Around 40 people representing at least six community groups gathered at Austin Butler reserve in Woy Woy on Saturday, June 11 for a cleanup and to remind Central Coast Council that the community does not want this land to be sold.
By Jacquelene Pearson
The Action for Austin Butler was held under the banner of the Community Environment Network (CEN) with support from the Australian Conservation Foundation Central Coast, Grow Urban Shade Trees (GUST), Ocean and Coastal Care Initiatives (OCCI), Wildlife Arc and WIRES.
The event attracted multiple generations from the same families, all united by the desire to protect a small stand of paperbark trees in the middle of the Woy Woy Town Centre.
Formalities commenced with a traditional Smoking Ceremony by Uncle Phil Pulbrook who spoke about the importance of Paperbark and She Oak trees for soil stability and water storage and filtration.
“We need to make sure we don’t have to lose our green spaces and pay more [in rates] because of the incompetence of others,” said community campaigner, Joy Cooper. “Everyone needs to work together not just for your green space and your patch but all of the patches and all of the green spaces and parks that are across the central coast.”
Mark Ellis from Central Coast ACF pointed out the beauty of the reserve and the abundance of bird life that made its presence clear during the Action for Austin Butler.
He said Central Coast Council saw the reserve as “a block of land to be sold off to a corporation”, noting that a similar gathering was held three years ago when the council first announced its intention to sell the land to Woolworths for the extension of its Woy Woy carpark.
“We are here again three years later to reaffirm our promise to protect this land for this generation and future generations because we know the climate crisis is here and it is getting worse and we know that the urban trees reduce the urban heat island effect.”
Betty from Wildlife Arc said the loss of habitat was the biggest single problem confronting wildlife rescuers across the Central Coast. “As we encroach on their habitat the animals have got nowhere to go. They’ve got less and less space.”
Jennifer Wilder from GUST said: “We are in the process of planting trees, lobbying for trees, assisting Council to catch up with other councils. They are quite behind on urban greening. You may be surprised or unsurprised to learn that in fact the Peninsula has well under 10 per cent canopy which is woeful. It is the reason why we are so baking hot here in summer and we can do better.”
Experts say the required canopy should be at least 40 per cent.
“Try to override some of the risk rhetoric which has dogged us about trees and left a legacy of tree fear which is often times irrational and unhelpful.
“Given that we are well below 10 per cent canopy in Woy Woy the loss of such an important green space as this, it could actually be a major part of that 10 per cent, and given that these are also paperbarks, they are part of the local ecology, it would be a huge loss to see these go,” Jennifer Wilder said.
A spokesperson from Ocean Coastal Care Initiative said we needed to be reminded that the area under threat used to be a wetland and the creek that flows through Austin Butler AC remains an important part of the ecology.
“And that is something that many people don’t know that we have got right here beside the carpark and right up to Blackwall Road.”
The gathering was then entertained with a rewritten version of Big Yellow Taxi by the Artfull Women ukulele group.
All present then donned gloves and collected rubbish including cigarette buts, plastic, a bike frame and loads more.
Two petitions have been started to coincide with the Action for Austin Butler. The first is a petition to the NSW Legislative Assembly calling upon the Minister for Local Government, the Hon Ron Hoenig MP to take all available steps to instruct the Administrator of Central Coast Council to cease any further sales of public land.
The petition needs 10,000 signatures for the matter to be debated in parliament. If you wish to sign a copy or help collect signatures please contact the Community Environment Network. The second petition calls upon Central Coast Council to reclassify land at Memorial Avenue Blackwall from operation to community land to prevent its sale. The land is floodprone and a known Aboriginal site and yet it has been earmarked by Central Coast Council as a potential site for affordable housing.
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