Socialist workers paradise?

Did you know about the time that the new Australian government almost literally beat swords into ploughshares by taking money put aside for a battleship and instead spent it on training young British lads to become Aussie farmers? It happened right here.

Did you know about the major military installation, now defunct, that trained young officers such as Jeff Kennett (former Victorian Premier) and Tim Fischer (former Australian Deputy Prime Minister)? Right here in the Hawkesbury.

Did you know that there is an entire ghost town nestled in one of our national parks, which in its day had its own cinema and school, and now abandoned?

If you can, get out to Scheyville National Park one afternoon and walk some of the well-signposted trails that tell the story of this jewel in the Hawkesbury.