• The Glen
• Still Creek
• Burnum Burnum
• Potential Routes
• Loop Walks
• Canoe Routes
• Exec Summary
• Chapter 1
• Chapter 2
• Chapter 3
• Chapter 4
• Chapter 5
• Chapter 6
W5-G The Shackels Estate -
Potential Long Term Walking Route
The middle reach of the Woronora River valley, between Woronora Village and Sabugal Causeway (The Needles), has historically suffered from a lack of sustainable management and integrated recreational access provision, because of 5 main factors:
- Lack of strategic planning
- Foreshore subdivision
- Inconsistent land use zoning
- Unresolved land tenure issues
|Accordingly, the spine route identified by the project team for this section of the Way diverts away from the main river, via Forbes Creek tributary, (refer to section 4.1 tables W1-A6 and A7). It utilises the Sydney Water Pipeline Road as existing infrastructure, which can support shared use by walkers and cyclists.
Subject to further detailed consultation with Sydney Water, DIPNR, SSC, and NPWS, and formal agreement, this route can be adapted for use within a relatively short time frame, estimated 1 to 2 years.
| Riverkeeper calls on a Shackels resident
|Also a Canoe Route is suggested as a way to access the Needles on the water (discussed at the end of this chapter).
A long winding route along the escarpment edge, Route W5-G1, linking residential streets is a possibility once the Bangor Bypass East/West link is completed in 2005 (refer to map at the end of this section).
However in the long term (10 to 15 years), it may be feasible to progressively open up a river route along the western side of the valley (study area W5) through land known as the Shackels Estate, Route W5-G2.
The valley is surrounded by residential development - which directly affects the health of the natural bushland through polluted urban runoff, siltation, weed invasion, vandalism, and feral dogs and cats. The protection of the valley from over-development is vital in maintaining a wildlife corridor, interconnected to the surrounding bushland corridors of Forbes Creek, Loftus Creek and Fahy Creek to form a larger ecosystem.
A Woronora Valley Master Plan (1998) has been formulated by Sutherland Shire Council to rationalise previous ad hoc planning policies and to guide future development of the valley.
The Woronora Valley was proposed for public recreation open space, under the Green Belt zoning in the 1951.
However, a previous decision in 1916, to allow the waterfront on the Shackels side to be subdivided - 314 lots for building of weekender / residential properties with limited services and water access - prevented the zoning being adopted. Nearly all the residents have provided water, power and road access for over 40 years at their own cost.
Eventually in 1961 the valley was excluded from the County of Cumberland Planning Scheme, and was zoned as an undetermined category and controlled as non-urban. Currently dwellings can be constructed on a minimum of 5 acres.
In 1973, the Shackles Estate buy back program, set up jointly between Sutherland Shire Council and DIPNR (previously NSW Dept. of Urban Affairs and Planning), was an initiative to: acquire ownership of Shackles properties; clear all development; restore environmental integrity; and return the area to its original zoning of public recreation open space.
Situation in 2003
Sutherland Shire Council officers are dissatisfied with the acquisition process as a means of implementing open space policies for the valley contained in the latest Master Plan, and argue that a more pro-active approach is required based on planning for passive recreation around open space already in the care and control of Council.
Residents interviewed, reported that some officers did not respect their use rights, a situation which they felt prevented constructive dialogue on environmental issues.
The Sutherland Shire Council's Draft LEP 2003 proposes land use zoning changes, acquired properties are Public Recreation and remaining properties zoned Future Recreation. Private land above is zoned Environmental Protection (Bushland).
The whole valley is identified in the proposed "Greenweb" Strategy - another layer of environmental protection - for conservation of bio-diversity.
Benefits of a Walking Track
Fulfilling Strategic Planning Objectives
Aside from contributing to the foreshore access and recreation objectives of the GRFIP (refer to Chapter 1), the progressive development of a walking track through the Shackles could help realise the two strategic goals of the Woronora Valley Master Plan, namely:
- The maintenance and improvement of the environmental health and integrity of the Woronora Valley
- The introduction of a passive recreation plan that is compatible with the aims of 1
Master Plan Goal 1: In support of the first goal, a walking track provides access to the Shackles for programs to help restore the environmental health of the bushland and the river, such as:
Weed eradication and bush regeneration
As Shackels Estate properties have been vacated, and services provided to Menai and Bangor residents, exotic species have become invasive to the detriment of natives. The track has the potential to be the focus of a bush management plan involving remaining residents, local voluntary bushcare and conservation groups, first offenders and work for the dole participants, supported by professional bush regeneration teams and State and local government resources.
Clearing Debris From Vacant Properties
A coordinated cleanup would help to relieve the area of abandoned motor vehicles (these vehicles have been reported to Council and will be removed when resources are available), as well as building materials from demolished dwellings (including fibrolite) and other waste, which was not removed at the time of acquisition.
- Restoration of Riparian Vegetation and Improved Stormwater Management
The creeklines fall steeply from the residential areas on the plateau above, bringing with them pollutants, silt, and debris. There is potential for community "Eco-Action" supported by SSCMB, Sydney Water and the Riverkeeper Program.
Some silt traps are installed but there is currently no plan of management for their maintenance.
- Baseline Data Survey of Biodiversity and Health of the Valley
Complementing the findings of the Healthy Rivers Commission on water quality (turbidity, siltation and runoff). Potential for Community Biodiversity Survey following NPA model (refer to Community Loops section). Involve Shackels residents, local schools supported by scientists, in identifying flora, fauna and varied habitats.
Master Plan Goal 2: The walking track contributes an important facility for future passive recreation in the valley and promotes environmental awareness of residents in the adjacent suburbs along the Menai Plateau. Also as a part of the Great Kai'mia Way it is an important future element of a regional system of routes for recreation and environmental education.
Equity of Access and Compromise
It provides access for passive primary and secondary contact river based recreation including picnicking, camping, swimming, canoeing, boating, fishing, bird watching, flora and fauna identification, rock climbing. The Valley is an important recreation destination for Greater Sydney and groups such as Scouts, Guides, Bushwalkers in particular.
When developed the track creates a potential day trip loop route (approximately 10 km) around the central river reach via the Pipeline Road, or combined with the upper canoe trail a varied recreational experience of the valley.
Opportunities for core and extra-curricula school activities in a unique setting. It has a close juxtaposition of terrestrial and riverine habitats, landforms and residential development. Also wider benefit to the life long learning of the whole community.
Finally, it offers physical activities and health benefits.
The walking track would progressively allow access for the wider community to a significant stretch of the river foreshore where it has previously been restricted. The key is to design the track sympathetically to consider and address the concerns of remaining residents.
Developing the walking track in stages may act as a catalyst to resolve outstanding issues of social and environmental issues in the Shackels Estate. Project Officers have interviewed two prominent long-term residents to record:
Along with most residents, they were initially attracted to the area and its "back to nature" way of life, because of its aesthetic beauty, its isolation from urban Sydney, and the fact that the river dominated the environment.
- their experiences of living in the Shackels;
- the changing river environment; and
- their concerns and ideas regarding a through route for walkers.
As the unofficial custodians or "gatekeepers" of the valley, residents have noticed the fluctuation in the quality of the terrestrial and riverine environments over time. Currently the major problems identified are:
However the river's decline has been reversed in recent years. Improvements include:
- Increased bank erosion from power boat wash.
- Water quality has been affected by pollution from urban run-off, storm water and a lack of environmental flow and regular flushing.
- Decline of ecological integrity of the remaining bushland through weed infestation.
Vandalism and Anti-Social Activities
- Recovery of sea-grass/weed beds - important fish breeding grounds - which had been adversely affected by commercial dredging in the nineteen sixties and seventies.
- Recovery of the sand-flats which are important feeding areas for fish.
- Residents persuaded ANSTO to cease discharging wastes into the River.
- Sewerage system has been provided to the majority of residents of the Woronora Valley.
- Improved fish numbers and successful fish migration upstream.
Residents value their privacy and security the most. Residential development has encroached on the Shackels Estate and residents fear vandals and undesirables - "ghouls and stickybeaks" - will increasingly threaten their seclusion. The Estate is accessed by several different tracks. A lack of surveillance and barriers at track entrances has added to the problems, which include:
The Way and Potential Solutions
- Trail Bikes damaging access tracks and vegetation
- Vandalism to properties and potential for arson
- Abandoning of burnt-out cars and waste dumping
- Anti -social activities such as drug taking
- Illegal Fishing and Crab Potting
The staged development of a walking route over time could help solve a number of the problems:
- An important component of walking route development would be installation of security gate barriers, (see photo) at all access track entrances, to prevent unauthorised vehicular access. Emergency services would be able to gain entry.
- The addition of stroller accessible kissing gate stiles (refer to Chapter 5) would allow entry to pedestrians - residents and bushwalkers - yet keep out trail bikes and cycles.
- The increased presence of responsible bushwalkers and other legitimate recreation seekers in the Estate, would act as a deterrent to persons seeking to use the bush for anti-social purposes.
- Vandalism at track entrances such as the destruction of mail boxes could be deterred by installing real and dummy surveillance cameras. As the viability of the area for recreation is strengthened, increased ranger presence and policing would improve law enforcement.
- Where the track intersects with property approach paths, gates could be installed for added security. Way-marker posts would aid orientation of walkers, helping to keep them to the environmentally sustainable track system.
Constraints to Developing the Way
Aside from the concerns of residents, two main issues will need to be addressed:
Although the acquired properties are in the public domain, the narrow bushland strip above is divided into large blocks generally in private ownership, apart from the two extremities of the valley, which are managed as Recreation Reserves by Council.
The future walking route utilises almost 2 km of existing access tracks which criss-cross private land. Solutions may include:
Changing access agreements to include public right of way - likely to be a protracted and costly process with no guarantee of success.
Acquisition of land by DIPNR/Council - the future zoning of the land is Environmental Protection (Bushland) and development is unlikely.
Voluntary Conservation Agreementsbetween landowners and the NSW Minister for the Environment, negotiated by NPWS the benefit to the environment is that land will be permanently conserved under present and future ownership. The landowner may be eligible for rate relief and tax deductions as well as receiving assistance in the form of fencing materials to control access from the track
Threatened Species and Conservation
Behind this property is a sensitive wetland community - constraint to future walkway.
To create a continuous link requires the construction of approximately 1 km of new track, including 2 creek crossings and a 100 m crossing of a wetland.
A full review of environmental effects is required. Presently, not enough data is available to measure potential environmental impacts. Detailed Aboriginal archaeology, heritage and biodiversity studies will be needed before the route can be finalised. A Community Partnership for Action
A partnership bringing together residents from both sides of the valley, private landowners, local Police, Woronora Bushfire Brigade, Council, Sydney Water, SSCMB, NPA, Riverkeeper and other stakeholders, would help steer implementation of the proposal, and potentially strengthen ties between the communities either side of the river.
Project officers have initiated consultation with individual residents and brought together community representatives from both sides of the valley using the forum of the Woronora Valley Precinct Residents Association meeting in June 2003.
Options for routes in the Woronora Valley as a whole and the issue of a viable long term walking route through the Shackels were discussed. Initial indications from Shackels residents are that walkway is viable provided that all individual residents and their families have opportunities to air their concerns and that these be addressed in the final plan.
A high level route incorporating residential streets, fire trails and walking tracks was feasible at completion of the Bangor Bypass in 2005.
Develop the walking route from either end of the valley, using existing approach routes in SSC Recreation Reserves at The Needles and Woronora. Ongoing bush regeneration work should accompany track development.
The issue of potential future management of the whole valley by NPWS could be revisited. However environmental improvements work should be continued now through the vehicle of the community partnership action discussed above. In 1992 The National Parks Association recommended that the Woronora Valley be given National Parks status. NPWS rejected the idea noting that: "proportionately the ratio of boundaries to the total area of the proposed park was very high and this would prove a difficult park to manage and protect from feral flora and fauna species."