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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Thursday, 31 January 2008
Saving Maroota environment from open slather sand mining?
Mood:  sad
Topic: ecology


It's been a hell of a week. 2 weeks really. A fusion of Cliff Hardy crime novella, Bob Brown charming enthusiasm and world weary Raymond Chandler cynicism. There's not much that keeps us from our SAM blog/slog running at a surprising 20,000 page views a month now (end of Jan 08) or even the 3 daily papers or even ABC current affairs. But by yesterday we were going cold turkey. It was all because we were turning this suitcase below, which belongs to one Neville Diamond, a pro bono client and sandmining activist, into something else:

Something of beauty. Being so tired at the end we even forgot to take a picture of the 2 inch thick submission being handed over at the DOP - jargon for Department of Planning, 33 Bridge St Sydney in the old Lands Dept sandstone. The pretty yellow tags lablled A to N; the largest bull clip restraining the rampant document from breaking out and swallowing the whole place like a scene from Brazil. And even now it's probably shuddering with malevolent vigour in the bowels of the place late at night like a cackling Triffid 'my s.52 Trade Practices Act is going to kill cook and eat your Part 3A Planning Act' [imagine eerie evil triffid noises about here].

We particularly liked this bit:

For a brief overview of the recent planning reforms, the EDO has assessed the current state of play. [PDF 92 KB]

Note the EDO July 2007 states:

“The new Part 3A reforms in 2005 introduced a new way of doing planning and development in NSW. The reforms were based on laws introduced by Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland in the early 1970s: the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971. These rode roughshod over community consultation rights.” Jeff Smith Principal Solicitor, EDO July 2007

How fitting for my metaphorically ticking bundle of joy to end up in the government block where all the dirty land destruction deals are formalised under this NSW Govt: It was recently revealed this very spot at Bridge was meant to be public amenity until the Rum Rebellion (or is that mutiny?). Here was the imposing sandstone edifice where the same spirit of corruption was still being sanitised by the ornate corner statues silently holding forth, beseeching one to 'have faith' in government. As if. Art is nothing if not fiction even sculpture.

Coup costumes ... soldiers rehearse for the Rum Rebellion re-enactment at the Museum of Sydney.

The thing of beauty of which we write now at 2.45 am - knowing there is no sleep until then - was similar to the document at top left above. The web version is here 

Jan 08 - Objection to Maroota sandming unlicensed water use, failure to rehabilitate etc for 20 years 

but it's not the same in physical space, all 38 pages of closely argued politics, law, expensive expert evidence (even if its shouting down a corridor from 1998 over an earlier DA), pictures, some hints of rhetoric and some sincere malice to the vandals in the local and state govt as well as industry. Appendix M is a real cracker too, believe me:

M. 1997-2008 - litigation history of Neville Diamond 'for Dixon Sands (Penrith) Pty Ltd'

Having done Kinkos at Broadway nervously watching the clock we got the bicycle out of the van and treddled to Bridge St, making it with 1 1/2 hours to spare. For some reason we found ourselves whistling this catchy florid tune by a right wing Cuban, watching the cute women in their summer gear rolling down Pitt St (bike that is), not a care in the world. Maybe it was the surreal sub topical weather in the age of dangerous climate? Maybe my 1/8 Italian sense of operatic melodrama? Time even for some sushi and a natter with the council guy on clean up duty.

It was a special feeling that God allows in this vocation and so it was 12 hours ago. Of duty fulfilled, of a promise kept. If not I then who? No one else could do just this thing on Maroota. God plays Her games like that. Our submission, a 3590 kB brute, was emailed in already but nothing is as simple in the shark pool. Yes the email got there at 12.36pm says the guy at 'Major Developments' (told you it was like Brazil) but not the even bigger list of appendices here:

Legally materials have to arrive by the deadline in the DOP office. But some things are just much better on screen than in print like the lovely picture of the flowering bush as below. So what about referring to bulky and colour format items all in cyberspace via links sent in to the DOP? Well it's accessible to DOP but not really in the DOP. It's in cyberspace. We couldn't take the chance of an exclusion on this threshhold question well into the age of web 2.0. The law can be such an ass. So much for the paper less office.

But none of this mattered exiting the CBD, effortlessly swinging wide amongst the careening buses, and speeding taxis, past the cinema strip. We were in the zone, immune.

We remember a day like this, Friday Sept 13 1994, a black one indeed. Premier John Fahey betrayed the NSW Wilderness Act, the electorate, the state. And we eyeballed the chancy bastard in his lair as he ran his presser floating through security high in the State Office block protected by an invisible hand .... immune, not a lie spoken, nor barrier cheated. A storm brewed late that day too and pissed all over the city in torrents. Very Shakespearean. Some things are just wrong and the Earth was crying. And so it was 6 months later. Fahey could win an Olympics but not an election.

We tried to call the client to share the good news. For a week he'd been holed up in my poky joint rifling through volumes dictating his evidence, copping equal measures praise, scorn, prodding, cross examination, and judicious avoidance of the whirlpool of therapy style angst always a risk in these projects crushing people live. We could feel the tension then creeping excitement. He didn't feel nearly as pressured because the paperwork was my problem. In fact both of us were surprised at the quality but we believe this must be suppressed - near enough is not good enough. Our beady eye was ruthlessly fixed on the deadline and making it in good shape. Not one of those bullshit symbolic flag waving exercises.

But today he wasn't taking the call which is fair enough to. As Lowell Bergman might say from the movie The Insider we broke some egg shells there amongst the talk of 6 months in hospital in 1972, Led Zeppelin concert just after he got out, roadie work for ACDC in the Bon Scott days, family friend Barry Unsworth and more. He left me a Led Zeppelin DVD to borrow and that would have to do, and his watch both of which I have to return. We needed time out. I wanted to apologise for being so demanding now the brutish document was in, nearly as fat as the developer's own 'Environmental Assessment'. The kettle broke after years of perfect functionality so maybe there's my penance. What a day.

Sure enough a storm brewed Thursday night January 31st 2008. We know because some of it raced through Marrickville and it's reported here:

Storm lashes people still living under tarpaulins Thousands of western Sydney households again inundated when heavy storms hit the city last night. 

Life is mostly about water really and Maroota is no different as per this diagram from an expert civil engineer of some 30 years at the time Mr Howard Sullivan:

C4. 14 June 1998 Sullivan Environmental Consulting expert evidence on water consumption by FP Formation





Some things are just wrong as you can see from this picture above of an approved so called 4.5m deep haulage road that evolved into a 30m by 100m plus wide excavation. Did  the huge volumes go over the weigh bridge to pay the S.94 contributions? Good question that.


Indeed this story actually stretches way back to 1994 at a small place called Tinda Creek. We didn't know Diamond back then. He contacted me at The Wilderness Society about industrial mushroom composting to affect the eastern edge of the Wollemi National Park and his land too. We won that one in 1995. Then he dragged me out to his next flare up - Lot 198 Maroota. The pictures of that trip with a bloke called Shane are at:

F. 1996 - Maroota Lot 198 PF Formation/Etra Pty Ltd impacts Maroota Sands Swamp Forest

We did some publicity to agitate the increased threats to the bush valley. Diamond chanced his hand in a 1997 court case and went down in flames. So he looked me up for help early 1998 for another go and I brought in practitioner Bruce Woolf. That case was a draw, a legal Mexican standoff each pay their own costs with settlement terms here:

  • C. A full copy of the negotiated legal settlement conditions as agreed “without prejudice” (including handwritten notations in the court precinct in 1998) in Diamond v BHSC and John Graham (PF Formation/Etra Pty Ltd No. 10061/1998), no costs ordered against plaintiff Neville Diamond.
  • Suddenly Diamond was not such a loser anymore as regards Baulkham Hills Shire Council or PF Formation. Some remarkable things about the 1998 case: Going a whiter shade of pale seeing the BHSC counsel - Brian Preston who literally wrote the book Environmental Litigation 1989. Not so bad coming equal with that guy. Secondly the funding for the expert and solicitor Woolf was via undisclosed principal of Diamond, a man called Ken Dixon in fact rival sandminer to PF Formation, the developer in the case.

    We say undisclosed but everyone in the local industry basically knew. BHSC took their revenge at Diamond/Ken Dixon legal daring enlisting th help of this greenie by closing down Dixon Sands in 1999. This was the peak of 'The Sand Wars' - not a bad working title for a movie either, with all those industrial wasteland film set locations: Slurry pits where villians like Max Cady/ Robert De Niro in Cape Fear might gurgle to a sticky end.

    The rest is outlined in appendix M:

    M. 1997-2008 - litigation history of Neville Diamond 'for Dixon Sands (Penrith) Pty Ltd'

    Neville Diamond has never publicly confirmed this before and here it is on the internet for the world to read. He wants Dixon Sands to keep their side of 'the bargain' which is a hotly contested issue again. He also says he wants good environmental regulation.

    This writer absolutely does want to see good environmental regulation.

    Thus Diamond has sued former ally Dixon Sands and the Minister for Planning in 2003, and lost badly, though neither seem too keen to collect some $300K plus in legal costs for some curious reason, or have just given up trying to get it. Still one might ask how in 2003 an impecunious litigant Diamond could generate such legal costs without competent legal advisers for the Minister and PF Formation asking for a security for costs bond. One might ask indeed.

    Now in 2008 Diamond has come back for more pro bono help. We got a win in 1995, 1998 (qualified), 2008? The funny thing is it has to be pro bono otherwise no one will believe it's in the public interest. We had enough insight to realise this 10 years ago. That's just the way things go. It's God's work trying to protect God's creation.

    Posted by editor at 1:46 PM EADT
    Updated: Sunday, 3 February 2008 10:24 AM EADT

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