Asa Wahlquist, Convenor Bays & Foreshores Subcommittee, Bulletin 6/2021 August 2021

On a clear day in late June, Multiplex, the new Sydney Fish Market developers, held an Indigenous smoking ceremony at the site. Uncle Les McLeod walked around the gathering of Multiplex employees, representatives of Infrastructure NSW and the Fish Markets Community Consultative Committee (CCC), waving the smoke of smouldering native shrubs and herbs around the site.

Uncle Les McLeod conducting the smoking ceremony arranged by Multiplex at the new Sydney Fish Market site (photo: Multiplex)

Craig Madden, who performed the Welcome to Country, said the local Gadigal people used to camp at Victoria Park and walk down to Blackwattle Bay, ‘we would have wonderful food for days’.

Master of Ceremonies, Shane Phillips, is from the Tribal Warrior, which is moored on the Pyrmont side of Blackwattle Bay. He said the smoking ceremony was a healing process for the land, and that sharing the experience, and acknowledgement of the history, came together with the smoking.

Daniel Murphy, from Multiplex, said the ceremony was a symbolic milestone for the company.

Greg Lin from Infrastructure NSW had done some research into the Blackwattle plant that the bay is named after. He said the local Indigenous name is Tjurring, and it is not a member of the wattle family, rather it was named Blackwattle because the wood was a good building material for the wattle and daub huts that were erected there in the early days of first settlement. Mr Lin said Blackwattles grew down to the water’s edge, and had an important role in stabilising the banks.

Sydney Fish Market CEO, Greg Dyer, said there had been many years of planning to get to this stage. He believes the new Fish Market building will rank with the Sydney Opera House. He said the new Sydney Fish Market will also be a $750 million injection into the NSW Fishing Industry and the wider seafood industry, supporting communities along the NSW coast.

Shane Phillips concluded the ceremony, acknowledging the families and ancestors of people who have lived there. The area under Wentworth Park used to be a wetland, a mangrove forest. He said those wetlands ‘were the fish market in those days’.

The extraction of old piles, the remnants of the old Hanson Wharf, is continuing.

An acoustic and vibration consultant has been recording measurements from three locations: near the High School, the corner of Wentworth Park Rd, and at the Fish Markets near Blackwattle Creek. Overall, the consultant, Mark Irish, said the test piling didn’t exceed the EPA’s ‘highly noise affected’ noise management level, ‘though that is not to say it won’t happen in future’. The Fish Market recorded the loudest incident of 74 dBA, just below the 75 dBA level at which respite is required. The recorded vibrations did not exceed the human comfort level. Monitoring will continue throughout the period of test piling. Mr Irish acknowledged piling works are noisy, and said if anything else to mitigate it could ‘be realistically done, we will look at it’.

The next stage is demolition of the existing wharf and construction of the revetment. However, some localised asbestos-containing material has been found, and its removal must be managed according to State legislation, under a plan approved by the Environmental Protection Authority’s approved independent auditor.

CCC member John Faulkner questioned the extent of the contamination, and whether it was in the sediment as well as in the sea wall. David Maher, from Multiplex, said they had found some ‘very, very low concentrations on the water column’ as well as in the upper layers of sediment. Mr Faulkner said he was concerned the asbestos-containing material in the sediment could be stirred up. He requested a report on any implications for the marine life in the Bay. David Maher said the environmental consultant for the project, Senversa, was ‘across all of this’.

Work on the site has paused, in accordance with the NSW Government’s COVID restrictions. When it recommences, work will begin on test cores holes in Bridge Rd, in preparation for raising the road. This will require some staged lane closures.

Further information from Infrastructure NSW.

Our representative on the
Glebe Society’s Bays & Foreshores Convenor, Asa Wahlquist (second from left) at the smoking ceremony for the new Sydney Fish Market (photo: Multiplex)