Odour Control Unit (OCU)
Updated 15th February 2021
Sydney Water’s OCU blocking completion of Wolli Creek Regional Park
Sydney Water plans to build an industrial plant (an OCU, to control sewer odour and corrosion) on land earmarked long ago for the Wolli Creek Regional Park (below Earlwood) in inner South-West Sydney. The Wolli Creek Preservation Society (WCPS) has led the thirty-year plus community struggle to establish the Wolli Creek Regional Park (WCRP), finally nearing completion.
What will be the outcome of this?
- destruction forever of a lovely natural sandstone cliff face;
- destruction of numerous native plants and their associated habitat;
- loss of an essential link between Wolli Bluff and the rest of the WCRP;
- loss from the Park of a significant area of restorable bushland;
- re-routing of the popular Two Valley Trail (TVT) onto a metal walkway right next to the plant;
- closure of a TVT section for around nine months during construction;
- a jarring modern plant dominating the heritage-listed 1890s South-West Ocean Outfall Sewer (SWOOS), which crosses Wolli Creek at this point.
THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE
- It requires some land acquisition, part already in public hands (a one-off cost).
- The site is easier to build on and has easier access (one-off savings).
- The site has easier access for ongoing maintenance (an ongoing saving).
Why is it being rejected?
Sydney Water’s project team says it is because of:
- Aesthetic impacts on residents nearby;
- Noise impacts on residents;
- Distance from the plant to the sewer line it is to protect;
- Cost of land acquisition;
- Uncertain timetable of land acquisition.
- The aesthetic impacts could be screened given the size of the alternative site and would be much less than those their proposal would have on generations of walkers;
- The noise impacts would be little different as the alternative site is only a slightly lesser distance from residences and could be screened with vegetation or sound barriers, as rail lines and roads are when necessary;
- The alternative site is as close to the sewer line as Sydney Water’s proposed location;
- There are potential land swap arrangements involving SW and DOPIE, which could effectively fund this cost;
- SW has wasted over a year since WCPS first raised its proposal, which has created the time squeeze now put on SW’s timetable.
You can head straight to the petition here or read on for more links to further information.
For a set of maps and photos to show the issue go to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wolli_events/albums/72157710668775052.
Sydney Water has itself determined that its proposal “would not have a significant environmental effect. Accordingly we do not require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).” In its place, Sydney Water has prepared a Review of Environmental Factors (REF). This makes Sydney Water both the proponent and the decision-maker, with no provision for public comment or independent review. Nonetheless the Wolli Creek Preservation Society has prepared some brief Comments on OCU REF.
Sydney Water’s own account of the history and significance of the heritage-listed South-West Ocean Outfall Sewer (SWOOS) are in its Conservation Plan of Management for the site.
A timeline showing the history of the struggle for the Wolli Creek Regional Park, & situating the OCU issue in that context, can be found here OCU and Regional Park 210509
Other developments include:
- WCPS applied on January 22nd, 2021 for an Interim Heritage Order to prevent construction of the OCU proceeding. It can be read via this link: IHO application200122. On May 7, after Sydney Water had announced postponement of OCU construction until early 2022, the Heritage Office replied, for Minister Harwin, that the threat was not imminent, and they were not going to progress the IHO application. They are to “liaise with Sydney Water on cultural values”.
Wolli Creek Regional Park
Most people enjoying the bushland and waterways of Wolli Creek Valley assume that the bushland is already wholly under the protection of a Regional Park (under NPWS). It’s not. Progress has been made, but it has been very slow, and the State Government’s 1998 commitment is still short of being met.
For more information about our campaign to get the Regional Park completed, see the Regional Park page and the OCU issue item immediately above.
Progress in setting up the Regional Park has been very slow, in part because of the complexities of land ownership and the problems of resolving problems with them. There were over 100 different lots within the park boundaries, some of them in private hands. Some required subdivision before transfer, one has sensitive Sydney Water infrastructure across it, and one has minor contamination. And NPWS needed additional resources to enable them to undertake the extensive work involved in surveying, mapping and dealing with the various owners.
Some open space that could have been added to the park or kept as a buffer has been slated for sale to fund the purchase of the various small pieces of private land that have to be acquired to make the park continuous.
Rescued from this fate was Wolli Bluff, overlooking Waterworth Park, with its rugged rock outcrop and splendid array of native plants, which the Department of Planning agreed should go into the park.
Other elements lost as open space and probably to be developed for residences are:
- Open space below Wolli Bluff. Here we have been promised only that a 5m buffer strip will be left and that any building on the site will be limited to single storey.
- Vacant land on the south side of Unwin Street nearby, although a narrow strip at the lowest part of these blocks has passed into NPWS hands – too little even to support a proper riparian zone, let alone allow for a pathway outside that zone.
- A house block that will be subdivided out of a large Dept of Lands block below Hocking Avenue, Earlwood for sale. Here at least we have been able to reduce the size of the block to be sold.
- Private land forming an extension to Highcliff Road, Undercliff.
The bulk of the remaining land belongs to State Government agencies and the City of Canterbury and ought to be transferred immediately. But there are some small portions currently in private hands that will require compulsory acquisition. The gazettal of the bulk of the outstanding land should be the signal for the formal lifting of the road reservation for the M5, something that the Society has been fighting for since its formation in 1984.
Highcliff Road Earlwood
A developer recently purchased a property located at the end of Highcliff Road Earlwood, enabling access to a lower section of three adjacent blocks that he owns that extend all the way down to the creekline. The lowest section of these, which includes the Undercliffe track of the popular Two Valley Trail, has long been designated as land for the Wolli Creek Regional Park under National Parks management.
Canterbury Council recently decided to postpone a long awaited decision to rezone this private land. Immediately after the Council decision, the developer began chain-sawing down trees on the blocks.
The timing of the clearing may just be coincidental, but this deferral decision by Council is a heavy blow. It has been known for years that the lands in question were to be rezoned for inclusion in the Regional Park. The State Government carried out extensive consultations with residents prior to Ministerial approval being given in 2004 to the Plan of Management for the Regional Park. This decision by Council is further evidence of procrastination by both levels of government extending over those twelve years.
Council’s long delays have put recoverable bushland below the cleared area at risk of damage or even destruction, even though it includes mature trees, native vegetation and wildlife. This vital linking corridor should be protected from direct damage or any indirect damage through work on the higher sections.
Henderson St Development Turrella
New twist in Henderson St Development Saga
There has been a series of interesting moves over the proposed industrial units on the creek at 13 Henderson Street, Turrella.
In attempting to meet the pre-conditions for consent set by Rockdale Council, the developers appear to have found that their buildings went over the high pressure ethane gas pipeline. This would prevent them going ahead with the original DA, for which they had the agreement of adjacent property owner Allkotes, subject to other conditions being met. A revised DA was the result, rearranging the buildings to avoid the pipeline without improving the elements of concern to the Society. However this no longer had Allkotes’ agreement, needed to provide the access road on the creek bank that we have so strenuously objected to.
The revised DA has now been withdrawn. At the same time Allkotes has two of its buildings up for sale. These adjoin No. 13 and possibly offer alternative access to the land.
We expect further episodes in this saga, and hope for an improved outcome.
A Development Application was submitted to build 20 industrial units on a contaminated site directly fronting onto Wolli Creek opposite Turrella Reserve near the Henderson St weir. This was given a conditional deferred consent by Rockdale City Council in December 2008. WCPS campaigned strongly against the proposal.
Council also received over 300 letters of objection supporting the Society’s stance, including the owners of several nearby industrial units. See the Society’s submissions on the original development proposal here. See our response to the revised developer proposalhere.
Despite the intrusion of buildings and access road construction well into Council’s own 30m foreshore building-free zone, the development is currently set to go ahead. The developer had until June 2009 to meet three pre-conditions:
- satisfy Council engineers on revised arrangements for on-site stormwater control;
- arrange a right-of-way access across the adjacent Allkotes site to Henderson St;
- submit a risk assessment plan in relation to the ethane pipeline which runs across the site.
If these were met, the developer would then have three years in which to commence development.
In December 2009 the developer submitted a new DA with changes to layout to deal with the pipeline issue and a request to have the deferred commencement extended to five years.
It did not address the issues that were of concern in our earlier objections. The Society sent in a further letter of objection in January 2010. See it here.
In its 2009 approval Council issued a 27-page set of conditions to be met by the construction and no doubt many of these will be repeated for the new application, but whether all of them can be adequately policed is doubtful.
Waterworth Park is outside the revised boundaries of the Wolli Creek Regional Park, close to the junction of Wolli Creek and Cooks River.
In 2005, The Touch Football Association sought Council agreement to an increase in the number of pitches on Waterworth Park, wanting to go up from four to ten pitches.
Late in 2005, Canterbury Mayor Furolo issued a press release indicating expansion of playing field areas and new picnic facilities along Wolli Creek.
This proposal would cost at least $150,000 to level the park, eliminate many mature trees and remove or significantly impact upon the other vegetation, which is important native bird habitat.
The Society developed a preliminary position paper and a set of counter-proposals that included a modest expansion of the vegetated area and extensive bush restoration work to reduce weeds and improve native habitat. This would enable the bush ‘feel’ of the Wolli Track component of the Two Valley Trail to be continued almost to the junction with the Cooks River.
Since then we have been urging the Mayor to commit to the development of a Plan of Management specific to Waterworth Park to ensure that its natural values are enhanced and the competing proposals for its use can be properly addressed. This request was declined. Council intended to address the issue only through any Development Applications that may be lodged.
Current Position March 2016
This all changed in late 2015 when Council discovered that in order to proceed with a proposal for an Archery range on Waterworth Park they needed to have a Plan of Management (PoM) approved by the Minister for Planning. This led to the hiring of consultants to develop the PoM. The Society’s analysis of issues in the preliminary material for the PoM can be found here Proposed Plan of Management for Gough Whitlam Reserve and Waterworth Park
That document references past correspondence with Council, the initial WCPS proposal, relevant maps and aerial photos and a list of these is set out below with links to them.
- cover letter for WCPS proposal Jan 2006
- WCPS position on Waterworth development Jan 2006
- map of CCC proposals for Waterworth Park
- map of WCPS position for Waterworth Park Jan 2006
- Wolli Creek Update Feb 2006 see p2-3.
- WCPS Proposal for Plan of Mgt Mar 2007
- WCPS letter pressing PoM proposal Dec 2008
- CCC letter declining PoM proposal Oct 2009
- aerial shot of Waterworth March 2015
- M’ville report on bridge options Feb 2011
The Future of Wolli Creek
The committee is dealing with many issues related to the future of Wolli Creek with local and State authorities, including the Sydney Catchment Management Authority. We need help on some of these and offers are always welcome.
And we are always seeking information from our older residents with long memories of the valley. If you have any memories or knowledge about this or have research skills to offer you may help us.
Get in Touch
The Society seeks to use members and others in the community to monitor the issues critical to our concerns. If you would like to be a part of this process or want to find out more, please contact let us know at email@example.com and we’ll be in touch.