Archive for the ‘environmental activism’ Category

The Story of the Belmont State Wetlands Park
Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
– Mahatma Gandhi


Leslie Jacobi 5th March 1988 at the International Day of Women Picnic (Photo Credit: Josephine Conway)

Leslie Jacobi 5th March 1988 at the International Day of Women Picnic (Photo Credit: Josephine Conway)

The Lake Macquarie Coastal & Wetlands Alliance was created with the specific objective of preserving a set of coastal ecosystems including wetlands on the eastern shores Australia, 150km (100 miles) north of Sydney. In the city of Lake Macquarie, the coastal region was under threat from proposals for development as an affluent residential suburb. As a result of a continuous nine-year campaign, the 510 hectares (1250 acres) of wetlands and coastal forest has now become the tenth State Park in New South Wales. This article tells the story of how our community group of volunteers was able to convince the State Government that the preservation of this area in its natural state was the best possible option.

In Australia, the driest continent on the planet, the urgency to preserve water and water quality is unremitting and has shaped the continental topography since long before the era of human habitation. The local ecosystems have adapted to these conditions by producing a wide range of unique vegetation. In response to the increasing aridity, the dominant features of these plants is their ability to cope with low nutrient soils and to withstand drought and fire. In certain isolated areas, however, wetlands developed and became sustainable. Lake Macquarie is Australia’s largest salt lake and is capable of supporting the numerous wetland ecosystems around its perimeter including those on the coastal fringe.

Wetlands, including salt lakes, occupy less than two percent of the Australian continental surface. Unfortunately they have been drained, often for sports fields or more recently residential developments. Another rationale for this destruction of wetland was that it was thought to be necessary in order to eradicate mosquitoes. In recent years it has been recognized that wetlands have a crucial role to play in maintaining a healthy environment. For example, wetlands:

(1) provide a natural site for collecting drainage from human settlements;

(2) filter the run-off from phosphorous-rich fertilizers which disadvantage and overwhelm plants evolved to survive on minimal nutrients;

(3) are often crucial for flood mitigation (although statistically dry, the river systems of Australia are prone to severe flooding);

(4) maintain water table levels and ground water;

(5) are breeding grounds for many species of fish, butterflies, small reptiles and frogs; and

(6) provide an invaluable ecosystem for migratory birds.

Indigenous inhabitants did very little damage to the environment of Australia. As nomadic hunter-gatherers, they lived well within sustainable use of their land. They commonly adopted the practices of controlled burning and fire-stick farming which naturally served to reseed local grasses, thereby attracting the fauna that they hunted. Following the creation of European settlements in Australia (beginning in 1788), the land and its original ecosystems have been severely damaged by the farming techniques practised by Europeans – typically involving total clearing of the land – the allocation of land to grazing herds such as sheep and cattle, and the commercial extraction of timber, limestone and coal. Great forests were destroyed in less than a century. The land could no longer support a subsistence culture and the Aboriginal groups that had once lived in the areas prized by Europeans were either displaced, lost their tribal coherence and a number of times were killed by settlers.

The Lake Macquarie region was an early target for European expansion from Sydney. Not long after the discovery of coal, the Newcastle region was selected in 1801 as a secondary penal colony for the control and punishment of troublesome prisoners. The hard and dangerous labour required for the mining of coal provided an ideal and profitable method of corporal punishment. The first settlers discovered the forests of red cedar in the surrounding region, a timber highly valued and referred to as ‘red gold’ because of its ease of working, beautiful finish and resistance to the destructive attacks of termites. It did not take long for the cedar forests of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie region to be permanently removed from the local environs.

In the 1880s a coal-mining lease was granted for a coastal area between Redhead and Belmont (approximately 1250 acres) to the Redhead Coal Mining Co for the token sum of only £2 per acre. In 1923 the Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd (BHP) assumed the mining lease with the condition that the land would be returned to the state of New South Wales once mining was no longer commercially viable. However, in 1963 BHP was granted outright title to the land by the State for £54,255. Once coal mining became unprofitable, the company leased the land to other firms, first for sand mining to extract rutile and zircon, and then, when those minerals were exhausted, for quarrying of sand for the building industry. During the 1990s BHP attempted to have the site re-zoned for an up-market resort for Japanese tourists. When that did not elicit investors, residential re-zoning was sought and BHP began discussions for its sale to local developers as a site for an oceanfront community.

In 2000 BHP began implementing a top-level corporate decision to terminate its major steel production facilities in Newcastle and, as part of that process, to divest itself of its four major properties in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie region: two industrial sites (Kooragang Island and the steel works in Newcastle), open land at West Wallsend, and the coastal land at Belmont. When the major industrial site on Newcastle harbour was returned to the State, BHP gave the State net $75 million of which $10 million was for restoration of the land. In effect BHP was absolved from all responsibilities for rehabilitating the site including the removal of dangerous industrial waste. It was pointed out in the press at the time that the money was not nearly enough to cover the rehabilitation of the land or even remove the toxic contamination of lead, arsenic, organic hydrocarbons and heavy metal sludges that had been released. The land south of Redhead was included in this divestiture of BHP’s four sites, but some people feared that the coastal land might be sold to cover the costs of the rehabilitation of the steel works land.

During this period of negotiation, the commercial extraction of sand continued until it was terminated by order of the Lake Macquarie City Council in 2004 following extensive campaigning and public protests organized by the Lake Macquarie Coastal & Wetlands Alliance: a sign that this seemingly innocuous group of local residents might actually be able to influence institutional decision-making.

Throughout the period of BHP’s tenure (1963 to 2001), projects for the restoration of vegetation on the increasingly degraded land were initiated. Unfortunately the NSW government unwisely recommended the use of the South African bitou bush for erosion control as a fast-growing substitute for the much slower dune grass. This plant is now classified as a noxious weed in New South Wales. The species quickly took over from the native flora of the foreshore, adjacent dunes and bush to form a monoculture that is very labour intensive to eradicate.

In recent years other incursions into the wetland areas have taken place. A site adjacent to a lagoon at the south end of the wetlands was filled in to provide flat land for the Belmont Golf Course, new sports grounds and some residential development. Some of these areas now experience flooding in times of heavy rain, apparently due to the filling in of the wetlands that had previously provided natural drainage. At the south end of the wetlands is a narrow strip of land (approximately 2 kilometres/1.4 miles wide) between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Macquarie. This land, the town of Belmont, is commercially attractive for up-market real estate development, and over the years a series of small projects have been approved which have encroached upon the wetlands system. It is now evident that this development is partly responsible for major siltation problems in the lake itself that have been an on-going concern and expense for both the City and the State Governments. Clearly any more development in the coastal area would exacerbate these problems.

At present the wetlands area shows signs of significant damage which includes the levelling and erosion of much of the large coastal dune structure that once protected the land from the inevitable extreme weather conditions from the ocean. In addition to the ubiquitous bitou, other species of alien weeds have found a foothold where land clearing has occurred. In the water catchments of the wetlands, floating islands have been lost, with an associated decline in water quality. The area has also become a convenient site for the dumping of waste.

In the early 1990s several local community groups (1) that had been working independently decided to coordinate their efforts by amalgamating to form the Jewells Action Group with the express purpose of protecting the coastal land from exploitation. Although this group was discouraged by the determination of BHP to proceed against community wishes, their work created a groundswell of public awareness that we were able to harness.

In 1996 a group of concerned residents formed the Lake Macquarie Coastal & Wetlands Alliance (hereafter ‘the Alliance’) in response to a new announcement by BHP that it intended to apply to re-zone the land for the development of a new housing subdivision. The initial objective of the Alliance was to raise awareness in the community of the environmental significance – and the potential recreational value – of the BHP land and the irrevocable loss if this last parcel of undeveloped coastal land were to become one more up-market suburb. One of the Council planners responded by insisting that the land had to be developed precisely because it was the last bit of coastal land – its value as real estate was simply too great to be foregone. At a later date this same planner confided to one of the Alliance officers that it made little difference how much we protested, the land would be developed. A pleasing irony is that at the time of his retirement he had became one of our supporters.

In spite of early attempts to discourage us, the Alliance went ahead with its original plan of action. Saturdays were spent in local shopping centres talking to people and asking them to sign petitions against the development. Many were completely unaware that BHP owned the beach as well as the mining areas and thereby had the right to refuse public access to over four kilometres of pristine beach. There is a tradition in Australia that no one is able to own the beach, that it is State owned and therefore public and accessible to everyone – which gave our message some added punch. Another source of sympathetic support came from the perception of people that the new suburb would almost certainly turn out to be an exclusive haven for the very rich.

Whenever possible, the Alliance engaged with councillors in Lake Macquarie City Council, and the local Members of the State and Federal Parliaments. Because this is a strong Labor voting region they were mostly members of that party, but we worked hard to insure that we did not become identified with just the one political party. We also had to take great care not to offer any opportunity for our opposition, which had far greater access to the media than we did, to be able to dismiss us as simply ‘tree-hugging greenies’ or ‘ferals’ – the Australian slang for latter-day hippies who often live in rural environments and take an anti-capitalist stance as a matter of principle.

Our influence on the local Council benefited from the fact that one of the councillors had been involved with the Jewells Action Group while at least one other councillor was supportive of the principles of the Alliance campaign from the beginning.

Members of the Alliance availed themselves of every opportunity to speak at meetings at all levels of community concern – meetings of Council, local political meetings of all parties, and local Neighbourhood Watch. We presented papers at three State-wide Coastal Council Conferences. At the polling booths on election days we staffed tables and displayed our petitions and posters. Before elections we contacted all nominees to raise their awareness of the issues and to enlist their support. One of our members even ‘crashed’ the public meeting of the New South Wales Cabinet – held at Newcastle City Council in 1999 – and distributed our information packs to the new Ministers. A succession of submissions was sent to Lake Macquarie City Council, and our representatives were in attendance at the community planning consultations which the Council was sponsoring to discuss long term planning for the next 20 years (referred to as ‘Lifestyle 2020’).

In the first Lifestyle 2020 plan, the BHP land was sketched in as a new urban development with more dwellings than presently exist in the town of Redhead or the other adjacent communities of Jewells and Belmont North. So it was clear that we were going to have a major battle on our hands. Fortunately, we had excellent resources to call upon to assist us. Newcastle University has a strong Environment Studies section in the Geography Department. We met with lecturers and students to plan designs for the land as viable alternatives to the BHP residential developments.

In spite of having a sense of achieving some positive results from the above strategy of spreading the Alliance ideas as widely and as frequently as local opportunities allowed, it soon became obvious that what was really needed was some major event that would attract a broad cross-section of the local public. In February 1999 a big public meeting to discuss the future of the BHP land was held in at one of the local high schools central to the community whose beach access was being threatened. The traditional methods for advertizing the event were employed – many posters and brightly coloured bumper stickers (‘Save Belmont Wetlands’) and hundreds of posters, many displayed in the local shops and places of business around the area.

But the big coup was an unexpected affirmative response from one of Australia’s iconic figures, Peter Garrett, who replied to our invitation by saying he would be available on the night of our event to speak on our behalf. There would be no appearance fee. Peter Garrett and his rock band Midnight Oil were number one in Australia for many years and often their tours were associated with important social issues. Upon retirement as a musician, he became very active in environmental issues – and at the time of our meeting was the CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, perhaps the most prestigious and well-regarded organization promoting environmental awareness in Australia.

Peter Garrett’s presence was without doubt a major factor in the success of the public meeting. Over 500 people turned up. Undoubtedly many came just to see their Australian icon, but by the end of the evening, everyone had been moved and inspired by his passionate speech. In addition to the obvious message of the importance of maintaining the environment and its wildlife, Peter also struck home with the observation that the Commonwealth of Australia is for the common good not just for a privileged few and not just the affluent. Peter Garrett is now the Labor Government Minister for the Environment. At the end of the meeting a resolution was drafted and presented to almost unanimous approval.

Resolutions taken at Public Meeting, Belmont High School, 24 Feb 1999:

“We resolve that the Lake Macquarie City Council retain the current zoning of the BHP land between Belmont and Redhead and remove any residential development plans for that land within the Lifestyle 2020 planning.”

“In recognition that the responsibility for the BHP land between Belmont and Redhead should not fall solely on Lake Macquarie City Council we call upon the State and Federal governments to preserve the remaining coastal wetland and dune system in Lake Macquarie to be regenerated and maintained for controlled access for future
generations for educational and recreational purposes.”

The Belmont meeting was the turning point in the Alliance campaign, but it was obvious that there were still many obstacles to overcome. A meeting was scheduled between the BHP planners and three of the officers of the Alliance. After the meeting the properties manager was quoted as saying, ‘I can deal with angry young men but three reasonable grannies was too much.’ Although the meeting outcomes were inconclusive, the Alliance’s determination was quite clear. After the meeting the Alliance sent the BHP Planning Department a letter confirming our understanding of what had transpired, and requesting that a subsequent meeting be scheduled. When dealing with corporate executives, it is essential that community groups establish their professional footing which can avoid the strong tendency of corporations to dismiss community representatives as irrelevant.

In mid-1999 two of us were fortunate to attend a workshop run by the late Bill Moyer, social activist trainer who was visiting from the United States. His ‘Eight Stages of the Process of Social Movement Success’ became our guide that we consulted many times throughout the ensuing campaign. It provided us with a framework for organizing our actions – and on many occasions, offered encouragement when the achievement of our goals seemed to be beyond our limited resources.

The eight stages suggested by the Bill Moyer:
1. Normal Times – when public is unaware of a problem;
2. Failure of Institutions – when research to support the social movement is required as a basis for its organization.
3. Ripening Conditions – when recognition of the issues by the public is sufficient to support protests;
4. Movement Take-off – due to a ‘trigger event’ that mobilizes people;
5. Powerlessness – a period of feeling that the social movement will be unable to succeed, usually because of strong counteractions by the opposition.
6. Majority Public Support – the momentum for the social movement builds and new ideas appear for alternative strategies.
7. Success – as the majority public support is too strong to ignore.
And then finally but never to be forgotten
8. Continuing the Struggle – to insure the progress achieved does not get bogged down in bureaucratic sinkholes where vested interests will attempt to fight and delay the execution of the public mandate. (2)

Soon after the workshop, a young architect and town planner in our group designed a plan for walkways, bird- and whale-viewing platforms and an education centre. In November of 1999 we arranged, with the help of the local MP, to meet with the State Minister for the Environment to present our opposition to development and to present our alternative plan for a park with the potential for encouraging ecotourism.

Slowly, or so it seemed, but surely, as it turned out, the Alliance gained more and more support through a continuing stream of Letters to the Editor in the regional newspaper. To keep the issues in the public eye while engaging an increasing segment of the public, the Alliance looked for ways to present its proposed program through media releases – and in more colourful ways such as outdoor rallies and marches that incorporated street theatre. In one such event we staged a ‘Reclaim the Beach’ rally with one man acting as a BHP official and two young men playing security guards on the beach at Redhead and a clown who led a crowd waving flags to tear down the orange traffic barriers and take over the beach for the community. A few months later we concluded a rally and march through the town of Belmont with an parade of flags and drums. Another time we offered a musical revue highlighted by two members wearing Comedia Arte masks singing the iconoclastic ‘Featuring the Necktie’ which was a notable hit with the audience. The lyrics seem so appropriate to our experience we have included them below.

They’re privatising thing we own together.
They’re flogging off the people’s common ground.
And though we’re still connected by the weather
They say that sharing thing is now unsound.
They’re lonelifying all the public spaces.
They’re rationalising swags and billabongs.
They’re awfulising natures lovely places.
Dismantling the dreaming and the songs.
Their macho fear of flabby, soft sensations
Makes them pine for all things hard and lean.
They talk of foreign market penetration
And throbbing private sectors. It’s obscene.
They’re basically unloving types of creatures
With demons lurking underneath their beds.
You’ll notice that a necktie always features
To keep their hearts quite separate from their heads.
So if they steal away the people’s treasure.
And bring the jolly swagman to his knees
They can’t remove the simple common pleasure
Of loathing public bastards such as these. (3)

As members of the Alliance we always did our best to have fun and make it a joyful and different experience for the people who came. And when people come to an event, the media is sure to follow, providing free advertizing for our cause. To involve young families we would put on a sausage sizzle while providing painting tables and materials for the children. To raise money to cover the never-ending stream of incidental expenses, we conducted raffles at every event with local supporters donating the prizes. We also hosted three fund-raising film nights at local cinemas. An artist in our group donated a painting of one of our local beachside lagoons. Perhaps it was a good omen that the raffle for the painting was won by the Mayor of Lake Macquarie. At another event at a shopping centre, Elvis (or local facsimile) sang ‘Don’t You Step on My Wetlands’, after which he led a bagpipe band on a march to the State Member’s office where signs were erected admonishing him to ‘Save the Wetlands’.

In March 2000 a vote of the Lake Macquarie Council directed that the BHP land could not be built upon – our first major victory. It was a decision which we had fought hard to obtain over the years: the Council had repeatedly expressed reluctance to make that formal determination for fear that BHP could invoke the State zoning code and force the Council to acquire the land at ‘fair market value’, conservatively estimated to be around $6 million.

At the end of 2000 the Alliance organized another public meeting – this time aiming for the politicians in the State Government. A federal politician who had been involved with our group for many years used the opportunity to challenge the local State representative to exhibit responsible leadership and get to work insuring that the wetlands were well and truly saved for future generations, out of the reach of commercial deals of political expedience.

Another time the Alliance organized a walk through that part of the wetlands that had been planned to be – and has now become – a walking and cycling path (Fernleigh Track). During the walk there was a ‘weed detective’ competition conducted for the children.

One member of the Alliance did extensive research to support a formal submission for the inclusion of the entire coastal wetlands system in the Directory of Important Wetlands of Australia. We have been informed that her submission was successful.

Throughout the entire campaign the Alliance maintained a close and continuous consultation with the local Bahtabah Aboriginal Land Council because the land at the southern end of the wetlands, bordering a large lagoon, is central to the legend of the Awabakal people known as ‘The Night the Moon Cried’ which tells how the lagoon was formed. (4)

By mid-2000, BHP had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the New South Wales government regarding the disposal of all their corporate land holdings in the Newcastle and adjacent regions, including the wetlands. We now turned the focus of our efforts and energy on the State Government. A second more detailed plan, this time designed by a landscape architect, also a member of the Alliance, was presented to the local branch of the State Planning Department. Based upon their response, a delegation was sent to the offices of the State Parliament to discuss the plan with NSW Premier’s Parliamentary Secretary and request that he present the plan for approval by the Parliament. At the time there was still pressure from some members of the government to adopt a plan that would insure the land would pay for itself in the future. Our position argued against any use of the land that would involve any activities not specifically associated with recreation and education. The Alliance plan proscribed any form of tourist accommodation or commercial businesses.

Even as the signs were increasingly favourable and our doubts were replaced by hope, there remained the seemingly unrelenting pressure to keep the issue in the public eye as well as that of the politicians. Then in October 2001 Alliance representatives were invited to a major media release meeting in Newcastle during which the NSW Premier Bob Carr was to announce the contents of the final decision of the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated with BHP. With bated breath and hoping against hope that the decision would be relatively favourable, we were stunned and overjoyed to hear the Premier announce in quite precise and unmistakable language that the former BHP land – our wetlands – would not ever be developed. A community celebration was held and a framed photograph given to the Minister who had helped us. Again we had food available and the activities for children this time included a competition for recognizing wetland birds.

A risk still remained that the actual process of gazetting the land could be delayed or deferred indefinitely within the political bureaucracy, in which case there was always the chance that the Premier’s best intentions might be overturned by an appeal to a future less favourable government. So we followed Bill Moyer’s 8th and final principle – we ‘continued the struggle’ taking every opportunity to publicize our plan and its benefits to the community – and making a point to attend every public meeting that Mr. Carr had in the Newcastle area to challenge him to honour his promise.

It was not until almost four years later in August 2005 that two representatives of the Alliance were photographed together and became front page news in the local newspaper in its announcement that the wetlands once owned by BHP had been designated as the 10thState Park in New South Wales. Even so, it was still not until March 2006 that a Management Trust was finally set up under the auspices of the Lands Department for administration of the Belmont Wetlands State Park.

And thus began the long process of converting a long-neglected and exploited tract of seacoast land to its potential value as a wildlife preserve and resource for recreation and education. The stated public purpose is for public recreation, coastal environmental protection, with tourist facilities and services. A Landcare group of volunteers is eager to start the rehabilitation process.

At the time of writing this paper the situation has become increasingly positive. As of March 2008 a project officer was appointed by the Trust to oversee the land and stop the ‘traditional’ and informal (and now illegal) entry by four-wheel-drive vehicles seeking access to the ocean beach. The plan is to regulate access for people to the beach while insuring that the dunes will be protected. In addition, construction is underway for the completion of the Fernleigh Track for cycling and walking along the old rail line that ran just outside the western boundary.

The work of the Alliance is now aimed towards gaining approval for the inclusion of some seventeen small wetland areas, stretching for fifteen kilometers from the Redhead Lagoon in the Awabakal Reserve at Dudley to Galgabba Point south of Swansea, to enhance the current Park and insure that their role as wildlife habitats, especially for migrating birds of many species, is not disturbed. It is certainly an auspicious sign that our program is fully supported by the Mayor and the Council of Lake Macquarie City. In fact the Alliance has been given a grant from Council to raise public awareness for the need to incorporate the wetlands into a park.

Of course there is always the danger that the current situation for which we worked so hard could be eroded by development pressures. Since the decision by Premier Bob Carr in 2005, a new government with a new cast of Ministers has assumed power. There have been changes within the State Government Planning Department to the effect that the current Minister for Planning now has the authority to make decisions involving the use and zoning of all ‘state significant’ land. In the opinion of members of the Alliance, it is questionable that a State Park would be declared in the current climate. In such a situation the Alliance feels it still has a part to play, working to promote the positive transformation of the land – and to keep the public alert to potential dangers of the loss of significant undeveloped land.

During our campaign we received considerable support from staff at the Hunter Wetlands Centre at Shortland, Newcastle. The centre is now located on what was once degraded land and is now an internationally recognized RAMSAR site. (5) With their help we are exploring this possibility for the Belmont Wetlands State Park site. The Hunter Bird Observers helped us to compile a list of birds in the wetland system and we presented a booklet of this list to the Council. Throughout the campaign we were assisted by a number of individuals and concerned groups who supported our work.

A small number of people had to leave the group because employment demands meant that their work was in conflict with the aims of the Alliance. The limited positions for town planners or architects are often with firms that do not have the highest environmental visions. We also ran into a problem faced by many groups: a member whose motives for joining are not in keeping with the goals and who eventually show themselves to be using information from the group for purposes that are in direct conflict with the group’s aims. This is always a possibility with a public committee but has to be guarded against.

We hope that our story will encourage people to act. We constantly remind ourselves that even it we had not succeeded, to have done nothing would have been worse than losing. We also have become a recognized ‘stake holder’ and a group with presence that is called upon for opinions on a variety of local issues. And as a result of this decade of working together we have formed real and lasting friendships – and found a great deal of fulfilment and joy in working together as community of like spirits.


Lake Macquarie Landcare Resource Office, Lake Macquarie Coastal Wetlands Park , 2007
Moyer, Bill, Doing Democracy , 2001, British Columbia Arts Council, pp. 44-45.
Thomas, Ian, Environmental Impact, Assessment in Australia. Theory and Practice , 2nd Ed., Sydney: The Federation Press.


Marion Armstrong, Deputy Chair, is a graduate in Social Work from Sydney University and retired from life as a social work practitioner in 1995. This was the time that BHP sought to develop the environmentally significant site on the NSW east coast, known as the Belmont Wetlands. Marion took the opportunity now available, to engage with the community in the campaign to prevent the alienation of this site to housing.

Angela Gleeson, Secretary:
When I moved to Jewells in 1992, I joined one of the local environmental movements that led into membership of LMCWA, as I discovered that BHP planned to sell off its land adjoining my property for more housing. A reasonable compromise has resulted after much lobbying by the Alliance, with the establishment of on half of the land, a retirement village with some eco-friendly aspects. I’m now involved with the Alliance in negotiating to include the other portion of the land, that was gifted to the council, to be part of the proposed Lake Macquarie Coastal Wetlands Park. I joined Landcare to become a part of a team that rehabilitated the Belmont Lagoon foreshore. To support my colleagues and our causes in the Alliance I have accepted the role of secretary and have contributed some photos of the coastal wetlands on LMCWA’s website.

Leslie Jacobi attended Goucher College in Baltimore and completed her BA at Coker College in Hartsville South Carolina. In 1969 she emigrated to Australia with her husband and three children and settled in Redhead. In 1996 it became common knowledge that the local council was considering a development application to develop the 510 hectares (1250 acres) of coastal dunes and wetlands adjacent to the beach south of Redhead to create a new community as large as the town of Redhead. She and a number of other concerned citizens organized the Lake Macquarie Coastal & Wetlands Alliance with the expressed object of stopping the development proposal and in the process to establish a rationale that would serve to protect several other similar coastal areas in region. At times the task appeared hopeless; but in 2005 their campaign proved successful and the land was declared a State Park.

Norton Jacobi was born in 1933 in East Orange, N.J. and graduated from Princeton with a BA in History & Economics in 1955. Worked with IBM until 1964 when he moved to an academic position in the College of Business at the U. of South Carolina. In 1969 he joined the Economics Department of the University of Newcastle, Australia where he worked until retirement in 1993. His main research interests were in the problems in rural communities in developing countries and general philosophical analysis of the pseudo-scientific presumptions within modern economics. Since retirement time has been allocated to several writing projects with a primary focus upon the inadequacy of the economic theory of rationality and, most particularly, its supposed pragmatic application in economic rationalism. Norton has been an active supporter of a wide range of social issues including problems involving environmental degradation. He is a member of the Greens Party of New South Wales.

Dianna Mannigel, member of the Board of the Belmont Wetlands State Park Trust, since it was established in 2006. After a childhood in rural NSW and a career in education in crowded Sydney, Lake Macquarie became the place for my retirement. I soon realised that this beautiful area was under threat from industrial damage and inappropriate urban expansion, for economic gain. But I also found a group of people aghast at proposals which would jeopardize things I had begun to appreciate: the coastal wetlands, native forest, dunes, animals, and birds. These were people taking action. So I joined the Alliance, helped to plan and joined in well-publicized marches, displays and large public meetings, aimed at keeping the public informed. I enjoyed the company of active, dedicated, realistic people, who were willing to learn more about the political, environmental, social and industrial issues, and to work hard together to achieve their goal.

Don Owers, Chair: For me it was not one issue, instead it was the frustration of hearing the same rationale for development, ‘it’s only a small piece of land’ repeated over and over again. I came to realize that every development sets a new baseline so that further developments were still regarded as individual changes and not in their entirety. The unpleasant truth is that such growth will continue unabated unless there are enough people to take a stand.

The following websites might be of interest:

Hunter Wetlands Centere
Nature Conservation Council
Central Coast Environment Network:
Australian Conservation Foundation:
Lake Macquarie City Council:



1. Lake Macquarie Wetlands Park Community Action Group, Jewells Catchment Total Management Group, Redhead Care, Jewells/Belmont North Precinct, Belmont Lagoon Committee

2. Moyer, Bill, Doing Democracy, 2001, British Columbia Arts Council, pp 44-45.

3. words by Michael Leunig, music by John Shortis, recorded by Jeannie Lewis

4. The Night the Moon Cried
This ancient Awabakal legend tells how Belmont Lagoon was formed;
There was a time, so the tribal elders would recall aroung the camp fires, when Belmont (Bah-Ta-Bah) was all bush. Yellana was the moon, whose sacred spirit was a man named Pontoe-Boong. He travelled great distances all through the night over his vast domain, he went so far that at times his people on earth could only see part of him. But the sun, Punnal, was a woman whose shining glory was alwasys seen fully. She had only each day to sink deep into the earth to get fire an light. She defied wetness by rising each morning out of the sea. One night Pontoe-Boong looked downwards. He was sad and a little jealour of Punnal. He began to cry. Soon there was a small pool which grew bigger and bigger until it became a lagoon. Pontoe-Boong saw all this people gathered on the hillside, waiting, watching and wondering about this wonderful event of the sky. Pontoe=Boong came closer to earth and night became as day; the first moonlight. He saw his reflection in the water. Said he “I will be happy always now because my people can see me in the water, which will never dry up.” He arose in the heavens full of joy. At intervals, he would move down to earth, and then all the tribes would gather at the Lagoon to sing and dance in honour of Pontoe-Boong – the Creator of light that takes away the darkness of Night.

5. The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 158 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1718 wetland sites, totaling 159 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

Protesting against coal with Rising Tide

Paula Morrow

I just told a bloke I met for the first time today in ‘Suspension’, the most activist-friendly coffee-shop in Newcastle, that being involved with groups that protest, that work for positive change, is enlivening.

I am here to tell you that you feel extremely alive when you paddle a kayak out on to the harbour with many others as part of one of the ‘flotillas’ organised by Rising Tide and stop the coal ships for the day. And Vera Deacon has done that in her 80s!

It reminds me of the day 200,000 of us sat down in Sydney’s main streets for the Vietnam Moratorium. And stopped the city.

And when you trespass on to the coal loaders and stop them operating for a few hours.

Or when you run breathless with fear and excitement (and probably lack of fitness once you are over fifty) through the fence and up on to the mountains of coal in the grounds of one of NSW’s filthiest power stations, ‘Bayswater’ near Muswellbrook. You feel very alive then.

I have form as an active member of the Vietnam Moratorium. I was voted on to the NSW co-ordinating committee of the Moratorium, at the age of 24 when I was single mum with a two year old, or a ‘deserted wife’ as they called us in 1970.

I arrived in Newcastle in 1988 with three of my four kids, 15 months after my second husband died of cancer. We were following the eldest who was starting university here. I straight away looked for groups similar to those I had been involved with on the far north coast of NSW: environment groups and co-counselling.  And Quakers.

I went to some environmental group meetings which spawned Newcastle Greens and Trees in Newcastle. I was one of the earliest in Newcastle Greens. And later on I was the (un-official) Newcastle representative to the Greens’ meeting in Sydney that made the decision to form The Australian Greens. I just said that I didn’t think that Newcastle Greens would stand in the way of such a move. (That being the low level of enthusiasm I had judged from our group, for centralisation of any kind.)

My three younger kids were exposed to people talking about politics. I especially remember one magical Greens’ night at John and Carrie’s that included as well as big pots of food, someone playing the didgeridoo. I was glad that they experienced that particular night. This was about the time that Ian who was one of the organisers of The Wilderness Society Newcastle, came on board with the Newcastle Greens and that felt like a strengthening. (I had joined The Wilderness Society from the far north coast, soon after it was formed over the Franklin crisis.)

Other environmental groups started springing up about ten years later, notably Rising Tide. I have been arrested three or four times over the past four or five years with them. On the coal-loaders twice, in the grounds of Bayswater power-station, and in the entrance of parliament house, Canberra. I must come across as a middle-aged feral!

I am happy to answer to the term environmental activist. Or to hippy, from my positive experiences in the hippy commune movement from 1970 in south eastern Queensland and in far northern NSW.

The Sydney Morning Herald was recently kind enough to call me an ‘eco-writer’.

April 08 trespassing on the site of the 3rd coal loader.

The only time I got arrested with my full-time forest activist son Ben was on the first coal-loader jaunt. He had already been diagnosed with cancer by then, had had the exploratory surgery that could do nothing, and a few rounds of chemotherapy, but bounced back into his old spiritual self with the leadership qualities he had exhibited when he came into his own in the forests of NSW and Tasmania.

I felt constricted with fear for him. He was taking photos. It was raining and cold and muddy. Later we were all, about 23 of us, held and harassed in the police station cells in Newcastle for hours. They had taken our water bottles. There was a tap attached to the top of the filthy toilet in the cell I was in with four of the young women. None of us drank from it. I was concerned about Ben, in with the other activist blokes, but weakened by illness and treatment.
In the cells with the idealistic young women, including one who meditated for a bit, I started to tell the story of being in the police station in Kuwait, when I was twenty and a traveller, and how much more desperate and dangerous it was then. I think it was Naomi who particularly wanted to hear, but we were interrupted by the police wanting to catalogue us: photos and fingerprints.

I was concerned that one of the young women in another cell, Chrissie, might get hypothermia and told a cop who seemed to be interested in OH & S and he went and talked to her and got her a blanket. You can always rely on those people, and the reps in a place, to take some responsibility.
The police took everything: our jewellery, wallets, and the aforesaid water bottles as well as our fingerprints and photos.

At one stage an assertive and cranky female cop asked us if we wanted her to get some Maccas in. It must have been about 2 pm by then. I was more concerned about us not drinking anything for hours. All we protesters and ferals had strong ideas on nutrition too. Young rangy men started saying ‘can they leave the meat off mine?’, and ‘can I just have chips?’

‘If you are going to be pedantic, I won’t bother!’ said she, and she didn’t.

Pete Gray had told us early in the day, at our six am start, that he was not happy missing out on actually being in the protest. I assumed he was on bail or something. Pete had a whole feast lovingly arranged for when we got out, late in the day. He had a table set up on the path right outside the police station with a huge selection of breads and dips!

There is often this intense appreciation of each other as individuals who have bothered to step off the well-trodden path and put ourselves on the line in order to try and wake the population up. Wake up to the dangers of evaporating our coal-mines into our atmosphere. Our grandchildren’s only atmosphere.
Bob Brown said at Ben’s funeral in Newcastle in 2009, ‘He was one of the VERY FEW WHO ACTUALLY GET IT!’

Before that I tried to get arrested in the same vicinity as Ben was trying to not get arrested. I walked into the exclusion zone of the Weld Forest in Tassie earlier in 2007. Ben and other direct action activists were climbing through the bush secretly, so that the police could not grab them and put them out of action, while lots of us were walking on the easier logging road. It was still seven kilometres each way, deliberately in the exclusion zone. Including young women with prams. On that rough logging road. There was a public and media blackout zone so the logging company could take out more old-growth forest. I had meant to get arrested but they did not arrest any of us that day.

I have written about meeting some of the Tasmanian forests through Ben’s inviting my daughter and me down there in my novel based on truth: Darwin’s Dilemma: the damage done and the battle for the forests.

In November 2008 we trespassed on Bayswater power station near Muswellbrook.

It was a big drive. I took my car. Jude sat next to me. Jonathan in the back said something about the despair of having all this environmental catastrophe on us. And I said, No! It was ever thus! Before we knew all this. It is the existential angst! The anguish of being conscious beings in animal bodies. I certainly felt it as a young person very keenly, extremely keenly, reading Albert Camus. Fromm was the antidote, The Art of Loving shared amongst those of us who most needed it. And then later Island by Aldous Huxley. The impetus for my own utopian novel, Life in Time. Jude later said that she enjoyed that conversation between Jonathan and me.

Graeme Dunstan was there in his very obvious van. It had a loudspeaker on it! I knew him vaguely as one of the organisers of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival in 1973: the ‘Survival Festival’. I went over ten days early from my banana shed in Mullumbimby to help with the setting up of the festival. Graeme made us a cup of tea out the back of his van after the Bayswater escapade.

I felt again the rush of fear and excitement as we breached the wire fence. And then we run, together. Get in before they stop us! As usual I giggle with the excitement and the unusual effort and wonder if I will keep up. Later, further in, the black mountains of coal are huge and the coal slips away from under my feet which makes me giggle more.

Later we covered for the couple of photographers who needed to get out and get the film out.

One of the workers said he thought we were doing the right thing.

When the police were there and we were reduced to lots of standing around on top of a hill, one of the young protesters said that he thought it was like the anti-Vietnam protesters, everyone thought they were wrong at first and then they were proved right. He seemed a bit thrilled when I told him that I had been part of that too when I was about his age. I was even voted on to the organising committee of the NSW Vietnam Moratorium when I was 24.

And the only time I have been arrested with my daughter was in 2009, in the entrance to Parliament House Canberra, with Rising Tide and people from other states. About 200 of us were arrested when we gathered to try to encourage Kevin Rudd to go for reasonable targets at Copenhagen. My daughter had been radicalised when we spent the night in the Styx Forest as guests of Ben and his small band.

Mind you, I also feel very alive when I swim in the sea, or walk in the bush, and surprisingly when I walk, or catch public transport, in the rain. It takes me back to being a kid, when we all walked or caught buses or trains a whole lot more. A bit of discomfort (not too much thanks!) activates the senses. As does the witnessing of human interactions when we are out in the public space, as opposed to sealed, de-humidified and homogenised, in our cars.
How much more do we then feel enlivened if we meet with others of similar values and try to push for environmental sustainability, or for social justice? And get out there in it?

As Pete Gray signed off on one of his emails to a group of us fellow protesters,

‘Pleasure makin’ trouble with you!’


A Eulogy for Laman St

Paul F. Walsh OAM

[Beauty, A Eulogy for Laman St, was written by Paul F Walsh OAM and delivered by him at the Baptist Tabernacle, Laman St, Newcastle, Australia, on Sunday February 26 2012.]

The trees were budding, the birds were singing – the grass was wet – the whole earth was shining. And suddenly I was the trees and the flowers and the birds and the grass – and there was no I at all.

– Kahlil Gibran from Mary Haskell’s journal, May 23 1924.

I am Ignoramus.

We are Beauty.

La Man, a sexual paradox in Laman St, a place where the masculine and feminine aspects of each of us stand either side of a contraceptive barrier erected by fear:

fear of the truth; fear of a hidden Anzac agenda; fear of a genuinely independent assessment; fear of non-independent, dependent, ‘independent’ consultants; fear of the great lie within our chamber of secrets; fear of insurance-driven lack of assurance; fear of mediation; fear of collaborative oneness; fear of the mal in maladministration; fear of the loss of an ethical and moral compass; fear of manipulative blindness masquerading as vision; fear of non-representative representation; fear of institutionalized deceit; fear of unregulated regulators turning a blind eye; fear of a lack of genuine parliamentary oversight; fear of oxymoronic government neutrality; fear of the fig leaf covering our cultural ugliness; fear of Beauty.

I am Ignoramus.

We are Beauty.

Beauty:  December 27 1930: ‘In one of the first utterances after his election as Mayor of Newcastle Ald. Parker made a welcome statement of his intention to use his energies for the beautification of the city. He spoke of the beaches, but the most interesting feature of his statement was his reference to trees.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop chop!’

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘If he does nothing else but inaugurate a new era of tree planting, he will leave a name that will be honoured and sung in the years to come. A memorial erected in stone in recognition of civic services cannot be compared with the memorial living in the hearts of each succeeding generation. And it is the latter kind of memorial that will be the Mayor’s reward…’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘A young tree in a park is an invitation to the rude destructive hands of boys and girls, and sometimes the parents witness the work of destruction unmoved. If spoken to, they remark with surprise that it is only a tree.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘In the case of ill-treatment of a dog or cat or some other animal they would be instantly stirred to action, but a tree does not cry out: it submits silently to destruction. Where there is no poetry in the soul, this view can be understood, but the city should have poetry in its soul, and it should deal with those who would either crush beauty or despoil it.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘With the younger generation there should be special efforts in the schools to promote a tree sense, and this should lead to the protection of trees already planted…’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: January 6 1931: A sentiment attributed to Alderman O’Neill: ‘He agreed with what had been said, that a “tree spirit” should be inaugurated.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: January 6 1931: A sentiment attributed to Alderman Gibson: ‘What has been done in a few months on the barren block of land facing the Town Hall showed what attention could do. The trees were already nearly 2 ft in height. They were beautiful.’

The trees of Laman St were equally beautiful, and Ignoramus killed them.

Ignoramus killed Beauty.

Ignoramus declared Beauty to be dangerous.

Beauty might attack his tenuous grip on the tail of Simpson’s donkey. But a strong wind event from the back of the beast might cause Beauty to swoon and fall.

‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Ignoramus cannot imagine do-gooders at Anzac Cove. Nor can he see tree-huggers at Lone Pine. His grand revitalization vision can see only himself, the past universal I reflected back to him from every superficial non-reflective surface.

Ignoramus wears his Pyrrhic victory like a borrowed raincoat to protect him from a torrent of contrary Newcastle Voices. In his limited limitless mind Ignoramus is the community. Anybody else is a passing storm of something other, and that other must be a noisy thunder-clapping, lightning minority, no matter how majority that minority may be.

Ignoramus does not recognize the Anzac spirit in the Laman St pickets. He does not recognize unity in community. He does not recognize victory in apparent defeat.

Ignoramus does not recognize what he seeks to commemorate.

Ignoramus destroys what he seeks to commemorate.

‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

I hear the choir of birds singing in the canopy at dawn as we nervously await the approach of the centurions. I take one last lingering look: these beautiful figs have fashioned an arboreal cathedral, a sacred grove, a living memorial; they are a parable of unity in community: fourteen living as one. I want to tell them to run away, to uproot themselves and save Beauty for another day.

But Beauty does not run. Beauty is too deeply rooted in the poetry in our souls to run. The wisdom of 1930 still rings true. Beauty does not cry out: she submits silently to destruction.

Ignoramus crucified Beauty on the cross of her own wood.

And yet Ignoramus and Beauty live within each of us.

We are all responsible. We are all one.

Where is Beauty’s burial place from which hope might spring?

There is no resurrection of this crucified Beauty in Laman St but there is surely a resurrection of Beauty in our hearts.

We are the figs!

We are the figs!

We are the figs!

Let us shade and comfort each other.

And when next we enter the polling booths in the Novocastrian Spring, that time of new life, a new dawn, a newer world, let Beauty cast our ballot, let us uphold an electoral mirror so that Ignoramus may see Beauty reflected.

I am Ignoramus.

We are Beauty.

‘The trees were budding, the birds were singing – the grass was wet – the whole earth was shining. And suddenly I was the trees and the flowers and the birds and the grass – and there was no I at all.’

Kahlil Gibran from Mary Haskell’s journal, May 23 1924.

Beauty, A Eulogy for Laman St, was written by Paul F Walsh OAM and delivered by him at the Baptist Tabernacle, Laman St, Newcastle, Australia, on Sunday February 26 2012.

Mr Walsh thanks:

Susan Harvey of Tusk Productions for creative editorial support and research assistance; Gionni Di Gravio, University Archivist, University of Newcastle, for research advice, research contributions and creative assistance.

Mr Walsh acknowledges quotations from:

‘I Care About Your Happiness, Quotations from the Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, selected by Susan Polis Schutz; designed and illustrated by Stephen Schutz; Continental Publications, 1975 and Coolabah Gallery.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Saturday December 27 1930, ‘Trees and the City’.

Radical Newcastle Colloquium Flyer

On Friday 2 December The University Gallery will host the Radical Newcastle colloquium.

This all day event, featuring historians, activists, public intellectuals and the wider community will examine and discuss a broad array of topics from sex and abortion to radical clergy, environmental activism and politics. And yes, the famous Laman Street Figs are also on the agenda.

Speakers include noted Australian historian Professor Ann Curthoys (University of Sydney), the first Green elected to public office in NSW, and Laman Street figs activist, John Sutton, and sociologist and linguist, Dr Jim Wafer.

‘Radical Newcastle’ is an important new project built around partnerships between the University of Newcastle and the local community. This project aims to recover the radical underbelly and often submerged dimensions of Newcastle history and to connect that past with contemporary activist movements in the Hunter region.

A number of books have been published over the past decade on the radical histories of some of Australia’s big cities: Radical Melbourne, Radical Brisbane and, last year, Radical Sydney.

Senior Lecturer at the School of Humanities and Social Science, and one of the project’s coordinators, Dr James Bennett said that “Radical Newcastle” would be the first such project on a regional Australian city, and one that would reflect a very different radical heritage from Australia’s major metropolitan centres.

“We believe that a collaborative anthology on the radical past and present of Newcastle has the potential to recover some important aspects of the city’s history, in the process developing valuable partnerships with the local community” he said.

The “Radical Newcastle” project is looking to illuminate those obscure and untold stories that have shaped the city’s character, its cultural life and institutions.

This is a free event and lunch is provided. However a donation according to your means would be greatly appreciated to assist with catering for the day.

Please RSVP to the University Gallery on (02) 4921 5255 by Monday 28 November.

The Newcastle Branch of The Wilderness Society is a local community environmental group whose mission is to protect, promote and secure the future of wilderness and other high conservation areas.

The Newcastle Branch of The Wilderness Society has members throughout the Hunter Region and has a strong interest protecting local areas of high conservation value.

Such areas include Stockton Bight, Jabiluka Uranium Mine, Tomalpin Industrial Estate, Tomago Sandbeds and the native forests of Barrington Tops and Jilliby Reserve.

The archives collection of the Newcastle Branch of the Wilderness Society spans the years 1976 – 2007. The Collection predominantly contains correspondence and publications relating to their environmental campaigns as well as media files on local, national and international environmental issues.

[DOWNLOAD] Wilderness Society (Newcastle Branch) Archives Listing Compiled by Melanie Patfield

Newcastle Greens was formed in mid-1990 with the express purpose of contesting the 1991 Local Government election. At this election, John Sutton was elected to Newcastle City Council – becoming the equal first Greens councillor elected to Local Government anywhere in Australia.

Since then Newcastle Greens has stood candidates in every Local, State and Federal election, consistently achieving good results which have helped to win seats for The Greens in the NSW Legislative Council and the Senate.

In 1995, when Newcastle City Council adopted the ward system, three Greens councillors were elected to the Council: John Sutton, Margaret Henry and Liz Rene. At the 1999 elections, Margaret Henry was returned for another term, along with Ian McKenzie.

In 2004, Newcastle Greens won four seats on the Council, the successful councillors being: Ian McKenzie (Ward 1), Michael Osborne (Ward 2), Keith Parsons (Ward 3) and Cassandra Arnold (Ward 4).

In 2008, Newcastle Greens achieved the highest Green vote to date for both Newcastle and Lake Macquarie City Councils.  Despite this, only one Greens councillor (Michael Osborne in Ward 1) was elected in Newcastle. However, for the first time, two Greens were elected in Lake Macquarie (Hannah Gissane, North Ward and Phillipa Parsons, East Ward).

In the early 1990s, Newcastle Greens mentored the formation of Maitland Greens and later, the Central Coast Greens. We have also given financial support to other Greens organisations to assist their election campaigns, as well as to local environmental and social justice groups. Since our formation, our members have been actively involved in the progressive social change movement in campaigns and organisations in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Hunter.

As one of the largest local groups within the structure of the state and national Greens Party, Newcastle Greens has been active and influential in both organisational and policy debates and decisions within The Greens NSW and the Australian Greens, and local members have served in both state and national positions within the Party.


Although these Archives are available on Open Access, the Newcastle Greens would appreciate being advised of your reasons for using them. We particularly request students or researchers who are undertaking an academic thesis, or other written projects that may lead to publication, to contact:

Newcastle Greens Secretary:
Email:; Postal: P.O. Box 269, Newcastle, 2300


Newcastle Greens Archive Officers:
Beverley Symons, ph 4962 2160; email:
Ross Edmonds, ph 4023 3509; email:

The records were deposited by Beverly Symons and Ross Edmonds in December 2009 and accessioned May 2011 by Ms Melanie Patfield. The listing of the archival collections was made possible by the kind generosity of the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund.


The Mayfield Residents Group was established in 1990 by a group of concerned citizens in an effort to bring a public voice to a wide range of community issues.

The aim of the group was to promote the interests of the people of Mayfield at all levels of Government. Pollution remained one of the central concerns of the group over the years and their successful campaign against the building of the Cleanaway waste treatment plant in Mayfield was one of their foremost achievements.

Over the years the Mayfield Residents Group established an effective communication channel with a wide variety of local industries and firms that ensured that the community’s comments and concerns relating to environmental impacts of proposed developments could be addressed.

The records of the Mayfield Residents Group contain a range of documents relating to the operation of the organisation as well as published reports and publications relating to the proposed developments that were under consultation.

The Mayfield Residents Group have been involved in consultations with a number of important organisations, industries and developments of national and international significance including:
•    Port Waratah Coal Service and the Aluminium Fluoride Plant on Kooragang Island;
•    B.H.P. Billiton and Comsteel (later part of the Smorgans Group);
•    Steel River Industrial Park;
•    Newcastle Port Corporation;
•    Cleanaway Waste Treatment Facility.

The Mayfield Residents Group has always championed the provision of first-class professional research into health impacts relating to the industrial developments in Mayfield. They were also a strong advocate for the independent monitoring of industrial emissions and were in regular contact with the EPA through representation at community forums.

The Collection contains material on a range of developments and environmental issues, including:
•    Road management, including traffic flow through Mayfield and developments in the Mayfield shopping area;
•    Transport routes through Mayfield for coal, chemicals and petroleum products;
•    Parks and playgrounds, including swimming pools;
•    Social issues, such as crime prevention, traffic and transport issues;
•    Air and water quality;
•    Waste management and hazardous materials;
•    Newcastle Local Environmental Plan;
•    Regional development of the Hunter Region.

The Mayfield Residents Group continues to be available for community consultation on a range of environmental and social issues that affect the sustainability of the region. Although regular meetings are no longer held, they remain a vital link to ensuring that the voice of the Newcastle community continues to be heard and considered.

The records were deposited by Dr Edward Flowers and accessioned April-May 2011 by Ms Melanie Patfield. The listing of the archival collections was made possible by the kind generosity of the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund.

[DOWNLOAD] Records of the Mayfield Residents Group Listing

From the Introduction:

We live in a society where conspicuous consumption is often applauded, or envied, rather than deplored. In a society where most of the people live in poverty, the principle that ‘more is better’ applies. However, when a society becomes affluent this is no longer the case. Many of our problems originate in the fact that some people have not yet grasped this simple truth.

One of the problems emanating from this state of affairs is the depletion of natural resources and the pollution of our land, air and water. This book gives a brief account of some of the groups who have attempted to restore a balance, or sanity, into the debate about where we, as a society, are heading.

In the area of what may loosely be called “environmental history”, surprisingly little has been written about the Newcastle Region. Two notable works are: John Ramsland, A History of Blackbutt Nature Reserve, (unpublished manuscript in Newcastle Library and Auchmuty Library), 1988; and Patricia Withers, The Origin and Development of the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens 1981-1989, 1994.

Typically books which survey aspects of Australian history provide only brief mentions of Newcastle and the Hunter Region. It is wishful thinking to imagine that people outside the Hunter will write our history. We need to do it ourselves and, in any case, who is better qualified?

Ross Edmonds
Project Supervisor
Wesley Uniting Employment

[DOWNLOAD] Green Conscience: The Ongoing Struggle for a Clean Green Newcastle – A History   (1.4MB PDF)


Est. 1952.

Date range: 1958 – 2004.
Conduit: Doug Lithgow, President
Accessioned: March 2007

The Northern Parks and Playgrounds Movement (NPPM) was formed as an offshoot of the Sydney based Parks and Playgrounds Movement in 1952. Its Constitution was adopted on 26 November 1951.

The objectives of the Movement were “the preservation and development of present recreation and playground spaces in the Newcastle and the north, the development of additional reservations for parks and playgrounds, and the encouragement of beautification of streets, highways and public lands.” The movement was also interested in the establishment, development and ongoing care of national parks and reserves.

One of the earliest campaigns of the Northern Parks and Playgrounds Movement was for the creation of Blackbutt reserve, near Lambton.

A large dossier on the proposal and campaign for the Newcastle East Historic Site, (Coal River Heritage Precinct) dated 1969, retains relevance for contemporary planning debates about the public use of the Newcastle East area.

Contact sheets and correspondence are interspersed with chronological minutes, thus campaign information can be most easily found by reference to the minute books.

The Collection was accessioned in March 2007 by Mr Peter Gray – Brattan, and made possible by the kind generosity of the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund.

Northern Parks and Playgrounds Movement (N.P.P.M.) –  Minute Books

C830 N.P.P.M. Minute Book (22/8/1958 – 23/7/1965)

C831 N.P.P.M. Minute Book (27/8/1965 – 28/7/1967)

C832 N.P.P.M. Minute Book (23/8/1967 – 24/11/1972)

C833 N.P.P.M. Minute Book (23/3/1973 – 24/9/1980)

C834 N.P.P.M. Minute Book (31/10/1980 – 25/11/83)

C835 N.P.P.M. Minute Book (25/11/1983 – 6/12/1985)

C836 N.P.P.M. Minute Book (1/1/1986 – 30/9/1988)

C837 N.P.P.M. Minute Book (17/11/1988 – 28/11/1994)

C838 N.P.P.M. Minute Book (30/1/1995 – 29/2/2003)

Northern Parks and Playgrounds Movement (N.P.P.M.) –  Campaigns

C839 (i) N.P.P.M. Proposal – Newcastle East ‘Historic Site’ (28/5/1969)

C839 (ii) Honeysuckle Scheme Information (Undated)

C839 (iii) N.P.P.M. Proposal – Newcastle Iron and Steelmaking BHP Theme Park (15/6/2000)

C839 (iv) Stockton Bight to Watagan Mountains Conservation Corridor Proposal (9/11/2003)

C839 (v) Lake Macquarie City Council report – Morriset – Proposed Subdivision Creating 10 Residential Lots And 1 Road – D/2003/4159
N.P.P.M. – Coal River Precinct information and correspondence.

Oral History Tapes

A6968 (iib)
Interviewer: Vicki Neech
Interviewee: Doug Lithgow
Topic: Conservation and the history of The Northern Parks and Playgrounds Movement
Quantity: 2 audio tapes
Source: University of Newcastle (Department of Community Programmes) – Open Foundation Course – K.M. Henry – Australian History 1989 Programmes


Online Resources:

Parks and Playgrounds Movement Inc Blog – Contains reports, entries on ongoing campaigns as well as archived website covering years prior to the establishment of the online blog  2000-2008.