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Marrickville Golf Course

Inner West Council has given notice that they intend to remove & work on trees located in Marrickville Golf Course.

Council says it plans to do the following –

  • “Tree removal– includes the removal of several dead trees or trees present significant defects and/or structural issues.
  • The creation of habitat trees– where trees are reduced down to safe limbs and boxes and hollows are created for use by native fauna.
  • Tree pruning– to remove defective or dead branches to reduce risk.”

Council do not give the location or number of trees to be removed.  We should be told about each individual tree & why they must be removed.

Nor do they give the number & location of trees they intend to prune or those they intend to make into Habitat Trees.    Council goes on to say that –

“All trees to be removed will be replaced (and more) as part of a planting program to be developed in collaboration with Council, Marrickville Golf Course and the community.”

Again, Council does not tell the community how many new trees will be planted or what species.

This is not something I understand.  I think it is in Council’s interest to tell the community how many trees they will plant because this is positive information that makes people who care about the local environment happy.  If Council had informed the community that they planned to plant 15 new native trees for example, everyone would feel happy about it, which is good for Council.

It is called transparency.  It is their duty.  Open & full communication is the only thing that instills trust in the community for what its government does.   You can’t have words about believing in open government & consultation, but fail to inform your community.

On a positive note, I think it is wonderful that more habitat trees are being created, especially in this important biodiversity corridor along the Cooks River.   I also think it is great that more trees will be planted.  The golf course has plenty of room for more trees.

Belfield side of the Cooks River

Belfield side of the Cooks River

Whiddone Reserve side of the river

Whiddon Reserve side of the river

About a month ago we went to have a look at the restoration of the Cooks River at Whiddons Reserve in Croydon Park – or Belfield on the other side of the river.  I first wrote about this work here –

The work had almost been completed & what has been achieved is impressive.  Sydney Water has done a terrific job.

26,000 native plants have been planted on both sides of the river. These consist of saltmarsh, sedges, rushes, shrubs & trees. It will be wonderful to see what it all looks like when they have grown.

Unfortunately one of the mature Hill’s Fig trees in Whiddon Reserve had been removed with another in the process of removal. I hope they are replaced with other Figs – for the wildlife, the wonderful shade & beauty these trees provide & for the wow factor that Fig trees provide.  There is room.

Sydney Water has also installed a compressed clay path, which I love. I have been interested in the longevity of the compressed clay path at Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland.  It is still doing well after around three years of foot traffic, bicycles & weather.

While I was initially surprised that the concrete floor of the river had not been removed, after thinking about it decided that it was probably not done due to a high cost factor & because this section of the river floods. Concrete would prevent soil erosion & silt build-up further downstream.

The whole site looks fabulous & Sydney Water has done a wonderful job in beautifying what was essentially a large concrete drain. The community that lives nearby have had their local environment greatly improved & it will only get better as the plants grow & the wildlife move in. It is also a massive boost for biodiversity, which is always welcome.

I made a short video here –

Looking towards the bridge at Second Avenue.

Looking towards the bridge at Second Avenue.

Masses of plants & places for wildlife

Masses of plants & places for wildlife. Eventually the fencing will be removed.

Everywhere I looked there were a range of plants. Not just native grasses, but shrubs as well.

Everywhere I looked there were a range of plants. Not just native grasses, but shrubs as well. There is quite a variety in this photo.

Showing some of the new plants at Whiddon Reserve

Showing some of the new plants at Whiddon Reserve

The Cooks River beside Marrickville Golf Course. Mahoney Reserve is just behind the fence.

This was the Council Meeting.  Absent: Clr Peters.  The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.  Note: MC = Marrickville Council.  The Councillors & Wards are as follows – LABOR:  Iskandar/Central, Wright/North, Tsardoulias/West, O’Sullivan/South. GREENS:  Phillips/Central, Peters/North, Byrnes/North, Kontellis/West, Olive/South.  INDEPENDENT:  Macri/Central, Thanos/West, Hanna/South.

Marrickville Cooks River Committee – 1. Note the minutes, 2. wanted MC to address the ongoing pollution of the Cooks River, write to NSW Minister for Health & Sydney Water Corporation about sewerage getting into the river via ageing sewerage pipes & prioritizing upgrading these before 2016, 3. investigate options to remediate sandstone rock riverbank near the Cooks River Canoe Club & 4. note the committee’s support for a $30,000 Budget bid for tree planting along the riverbank from Mahonney Reserve to the Marrickville Golf Club Clubhouse.

2 people representing the Cooks River Committee & Mudcrabs spoke. Wanted MC to support $30,000 for tree planting along the river. StreamWatch have been monitoring e-coli levels in the river for 4.5 years. All times the river is unsuitable for swimming & often secondary contact, such as boating, because of sewerage pollution. Sometimes the e-coli level is 10 x above safe level. (I think the Councils need signs warning people about eating fish caught in the river – J)  With Marrickville 2021 feedback, 70% of residents said restoring the river was important & all desired to be able to swim in the river.  We see it as realizable by 2021. He showed a 1931 photo of lifesavers at Steel Park. Wanted MC to support looking at increasing biodiversity & planting in the Marrickville Golf Course where several sections have no trees. Riparian zones are vital for river health. Strongly urge MC to get the community & the Golf Course to work together to plant trees.  There are no powerlines or underground cables/pipes in this area. Riverbank near Wardell Road has no trees also.  Resident spoke: supported previous speakers, but opposed the priority planting of 2 species of Casuarinas & that MC’s staff report said that there were 11 species of Eucalypt, plus Callistemon, Melaleuca, Pittosporum & Fig that were indigenous.  Also you get soil acidity from Casuarinas. We should not just focus on Casuarinas. There are not many mature Gums along the river & they are essential for many birds & bats. Asked MC to support planting more for biodiversity along the Cooks River.

Clr Olive: We have heard in the press that there is an issue of faecal matter in the river. Proposed that MC write to NSW Minister for Health to see what can be done to ameliorate this issue. Where there are cracked pipes they should be fixed. Trees were discussed with the Cooks river committee; $30,000 needed for tree planting in the Golf Course.  There has been lots of work done at Tempe Reserve, Kendrick Park, Mackey Park, Warren Park & the WaterPlay project. The Golf Course is next. Cooks River Committee think that planting trees is the way to go & the President of the Golf Club seems to think this is the way to go also. $30,000 is not a huge amount of money. It would give a result to the Cooks River Committee, the community & the river itself & will enhance quality of life.

Clr O’Sullivan:  As a member of the Cooks River Committee I support the first 3 items.  I will discuss item 4 when we discuss the Notice of Motion. Item 3 is absolutely critical in terms of our river environment as banks are important.  Right from Garnet Street to Boat Harbour in Tempe, they are such important components of water quality.  Vote – unanimous.

Notice of Motion by Clr Olive – MC to enter into discussion with Marrickville Golf Course for tree planting from Mahoney Reserve to the Clubhouse, $30,000 allocation from 2011-12 budget & tree planting to prioritize the use of endemic Casuarinas.  Clr Olive amended his Notice of Motion to – Prioritises the use of indigenous tree species.  We look at other parts of the Golf Course, especially to Wardell Road, don’t limit it to Casuarinas & use a broader range of tree species as mentioned by Council staff (These were 11 species of Eucalyptus as well as Callistemon, Melaleuca, Pittosporum & Ficus species).

Clr O’Sullivan:  Against the motion & putting up a foreshadowed motion. The motion as it stands pays cursory attention to the need to look at the embankment as a whole. We need to look at where we need to prioritise work & decide where first, second & third allocation work should be in terms of the budget & working with our volunteers. I would prefer a more considered approach. The Casuarinas are now going. They are only 2 indigenous tree species. There are other species that the river needs. There is wonderful work being done by Canterbury Council with their volunteers & experts to create very complex riverine environments on the other side. I will propose the MC report on 2 April on a scope of works that designate priority lists using biodiversity & decide on which to do first & which to refer to the Cooks River Alliance in terms of budget allocation.

Clr Thanos: I don’t see how foreshadowed motion negates the Notice of Motion. We have already allocated $30,000. If we are going to plant trees we need to negotiate with Marrickville Golf Club & do that sooner than later.  He put up a motion to amalgamate the 2 motions. Clr O’Sullivan:  I oppose. The motions are very different. One puts priority on 1 site, the other suggests a process.  Clr Phillips: Supported Clr Olive’s motion. It can be done in the next budget.  Clr Thanos: The motion is just to talk to Marrickville Golf Club & considers a budget allocation of $30,000 when it comes time to discuss the budget.

Staff: Not aware of any detailed design work so I can’t say whether I can meet that timeframe or not. Clr Olive’s motion talks about $30,000 budget allocation, Clr O’Sullivan’s talks about a report to assess another budget allocation.  I’m happy if you delete point 2, the money allocation.  Clr Kontellis: We have a great opportunity in this budget to not talk a lot about it, but to actually plant trees. Clr Olive: We have done a lot of work regarding naturalization.  Every indication is that the Golf Club don’t have a problem planting trees in appropriate places.  Vote for original motion: For – Clrs Thanos, Byrne, Phillips, Kontellis & Olive. Against: Clrs Hanna, Macri, Tsardoulias, Wright, Iskandar &  O’Sullivan.  Motion lost. Vote for Clr Olive’s motion:  For – Clrs Thanos, Byrne, Phillips,  Kontellis & Olive. Against: Clrs Hanna, Macri, Tsardoulias, Wright, Iskandar &  O’Sullivan.  Motion lost.

Clr O’Sullivan’s motion – Clr O’Sullivan:  My sense is that Environmental Services already have a biodiversity plan that actually identifies the places along the river that have priority, therefore it is doable by end of April.  If you walk from the Clubhouse to Illawarra Road it’s shaded.  It’s a lot more gracious walk than the area from the Clubhouse to Wardell Road & on to Hurlstone Park. We need to get a sense of where we need to work on first. It’s critical we get a sense of MC’s priority so we can send to the Cooks River Alliance because that’s where the funding is.  The continuous landscape on the other side of Tempe Station to Illawarra Road is what we should be aiming for.

Clr Thanos: Need to change to report done by May.  Clr Byrne: Supported report done by May. The scope of work needs a fair amount of analysis.  It wouldn’t be right to make a budget decision based on a rushed report.

Staff: Our preference is that we do investigation & design in one year & the implementation in the next year.

Clr Wright: With the scope of works we are talking about trees & other planting to help the bank. We mean revegetating. Change the point to revegetating so it will not read as engineering works.  Clr Thanos: Amended to report due first meeting in May.  Carried Unanimously. End part 1.

Cooks River Marrickville


Pelican landing at Boat Harbour

Boat Harbour at Hurlstone Park is a man-made rectangular-shaped harbour on the Cooks River on the eastern side of the heritage Sugar Factory building.  It was built for Sea Scouts in the 1960s. The surrounding parklands are particularly lovely & Boat Harbour is a gorgeous, peaceful place that is a haven for waterbirds.

Next to Boat Harbour & opposite the Sugar Factory is a pedestrian bridge that crosses the river & the newly created Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland is just a short stroll away towards Canterbury.  If you haven’t been to this area, it makes for a really nice walk or bike ride with plenty to see.  There is plenty of angled parking on Hutton Street which I have never seen full.

Hunting as the water level drops

Pelicans, Darters, Cormorants, Pacific Black Ducks & Seagulls like the area beside & beneath the bridge because an island of rocks & tree branches is exposed at low tide, allowing them to perch more naturally & be together. In reality, there are few places along the river where waterbirds can perch as most trees do not hang over the river & any side branches have been removed. There are very few things on the river itself where birds can sit.  A floating rubbish collection boom curves out from the mouth of Boat Harbour into the river & it is not unusual to see 10 Darters & Cormorants lined up here all facing into the wind.

During some visits to the Boat Harbour many people spoke happily to me about the presence of birds at Boat Harbour. They are always excited about this & usually we have a discussion about how wonderful it is to have so much birdlife in this section of the river.

Boat Harbour has 2 grassy points: a short one on the eastern side of the mouth of the harbour & a peninsula on the western side.  Birds congregate on both points watching the tide until it is time to fish.  The peninsula is the most popular place as it is a long way from people, making the birds feel safe. It is not unusual to see Pelicans, Masked Lapwings, Pacific Black Ducks, any number of Darters & Cormorants, plenty of pigeons, Magpie Larks, a few Ibis, seagulls & other birds that I cannot identify all sitting on the peninsula.

Because the river is tidal, Boat Harbour empties completely. I estimate that it is about 1.50 metres deep when full.  As the tide goes out, Magpie Larks start picking at the exposed riverbed & they do this for hours. Ibis & White-Faced Herons arrive & start digging for crabs. Ducks come too.  The Masked Lapwings & another bird I can’t identify start to look like soldiers scanning the water & the fish start jumping, but they are not big fish.  I’m convinced the fish are trying to see what danger is around because they have to leave Boat Harbour before it empties completely.  It’s a risky business for a fish to get through the mouth of Boat Harbour with all the birds waiting & if the pelicans are in the water, even more dangerous.

Like any watercourse, it changes depending on the tide, but it is always shallow & the opening to the river gets smaller & smaller as the tide goes out. It slowly narrows to less than a metre.

I’ve watched Pelicans waddle over the exposed mud to a deep pond left as the tide goes out & have an entrée of all the fish who got left behind.  When the tide is really low, that’s where the real fun starts.  Some Pelicans leave for somewhere upstream while usually three others stay behind to swim back & forth across the diminishing mouth of Boat Harbour to catch their food.

It really is a wonderful sight. Even if you are walking or riding by, it is nice to look over & see all the birds at this location.  I know that the community is very happy to see so many birds coming to live on the Cooks River.  Even Royal Spoonbills, a bird that doesn’t like disturbance, are being sighted more & more.

Damage done just this week by cars driving to the riverbank

Unfortunately, this is being threatened.  Fishing by humans is starting to impact on the bird life in Boat Harbour in particular.  Unfortunately, people have started driving their cars right into the park to park directly next to the river instead of parking on the road and walking 50-metres down to the riverbank.  Their wheels churn up the grass & native violets leaving deep furrows, as this area is always a bit wet.   The cars also scare away the birds & the presence of cars changes the ambience of the park.

Not all people who come to fish drive in, but they are setting up on both the points of Boat Harbour & often putting up multiple fishing lines.  I’ve watched while holding my breath, little ducks swimming amongst the fishing lines probably looking to see if the people there are interested in throwing some bread to them.

A local told me a white duck was recently found decapitated. Whether this had to do with fishing I don’t know, but there is a feeling in the community that the duck was caught in a line & had its head chopped off.  I was told that its body was untouched & the cut was clean. There is distress in the community about the death of this duck as it was a friendly spirit & because of its colour, very noticeable when it was around.  Even if fishing was not the cause of this duck losing its head, it is only a matter of time before a bird does get injured in this location by nylon lines.

I’ve debated even writing about fishing in this area as I do have thoughts that people should be able to fish where they like. However, I have come to the conclusion that there should be at least one area of the Cooks River that is a no fishing zone & that it should be Boat Harbour for the following reasons.

Pelican & Masked Lapwing on the peninsula at Boat Harbour.

All the Councils along the Cooks River are trying to increase biodiversity by improving the health of the river.  Increasing the bird population is a very good thing & an indicator that the effort to rehabilitate the river is working.  The presence of water birds brings beauty & wonder. Watching the birds teaches people about the river & how it works.  Their presence can result in people respecting the river more. My experience is that the presence of these birds makes people feel happy & in touch with nature.  I have written enough on this blog about how green & nature has a substantial & positive impact on mental & physical health. An active river is a no-brainer. We do benefit from this.

The places where birds congregate on the river from Tempe to Canterbury can be counted on one hand.  There are relatively few ‘natural’ places that are both comfortable & safe for birds to just hang around & watch the river, which is part of their natural behaviour.

Two very significant & naturally safe places for birds are the 2 points of Boat Harbour. Human activity, such as fishing from the points, takes away from the birds the opportunity to do what is natural & essential to them. That is, calculate the tides & fish for their survival. This is deeply concerning because the impact has the potential to get substantially worse.  If the birds cannot fish, they don’t eat. If they can’t find enough food they will leave to somewhere where they can & we will be left with a river depleted of birds.

Yesterday, a very nice man (I spoke to him) set up a number of fishing poles & sat with a rod at the end of the peninsula.  3 children sat with their rods on the other point while their father fished a few metres away on the other side of the rubbish collector boom.  Pelicans & other birds waited with no hope in sight on the boom watching the tide go out. As the people were too close, the birds felt it was far too dangerous for them to fish in the mouth of Boat Harbour. So I guess they went hungry last night.  Is this right or is it just the birds’ tough luck?

I & the birds, I am sure, were thinking that these people could well set up their fishing place just 50-metres away from the points of the harbour so that everyone could be happy.

As an aside, the Bolivian government recently passed the ‘Law of the Rights of Mother Earth’ which gives nature equal rights to humans.

I made a short video of the pelicans fishing at Boat Harbour here –

3 groups of people fishing, one with multiple lines. 3 Pelicans & a Darter are waiting on the rubbish collection boom as they would usually be hunting for fish at this time. There are 2 ducks swimming around the fishing lines at the mouth of the harbour.

Google map of Boat Harbour. Click to enlarge.

I watched this Dusky Moorhen running back & forth building a nest on the rubbish collection boom. Unfortunately the tide took it all away by the following day.

Showing Boat Harbour emptying. The white dots are birds. There are also ducks & a Heron or two that can't be seen in this shot.





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