Wanted: strategy to protect our natural assets

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Chipping Norton Lakes view[1]
Places like Chipping Norton Lakes should be off limits to development…
We are pretty comfortable and relaxed around here in the great south west these days and no wonder.

Our property prices are going up at a rate of knots, we are getting a stack of new infrastructure, from an international airport at Badgerys Creek to new roads and railways, new schools and higher education facilities.

It is indeed a rosy picture, a fair reward for those of us who stuck by a place that had been much maligned by outsiders who didn’t let ignorance stop them expressing their ridiculous views.

But it was true that there were some tough years and some among us could not take it so they packed their bags and moved to greener pastures or what they had hoped were greener pastures.

I clearly remember a distraught commuter at Leumeah rail station one time who was in tears, and she was telling anyone who would listen: That’s it, we’re moving out of Campbelltown. This is the third time someone’s thrown a brick through my car window.’’

This was a really distressing scene for all those who saw it, and there were a lot of people on the platform that morning looking up at this poor woman who was clearly at her wit’s end.

It was well known that there had been a spate of these types of break ins on cars parked on the western side of Leumeah station at the time, which was around seven or eight years ago.

Mentioning the incident later to other friends around Campbelltown, I remember the response was mostly, yes, we know. There’s heaps of people who’ve left the area because they’ve had enough of the crime.

What a difference a few short years make.

All the police statistics on most types of crime now show a downward trend in the south west, both in Macarthur and Liverpool.

Which makes it one of the big reasons the area’s reputation has got better and better.

As should the Australian Botanic Garden at Mt Annan
As should the Australian Botanic Garden at Mt Annan

But as we open up the place for hundreds of thousands of new residents in the next 30 years or so, it’s worth pondering what we need to protect if we want to continue enjoying the good life in this neck of the woods.

When a place is growing, as we clearly are, the emphasis naturally is on what infrastructure is required to accommodate the thousands of new people, from the roads to the schools we will need to cope.

What we don’t do as well, or place enough emphasis, is have a strategy about the things we don’t want to lose when development comes along.

Destroying something we value so we can create something else is not a price we want to pay.

In an ad hoc way, we certainly let the authorities know when one of our natural assets is under threat, which is well and good.

But what about a stocktake of all those things that really do make a difference to our wonderful lifestyle, from the water holes of the Georges River to our beautiful bushland and all the native animals whose home it is.

It would be nice to develop such a plan and declare it untouchable when development comes along so then we don’t have to fight individual battles to save a particular attraction.

And the Georges River, from Milperra Bridge to Campbelltown
And the Georges River, from Milperra Bridge to Campbelltown

The bush and the rivers are as important in the big picture, if not more important, than new homes and roads and schools and skate parks and playing fields.

This is the type of environmentalism most ordinary people would support and not just card carrying members of the Greens.

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