The vote at the extraordinary meeting of Sydney City Council that discussed the concrete switchback path in the Gully last Monday (20 March) remained unchanged. The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, and four of her team voted against any effort to remove the path. The other five councillors voted for it to be removed, but the Lord Mayor used her casting vote so the motion was lost.

The Council went into Committee to allow six community representatives to speak. Five spoke against the path; one spoke in favour and cited neighbours as holding similar views.  

The community representatives spoke very well and with well argued cases. The core point reiterated many times was the absence of any reference to a switchback path in any of the documents they saw during any consultation, and their concern that the path would have seriously undermine the concept of a native bushland reserve.  The Greens, Cr Meredith Burgmann and Cr Shane Mallard made various kinds of pleas to the Lord Mayor and the other councillors to consider changing their positions, arguing that the determinant should be guided by community wishes and the best possible outcome rather than a battle of wills within Council. Cr Hoff restated her argument from the previous meeting that she had not had information about the switchback pathway and  her belief that it was not compatible with the agreed concept of a native bushland habitat.

The councillors who voted against the motion stressed the importance of proper process; the lengthiness of the consultation process over a number of years; the legal constraints flowing from the fact that the DA was in place and the pathway was a requirement; that there had always been a pathway in the plans; and the cost of amending the DA at this stage. In addition the councillors cited community opinion in favour of the path and, probably most significantly, from their perspective, argued that the current plan, including the path, would deliver on the promised bushland path.

I can see no course for constructive further action on this issue… a pity. Time for us all to move on and focus on what can be achieved within the current planning framework. Depending on how the project develops, it may be appropriate to  revisit the issues further down the track when we can see what the emerging landscape is like.

– Lesley Lynch