An Egret & three Cormorants resting on Fatima Island - September 2013.  It's not unusual to see Peilicans, Darters, Gulls, Herons or Spoonbills on the island.

An Egret & three Cormorants resting on Fatima Island – September 2013.   It’s not unusual to see Peilicans, Darters, Gulls, Herons or Spoonbills on the island.

This was the Council Meeting. The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.   Absent: Clr Iskandar.  Note: MC = Marrickville Council.

The Councillors & Wards are as follows – LABOR:  Iskandar/Central, Haylen/North, Tsardoulias/West, Woods/South. GREENS:  Phillips/Central, Ellsmore/North, Brooks/West, Leary/South.  LIBERAL: Gardiner/North, Tyler/West. INDEPENDENT:  Macri/Central, Hanna/South.

Fatima Island Tempe – whether MC has an Erosion Assessment & Remediation Feasibility Study done at a cost of $25,000 –

Speaker 1:  For. I am a local resident & an Ecologist at the University of New South Wales. My doctoral thesis is on biochemical mediated interactions in aquatic communities & I am currently working on a wetland restoration project at Kurnell in conjunction with the Sutherland Shire Council & the Catchment Management Authority.

While Fatima Island is not listed as ‘Ecological Significant’ this does not mean that it does not provide valuable ecosystem services. Indeed if we only concerned ourselves with protecting ‘ecologically significant’ ecosystems, our community would be a very stark & bleak place to live.

The most obvious ecosystem service that Fatima Island provides is that of a bird refuge, but this is only one function of many. There are also intertidal & sub-tidal ecosystems to be considered. While Marrickville Council has undertaken wonderful work with rain gardens & the Tempe Wetlands to improve the health of the waterways, the bacterial communities of the intertidal & sub-tidal ecosystems of Fatima Island also play a part in the health of the river. Additionally the physical structure of the intertidal & sub-tidal region may provide additional habitat or nursery grounds for macro fauna.

There has been a spirited debate on the internet about the fate of Fatima Island over the past few weeks & I would like to place the ‘let nature take its course’ argument into an ecological framework. Yes ‘islands come & islands go’, but islands come slowly, rarely & in undisturbed locations, & I would love someone to show me the latest river island that has developed in the Cooks River, or even the latest river island that has developed in NSW.  And yes, Fatima Island will be affected by rising sea levels, but it will also be affected by changing tidal regimes & lower (and/or) higher rainfall conditions, as well as anthropogenic changes to our water run-off regime.  If the decline of Fatima Island was solely part of the natural cycle, & only being impacted on by ‘natural’ causes, then I would possibly agree with ‘leave it be’ mentality.  But it is not only being impacted on by ‘natural’ processes, & if we take the time to understand the geomorphologic & hydrological conditions around the island, we can plan a restoration that will allow Fatima Island to adjust & adapt to changing climatic & environmental conditions – a concept known as ‘planned retreat’.

Ecosystem function is not the only value Fatima Island has, & others have/will address the cultural & heritage value of the island. It may not be possible to address or save all three aspects of the Island simultaneously, however all three aspects have one thing in common.  Action needs to be taken sooner rather than later.  Recreating ecosystem function is much more expensive & less likely to succeed then preserving what we already have.  Cultural & heritage value cannot be recreated.

Speaker 2:  I did not take notes.  This person spoke in depth about the history of Fatima Island.

Speaker 3: When the Cooks River Valley Association (CRVA) started campaigning about Fatima Island just over 12-months ago, we got a strong response from people who have a history with the island.  In recent weeks this response has escalated, including various community groups – Marrickville Heritage Society, Wolli Creek Preservation Society, Saving Our Trees network, NSW Heritage Network, Catholic Parish at Tempe as well as a strong response from individuals who all see the significance of the island.  CRVA raised concerns that the island was not included in the Biodiversity Strategy or Recreation Strategy.  At the last Meeting of the Cooks River Alliance  CRVA we agreed that a letter be written to the Minister of Primary Industries.  I ask that you endorse spending.

Mayor Haylen:  Move motion to – 1. Receive & note.  2. Include Fatima Island in Biodiversity Action Plan. 3. Recognise that funding is unlikely.  4. Investigate funding opportunities & recognize the island as a significant site.  5. Proceed with spending the $25,000 for the report.  I recognise Clrs have concerns with this expenditure.  I’ve investigated using volunteers with the Tempe Motorboat Association.  We need a proper study done & to put our best case forward about the island’s preservation.  I’ve received hundreds of emails about Fatima Island.

Clr Leary:  I support.  I know some Clrs may be concerned about spending $25,000, but if we put into context, tonight’s demolition of two toilet blocks were budgeted at $25,000 each.

Clr Tsardoulias:  Put up an amendment to delete point 5 of Mayor Haylen’s motion – “Proceed with spending the $25,000 for the report” & write to Sydney Water asking for funding.  It’s the Cooks River.  $25,000 is a lot of money & I’m not comfortable spending this on a report.  The report will say, plant a few trees & leave it alone.  I want the state government to say yes & fix up Fatima Island, the banks, clean up the river & allow canoes.  Fatima Island is not part of my basic services. It’s state government services.

Clr Gardiner:  I endorse the amendment.  My concern is the report will say it needs to be saved & this will cost several million dollars.    I’d like to see a MC report to see if it really is of ecological importance.  We are seeing a very narrow interest group.  We should understand more before we raise expectations.  Clr Tsardoulias just supported spending rate-payers money on 4% affordable housing at the new Marrickville Library site.  It’s not our job to supply affordable housing & it’s not the rate-payers responsibility.

Clr Hanna:  Against the amendment.

Clr Woods:  We need to know what is happening to the island.  It’s not a decision to save yet.  We have been talking about the island for years.  [He then read from a bunch of old newspaper articles about Fatima Island.]  What the Mayor is suggesting is sensible.  I’m supporting the expenditure.

The vote for the Mayor’s amended motion – For: Mayor Haylen, Clrs Woods, Phillips, Leary, Brooks, Ellsmore, Gardener, Tyler & Hanna.  Against:  Clrs Macri & Tsardoulias.   The amended motion was carried.

Five Ibis, one Royal Spoonbill &; one Grey-faced Heron taking a midday break on what is left of Fatima Island, opposite Kendrick Park in Tempe.  October 2013.

Five Ibis, one Royal Spoonbill &; one Grey-faced Heron taking a midday break on what is left of Fatima Island, opposite Kendrick Park in Tempe. October 2013.