Opinion | Scenic Hills betrayal

MASTER PLAN, MASTER BETRAYAL: Original maps and plans for Campbelltown's Scenic Protection zones, and the great Clive Tregear who lived in hope our governments would respect the plan. He was, unfortunately wrong.
MASTER PLAN, MASTER BETRAYAL: Original maps and plans for Campbelltown's Scenic Protection zones, and the great Clive Tregear who lived in hope our governments would respect the plan. He was, unfortunately wrong.

Campbelltown was master-planned. It might not feel like it at times, bit it was.

And, I've gotta say, there's nothing wrong with the plans ... they're excellent.

The 1973 Three Cities Plan for Campbelltown, Camden and Appin was a pioneering piece of city planning that (shock horror) actually took things like landscape protection into account.

One of the biggest supporters was the great Clive Tregear, who was the mayor of Campbelltown when I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s and my great mentor as a reporter in 1980s and 1990s.

Clive always told me that tiny Campbelltown Council (as it was) only had a limited budget re planning, so he was thrilled when it was handed access to "the best planning minds in Australia".

It was a master plan born of the Whitlam era, as Gough (who was also a local MP) wanted a cutting-edge modern plan for Campbelltown.

Unfortunately, after Gough was deposed in 1975, successive state governments treated Campbelltown as an unloved dumping ground for badly-designed 'houso' estates while ignoring all the bits in the master plan about quality infrastructure.

But, for all that bad treatment, Clive Tregear kept his faith simply because the bedrock remained sound: a cityscape that was surrounded by natural landscape.

This involved four pillars:

1. A Scenic Hills zone: preservation of agricultural/open land to the west.

2. The Georges River Scenic zone: bushland gorges and reserves to the east.

3. A special uses zone at Hurstone: a symbolic strip of farmland separating us from Sydney's sprawl to the north.

4. Gilead: farmland, clearly marked as a "scenic protection" zone, to the south.

A huge new city needed its breathing spaces. Today, we might call them cool places to ease the heat island effect.

So, how are those four key pillars going today?

Hurlstone's farm (which this state government vowed to protect) and Gilead are both being handed to developers for squished-up rooftops. The river bushland is not protected as a Koala National Park (that was a Labor promise, and they lost), and a key koala corridor in Airds has just been bulldozed.

And ... last week ... the government has just rammed though a big new Rookwood cemetery in our Scenic Hills.

The government has systematically dismantled foundation stones of our city's green quality of life.

That means kilometres of concrete roads, car parking for 350 vehicles, and function centres, etc. So, of course, the artists' impressions instead show gardens, flowers, lakes, trees: the only thing missing is cellophane flowers of yellow and green and the girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, you see, has long argued that there is a burial "crisis" in Sydney.

I argue back that if there is truly a "crisis", the Catholic church owned a massive slab of land behind St Greg's that could have ended that crisis for the next century. Instead, it sold that land to developers for profit, and drew up a plan to use our scenic protection zone instead.

As Anoulack Chanthivong said, this will also set in motion a devastating domino effect of new development applications in the hills.

And, as Sydney's "burial crisis" gets worse in the future, all of the new cemetery's promised parklands, etc, will vanish under more graves and ugly mausoleums.

Critics might refute me by pointing to plans guaranteeing all that can't happen.

That's OK. I can also point them to (older) plans guaranteeing that things like giant cemeteries can't be allowed in our Scenic Hills. Hmmm.