Firstly, I wish to extend my personal thanks to the outgoing Committee for their support and friendship over the past 12 months. It has been such a pleasure to work with such a wide range of people who share the fundamental objective of protecting Berrima’s unique heritage significance for future generations to come.
Also, on behalf of the entire membership, special thanks go to those members who will be leaving the Committee this year – Di Jensen, Alex Pope, Maggie Morel, Hugh Farrimond, Lynn Watson, and Mary Moore. It has been a challenging year from many perspectives.
Di Jensen stepped in as Secretary during the year and has set a standard of minuting and record keeping that in my opinion unparalleled in any volunteer organisations, anywhere. Di has been a great support to me, and I will miss her, in this role, enormously.
During the year we implemented the new organisational structure that was agreed as part of the “Re-imagining the BRA” report approved by the Membership in 2020. The Minutes and Agendas circulated to all members every month now record the Association’s activities in the following categories.
Communication and Business Liaison
Strategic Planning and Council Issues
This Annual Report will also be presented under these headings.
Administration of the Association
In 2021, the Association held 8 general meetings in this Hall and two meeting by zoom (Sept and October). The July meeting was cancelled as required by the NSW Government. The Association developed its Covid-19 Safety Plan and attendees signed in using our own QR Code, respected social distancing protocols and mask wearing. Committee meetings were usually scheduled in the third week of the month, i.e. between monthly meetings. Changing the start time for the monthly general meetings was considered but remained essentially the same as in previous years; 1 hour earlier start in Winter months.
It is pleasing to note that during 2021, 12 people joined the Association as full members or associates; current membership is at a record level of 76. May I extend a personal welcome to all new members and look forward to their active contribution to the work of the Association in coming years.
In March, the membership approved a change in the Constitution that widened the eligibility for Associate Membership to include a person who had previously lived in Berrima. Before this change, Associate membership was only available to former BRA members who had moved away from Berrima but who wanted to retain their links to the Association. Now any former resident of Berrima can join as an associate member. Associate members enjoy the full benefits of membership except they cannot vote at meetings.
We continued the practice of inviting guests to address the Association. These included the potential candidates for the Council election scheduled for 4 December but that was subsequently cancelled: Jenny Bott, Michaela Bolzan, Jean-Marie Simart, and Rachel Russel. Rhondda Vanzella from Friend of Wingecarribee also spoke to the Association about its role in community affairs.
The BRA website has been completely undated and now includes a copy of the current Constitution, Membership Application Form and lists current Committee members. The Website address is https://bra.org.au. All members should open the website and register (top right-hand corner) to receive a notification in their inbox whenever a new item is posted.
Every week, Ros Jones checks the Council’s DA Tracker for any new DAs that have been lodged with Council. A sub-committee comprising Jill Brophy, Philip Martin, Clive West and Chrissie Mallet reviews all these DAs to see whether they comply with Council’s ‘Objectives’ and ‘Controls’ as set out in the Berrima DCP and LEP (2010). If the Sub-committee decides that it is appropriate to send a comment to Council, the full BRA Committee has to approve that action before any comment is sent to Council. Council may or may not take into account our opinion in their own consideration in assessing the Application.
During 2021, the Sub-committee reviewed 28 DAs. Comments were sent to Council on 9 applications; including 3 that we formally objected to (32 Oldbury St, 15 Jellore St, 10 OHH/Wilkinson St Subdivision).
Regarding DAs there are several points to note:
• From 1 July 2021 all DAs in NSW must be lodged online on the Department of Planning Portal.
• The BRA only reviews the DA once it has been formally lodged with Council. This means the BRA and Council are reviewing exactly the same document. The BRA is prepared to meet with applicants planning a residential or commercial development to discuss their interim plans but the BRA never provides a definitive opinion based on interim plans.
• Wingecarribee Shire Council staff assess Development Applications (DAs) and make a recommendation to the WSC Independent Planning Panel (IPP), whose decision is final. DAs do not return to Council for approval. A DA is lodged where the applicant has an existing development right that is attached to the land.
• The approval process for a Planning Proposal is different. A Planning Proposal is a submission to Council to create a new development right that did not exist before, e.g., a spot-rezoning etc. Planning Proposals are assessed by Council staff and sent to the IPP for review. The Panel’s recommendation is sent back to Council, which then makes the final decision, by accepting or varying the IPP recommendation.
During 2021 the Association made several representations to Council over proposed repairs and maintenance in the village: Jellore St footpath; Oxley St drainage works; Wingecarribee St drainage upgrade; unfenced draining ditches on the Old Hume Highway; replacement of electricity panels on sewerage pumping stations Jellore St and Bryan St; colour of concrete at War Memorial entrance pathway. In some case representations were made in support of non-BRA members.
Our letter to Wendy Tuckerman MP and to the Dept of Corrections CEO resulted in the return of the Berrima Correctional Centre sign and plaque to their original place at the Centre after being removed without consultation to the Corrections Museum in Cooma.
BRA nominated Berrima Gaol and Marketplace for the new NSW Heritage Blue plaques. Council added a third – WWII Internees Walk – to the list of Shire nominations.
The issue of Tiny houses in Oxley St remained an issue and Council was contacted several times to have the two new ‘apparent’ tiny houses removed. The legal status of the illegal dwelling on the former Finlayson Presbyterian Church site in Oxley St is still unclear.
Motorway Noise. During 2021 the issue of excessive road noise from the Hume Motorway that effects residents was tackled by a Sub-committee led by Duncan McDonald. The group met frequently in the pub, when possible, to discuss methods and tactics. It was decided that a technical assessment, using a methodology acceptable to the NSW government, be undertaken by professional acoustic engineers. Costs were to be covered by donations and preliminary measurements taken to identify the most suitable locations adjacent to residences and along the Motorway to take the professional measurements. Covid affected the availability of technical specialists, access to properties and changes to traffic flows on the Motorway. Work on the project will continue into 2022.
Berrima Remembrance Grove. The Association was successful in being awarded a NSW War Memorial Grant of $10,000. This grant will be applied to the $16,500 cost of preparing a Conservation Management Plan for the 9-hectare site. A previous Grant of $9,000, received in 2020, paid for a comprehensive survey of the trees in the Grove that were planted between 1956 and 1965. A report was submitted to the War Memorial Fund, and the grant acquitted successfully. Both studies are being undertaken by local landscape and heritage consultants Chris and Charlotte Webb. The NSW War Memorials Register was updated. The Rotary offer to assist in maintenance of the Grove was accepted. Thanks goes to Steve Webb for regularly mowing the grass on the site, weather permitting.
The next step in the project is to establish an Expert Panel to oversee the implementation of the Conservation Management Plan that will define the future development of the site over the next 20 years. A call for nominations to join the Panel will be advertised in the local press shortly. The Council and Boral have already agreed to be on the Panel.
Koalas were sited on several occasions crossing the Old Hume Highway at the Glebe.
Thanks goes to Clive West for organising the Platypus Survey along the Wingecarribee River earlier in the year. Later surveys were cancelled due to Covid.
Bushcare met in March, April, June in Berrima and at Welby (May)
The Association continued to be very ably represented by Clive West on three local community consultative committees:
Austral Shale Quarry Community Consultative Committee
The BRA successfully applied to Austral in 2016 to be represented on their Shale Quarry Community Consultative Committee. We have attended meetings on a regular basis and report back to the membership on developments.
The shale quarry will replace the quarry at the Bowral Brickworks in Bowral, and the brickworks themselves are scheduled to be relocated near the quarry in the industrial area opposite the Boral Cement Works on Berrima Road. The relocation of the brickworks should have occurred by now, and the DA for the new brickworks is approved. The construction of the new brickwork, however, is still pending.
The BRA representative (Clive) was instrumental in persuading Austral to revegetate the banks of the Wingecarribee River on the shale quarry site. Initially, the plantings were to be 10 to 15 metres wide. Austral has been persuaded to enlarge this and the plantings will now be 20 metres to 70 metres wide. The new native vegetation will be fenced off from the cattle, allowing the banks of the river to re-establish grass and shrubbery. This is in turn should lead to the extension of the platypus habitat upstream from the Berrima Weir.
Boral Community Liaison Committee
The BRA has been represented on this Committee for several years and is kept informed of developments on the cement works site. The most recent announcement was for a “Batching” Plant (wet cement that is pumped into cement trucks). To avoid increased traffic on Taylor Avenue in New Berrima, the access point for the batching plant will be on the Old Hume Highway, where the old rail line crosses the Old Hume Highway into the Boral land.
The BRA representative has been attempting to persuade Boral to re-wild its riparian zones (riverbank). 2 years ago, this looked promising, but with the change of corporate ownership at Boral and changes to the senior executive this appears to have fallen by the wayside. However, there is a good possibility of reviving this project. It would reinforce the re-wilding project at Austral and increase the biodiversity connectivity running through the industrial zone.
Boral Colliery Closure Committee
This is an NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) committee that was established after Boral was required to close its coal mine at Medway. It had been discovered that heavy metals were washing from the mine entrance into the Wingecarribee River.
For the last 2 years Boral has been developing methods of filtering the outflow of water from the mine through limestone beds. This has been successful but is still being monitored.
Australia Day and ANZAC Day celebrations were cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. Special thanks to Bob Rodgers for successfully requesting a Catafalque Party for the ANZAC Day service in 2022. Remembrance Day – 11 November 2021 was held in conjunction with Berrima Primary School.
A proposal for a generic DA to stage events in the Market Place was not progressed during the year but remains on the agenda in 2022.
The BRA contributed financially to the Christmas Party held at the Surveyor-General Inn on 8 December.
Communication and community
Berrima was awarded Best Tourist Town in Australia (category: population under 5,000). A letter of Appreciation was sent to Destination Southern Highlands for the nomination, promotion, and lobbying. Council has yet to consider a proposal to acknowledge the Award with appropriate signage at entrances to the village.
A Council grant was received to improve communication in the village by erecting an outdoor Notice Board; discussions are in progress with businesses about the location for a Village Notice Board in the vicinity open are near the Vault steps. An internal Notice Board was kindly made by Terry Cronan and installed in the Post Office. Information about the BRA has been posted on the Board.
The “Comms” Team also considered publishing a village Newsletter and developing a Welcome Pack for New Residents. This work is on-going.
The Association has agreed to put a BRA page on the Explore Berrima Website. Suitable text and photos have been provided to Natalie Block (at the Motel) to implement this. Annual cost is around $330.
I have mentioned that the BRA website has been fully reviewed and updated with current information on the Association. The Home page on the website is set up as a BLOG, that documents BRA activities as they happen, is up-to-date.
The BRA was successful in receiving a Council Grant of $2,500 to support Christmas celebrations in the Shire. This money was donated to the organisers of the Village Party held at the Surveyor-General Inn on 8 December. Unspent funds of about $370 will be used to purchase strings of coloured lights for use at suitable village functions in the future.
The Association was also asked for its opinion on the best location for installing a Council Christmas Tree in Berrima. One criterion was the availability of power to light up the tree. Following an on-site meeting, Council decided to put the tree up in the Marketplace near the children’s’ playground and put in an underground electrical connection from the power box near the BBQ.
On behalf of the Association, I would like to formally acknowledge the intense and sustained effort by Battle for Berrima to finally defeating the Hume Coal project in 2021. The final rejection of the proposal by the independent planning panel was the end of an 11-year struggle, beginning with the former Cockatoo Coal plan that was originally opposed by Coal Free Southern Highlands based in Sutton Forest.
The Battle for Berrima partly funded a professional assessment of the heritage impacts of the Hume proposal by Colleen Morris and Christine Hay. Their 162-page reports formed part of the expert submissions from the community (including the definitive ground water study) that contributed to the panel rejecting the underground coal mine and railway proposal.
The Morris and Hay report won a National Trust of Australia (NSW) Award of Excellence and now provides the authoritative assessment of the heritage significance of Berrima. The Study is supporting evidence for the BRA proposal to extend the boundary of the Berrima Landscape Conservation Area; a proposal that Council that was originally put to Council in 2010.
Listing Berrima and Surrounds as an item on the State Heritage Inventory remains an unresolved issue despite the nomination being lodged in 2019. A letter was sent to Goulburn MP, the Hon. Wendy Tuckerman in Dec 2021 seeking an explanation for the delay. The ‘reply’ was that the matter was ‘under consideration’.
The sale of Berrima Gaol. Press reports started to appear in May 2021 that the Gaol was about to be sold with Colliers International as the Real Estate agent. We are aware since September 2019 that the Gaol was going to be closed permanently and decommissioned.
The Association wrote to Wendy Tuckerman on 30 June outlining its vision for the site, which was developed by the Association in conjunction with retail interests in Berrima, Business Southern Highlands (formally the Southern Highlands Chamber of Commerce), and the Creative Industries Cluster in the Southern Highlands. The community’s ‘vision’ has been uploaded on the BRA website as it has developed since mid 2021. The sale received front-page local press and radio coverage. The BRA President gave two radio interviews on ABC local and Sydney breakfast radio in conjunction with interviews by the then Minister for Property. A Zoom meeting was held with Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman and officials from NSW Property to discuss the ‘vision’.
The Association discussed the ‘vision’ for the site with Council and were advised that Council had discussed a 3-step process with the Government which would guide the sale of the Gaol. After weeks of discussions, Council formally wrote to the Government on 15 October setting out its proposals for an orderly and transparent process for the sale of the Gaol.
In a completely unexpected move, the then NSW Minister for Water, Housing and Property Melinda Pavey, invited developers on 18 October to submit Expressions of Interest to purchase the site. What happens to the Gaol now that the NSW Government has put the site up for sale will either make or break Berrima.
A group of local community members submitted an EOI on 23 November 2021. As of today, no decision on who the successful bidder is, has been announced. A Community BuyBack Campaign, based on the community’s ‘vision’ for the site will be launched on 9 February 2022.
Wingecarribee Shire Council was formally suspended following the Minister for Local Government’s announcement of her intention to suspend Council on 3 March 2021. An Interim Administrator was appointed, a new GM appointed, 5 former senior staff were sacked, a public inquiry into the Council announced and the elections scheduled for 4 December 2021 cancelled. The BRA lodged a submission to the public Inquiry and wrote to the Minister to oppose reinstating the suspended Councillors before the 4 December election.
The Frensham DA raises important planning issues concerning Council protection of the environment in the Shire, the protection of habitat corridors and development on the Gib.
Members of the Committee met with Dawn Jonas of the Exeter Village Association to assist them in protecting Exeter village from overdevelopment.
During the year the Association also commented on:
• the revision of NSW Heritage Act.
• WSC Economic Development Strategy. BRA President was invited to participate in WSC RoundTable on the Economic Development Strategy.
• The Shire’s Strategic Character Statement and the Berrima Character Statement
• the Housing Strategy
• various other Council strategies, including Walking Trails
A BRA delegation met with Mr Viv May PSM, Interim Administrator on 14 May 2021 to introduce the Association and detail some of our current concerns.
The membership expressed its concern over a developer-sponsored proposal for the Glebe to the Council Strategic Planning staff.
Eric Savage. 6 February 2022