Harbour Trust CEO provides ambiguous response to questions raised by Senate Estimates Committee

Harbour Trust CEO provides ambiguous response to questions raised by Senate Estimates Committee

Plans for the proposed development of a “Residential Care Facility” (aged care home) on Middle Head includes a “proposed heat shield”. The Landscape Masterplan (drawing number C100 H – EPBC-Landscape-Masterplan-With-Roof_H.pdf) shows this heat shield would be about 150 metres long and from 2.05 metres high to 3.14 metres high.

The Landscape Masterplan also states that the:

  • “Locations and heights of Heat Shields are guided by the bushfire protection Assessment report prepared by Travers Bushfire and Ecology.”
  • “Design development of the heat shields will take their cues from their natural context in terms of colours and may include changes to orientation, segmentation, ground levels and screen  planting. Incorporation of lookouts, walkways and interpretive panels will also be considered…”

The Planning Assessment Report (page Page 32 section 6.2 – EPBC-Planning-Report-Rev-B-Final.pf) states that the “the Trust sought independent advice from Travers Bushfire and Ecology”, the same company advising the proponent, “to consider the feasibility of development for such purposes [aged care residential] and what, if any, ameliorative Actions may be necessary for such a development to proceed.” These actions as noted in the Planning Report include “the erection of radiant heat retardant fences.”

At a recent Senate Estimates Committee meeting the Sydney Federation Harbour Trust’s CEO Geoff Bailey said that the “steel fence is an incorrect proposition that the opponents of this proposal have put up. There is no steel fence.” (Hansard Senate Estimates – Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, Tuesday, 27 May 2014).

If there is to be no “steel fence” what will the fence or fences be made of? For a fence to be an effective heat shield it must be made of steel or hardwood timber, “solid steel fences did incredibly well at repelling fire and radiation attacks” says CSIRO’s lead bushfire researcher Justin Leonard in his research on fences against bushfire attack (READ MORE HERE).

Bailey went on to say that the heat shield is more likely to consist of “landscaping in the form of mounds”. The Harbour Trust removed a large dirt mound from the 10 Terminal carpark on Friday 6 June 2014. This dirt mound was there since early 2013 following the excavation of the historic moat on the boundary with the Sydney Harbour National Park. Is the timing of its removal a coincidence? This mound provided recent visitors to the site an idea of the height of a heat shield and how much would be lost. Mounds or fences, the end result be the same.

The proposed construction of a heat shield (in whatever form) together with the demolition of at least 75% of the current 10 Terminal complex and it’s replacement with a massive new 2 storey building will have a significant impact on the whole Middle Head Precinct and its environs.

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