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Letters November 2016

By Dan Hutton on November 10, 2016 in Other

And the 'real' local claims continue...

And the ‘real’ local claims continue…


I refer to Sidonie Roberts’ letter in the October 2016 Beast regarding the upgrade to the Bondi Pavilion (Bondi Needs Saving From Michael Caton, Letters, The Beast, October 2016). Sidonie states that as a long term Bondi resident, she believes that Bondi Pavilion needs to be “commercially sustainable”.

‘Commercial sustainability’ is Mike Baird’s term du jour. It calls for a public asset to ‘work’ even harder for its keep; that being a facility that the community can rent at an affordable price is no longer acceptable. It is, in fact, a land grab, or in (other) words, a quasi privatisation.

The facility must be taken out of public hands and given to a commercial tenant. The community will, however, pay for the expensive upgrade and will probably never be able to use that facility again.

The same argument is currently being used in the Draft Moore Park Master Plan, which, if implemented, will see the commercialisation and alienation of public lands and facilities.

How exactly is spending multi-millions of public monies on a public facility that will be leased to a commercial tenant good for the community? How many years before that investment is realised? Has a cost-benefit analysis been seen?

As the community rightly argues, the upgrade should be modest and the facility should remain as a community venue, available to rent by the community. If Sidonie really “would love to see the building opened up and used by locals”, then I suggest she gives Michael Caton a call.

Maria Bradley, Coogee


I’d rather not buy into Sidonie Roberts’ diatribe about Michael Caton and his ‘NIMBY’ credentials. For me that isn’t the point. Seems a rather vitriolic rant about someone expressing concern for the future of his local community centre, but, whatever. What gets me is the idea that the “muso” buddies of his are so self-interested as to be “up in arms” about the loss of a recording studio. This person has no idea about any of this. Interestingly enough some of the most motivated people in the campaign to preserve Bondi Pavilion as a centre for all the community are these very musicians. They care about more than just the music and recording studios (and I don’t think SR quite realises what the destruction of those would mean, but that’s another matter). They are not just in it for themselves, but everyone who wants to participate; the artists, potters, martial arts kids, thespians, old folks, young folks, dancers – oh, and of course people needing to use the all important toilets.

Tonight I attended an event called Future Pav: a forum for envisioning the possibilities of the Pavilion. It was about re-invigorating the old girl and re-engaging the community with endless ideas on how enriching, welcoming and great it could be. And it could be. Here’s a funny thing. Sidonie states that she would love to see the building opened up and used by all locals. What a coincidence! That’s exactly what those musicians want too. So to say that “this same group of people is now trying to monopolise the Bondi Pavilion and prevent a much-needed upgrade” is rubbish beyond belief. What a preposterous and unfounded claim. The slogan being used by the Save Bondi Pavilion group is ‘Makeover, Not Takeover’. Get it? After years of being allowed (encouraged?) to get run down by Waverley Council, the Pav is sure in need of refurbishing and general maintenance. You think we want to see it slide into the sea from neglect? Clearly not, or there wouldn’t be such a fuss over trying to get it right.

The community was not consulted properly when this 38 million dollar mess started. That didn’t go down too well. People got upset. They are fighting to protect their community and cultural centre from mishandling and lack of vision. Tonight’s event brought together people from all walks of cultural and community life. It was like a think tank for our local future. And talk about cooperation. It was exciting to see roughly one hundred people all put their heads together to imagine a better and more inclusive future pavilion. We’re all in this together. Rather than ripping shreds off Michael Caton, I suggest Sidonie goes to the Save Bondi Pavilion Facebook page and checks out how a community fights for its public space together.

Tina Harris, Bondi


Sidonie Roberts’ denigration of Michael Caton “and his muso buddies” (as she blithely puts it) regarding his public stance on development of the Bondi Pavilion cannot go unanswered. l’ll attempt to restrict my response to essential points, but that won’t be easy.

An upfront disclosure: I know Michael Caton.

Does Ms. Roberts think that ‘celebrity’ status necessarily nullifies a resident’s right to express opinion about the community in which they live? Personally, I think it takes guts for a celebrity to stick their well-recognised head above the parapet in support of other local voices, knowing full well there’ll be those who’ll take a shot at them from the safety of their keyboard. It’s not as if Michael Caton is some ‘blow-in’ – he’s lived in Bondi for over 30 years (as have I) and has real connections with the grass-roots community. Ms. Roberts’ sneering “self-appointed Mayor of Bondi” and “embodiment of the Bondi NIMBY” disparagement speaks volumes about her stance. Of course, she is entitled to her opinion, no matter how misguided it might be, but in sporting parlance this is referred to as ‘playing the man’, and makes it difficult to lend empathy to or respect for her views.

As for identifying herself as a ‘real’ Bondi person? (Shakes head wryly. Moves on. There’s not enough time…)

Ms. Roberts completely misses the mark on why people object to proposals such as the development of the Pavilion, and the Bondi train. It is fallacious and simplistic to label such views as pure NIMBYism.

There is very sound reason to be suspicious about the proposed development of the Bondi Pavilion. Few are questioning the need for an upgrade of the Pavilion – on this, Ms. Roberts and I agree. But the manner in which these proposals are being shunted through, and the threat to the existing community assets – including the available-to-the-public spaces and music facilities, which are so valued by the community and serve with such valid purpose – most certainly warrants suspicion and close scrutiny. Perhaps Ms. Roberts, who has “only visited the Pavilion on occasion”, might consider that there are others in the area – indeed, generations thereof – for whom the Pavilion facilities have held a far more important place in their life. Privatisation of public facilities has an almost inevitable consequence.
Ms. Roberts began by evoking Michael Caton’s very public stance against the proposed train link to Bondi in the 1990s. She opines that a train to Bondi Beach would’ve meant that “the social and environmental sustainability of the famous beach destination will be radically improved”. Really? Upon what information does she base this statement?

I sided with the anti-train lobby at the time, not because I was against a train link per se, but because I vehemently objected to the fatally flawed proposal on offer. Any train line to Bondi should have travelled via a station or stations north-west of the beach area to serve the commuting needs of those in medium-to-high density areas – say, near Old South Head Road/Blair Street, and/or Blair Street/Mitchell Street – terminating at the present North Bondi bus terminus, rather than directly onto the iconic beach. The obviously far cheaper ‘no-stops-direct-from-Bondi-Jungle-to-the-beach’ proposal may well have made it easier for people to reach Bondi Beach via rail from elsewhere in Sydney, but most certainly would not have served as an effective commuter option for the vast majority of people living in the area. How many people live within a one-kilometre radius of a rail station when it is situated on a beach – hence 50 per cent of its ‘catchment’ radius area is under water? I believe these points are what motivated most people in the anti-train lobby.

As for the Pavilion, and Ms. Roberts’ assertion that objectors to the proposed changes are doing this to “monopolise” the Pavilion, to “prevent a much-needed upgrade” (in fact, most people agree there should be an upgrade, but object to the proposed plan), or so that the Pavilion can be “controlled by a self-motivated famous few” – is she serious? Does she really think that a 73-year old local and his “muso buddies” have one iota of vested interest in the Pavilion other than its ongoing facility to the local community? Does she really think that high-profile objectors are lending their celebrity to this movement in order to ‘control’ the Pavilion? To impose some personal fiefdom upon a public asset? Please…

My concern – and I imagine those of the many other community members, celebrity or otherwise, who are questioning the proposed development – is not merely for how I perceive these changes will affect me in the here-and-now, it is for the future of the community assets of the Pavilion and my beloved Bondi. It’s a fairly safe bet that I – or Michael Caton – will not be around in 20 years from now to see the impact that the Pavilion’s community facilities – or lack thereof – have on those in our community who need them the most, but if we stand back and do nothing now, future generations may rightly curse us.

Paul Johnstone, Bondi


I am a 14-year-old girl and on June 30 I saw something that I should have never seen. My dad and I were getting grass for our guinea pigs when all of a sudden I saw a man yell out to a woman, “Pick up your dog.” The lady picked up her Chihuahua as two Pit Bulls bolted over to her. As instructed, she was holding the dog in the air, but one of the bigger dogs jumped up and grabbed onto the ladies arm and pulled her down to the ground.

The owner eventually got to where the dogs were and started to wrestle them to try and free the little dog. The man was yelling out, “I think it’s dead! Just kill my dogs; just kill my dogs!” The little Chihuahua was treated like a toy. It was getting thrown side to side. I went to a house across the streets and told them to ring the police as I had no phone to use. Soon after the police and the ambulance came.

The small dog was killed, the lady received treatment from the ambulance for the lacerations on her arm, and the dogs were last seen heading off in a ranger’s van, hopefully for euthanasia. Dog owners must be held responsible for their dog’s actions. That was one of the most terrifying days of my life.

Jaime Norman, Clovelly


Thanks to J. Parkes of Bronte for their letter to The Beast’s Monthly Mailbag (No Council Integrity In Waverley, Letters, The Beast, October 2016).

While Council does perform many of its duties very well, unfortunately your experience on noncompliant development applications being approved is all too common. One must think Council’s stated ‘guidelines’ and codes are simply irrelevant when Council reviews applications. In addition, Council should be more rigorous in verifying claims made by the applicant’s town planner or so-called ‘experts’, as often such claims are glib, misleading or plain false when claiming compliance with approval criteria. The result is a benefit to a small few at the significant and daily detriment to many, and to the area.

Council needs to wake up and realise its responsibility to adhere to ‘guidelines’ and codes is serious, as this responsibility is Council’s fundamental purpose to protect the amenity of residents and the area.

A. Watts, Randwick


In relation to the letter by J. Parkes of Bronte in The Beast’s mailbag in the October issue, I empathise greatly. My experience with non-compliant DAs is that Council rubber stamps such DAs despite valid objections and the impact to residents and the area. How would councillors and town planners like their sunlight replaced with shadows and their view replaced with eyeballing a new neighbour? Where do councillors and town planners expect us residents to find car parks in our already overcrowded streets?

A Wilcox, Randwick


Dear Editors – Where was Pearl in The Beast’s October edition? I have to say I love this woman’s astute assessment of life. She wields the knife delightfully and at all the right people.

Pat Walsh, Bronte


As a Bondi Beach grandmother, I love seeing local and visiting children playing at our beautiful beaches. And then I think of the over 150 asylum seeker and refugee children in desperate and dangerous situations on Nauru, on our watch, and I pick up the flyers, placards and banners and head out to join the Grandmothers Against the Detention of Refugee Children, a movement of 2000 grandmothers.

The recently released ‘Nauru Files’ outline shocking details of physical and sexual assaults, self-harm, poor medical treatment – over half of these reports relate to children. The Nauru Files are the latest in a long line of reports documenting devastating damage being done to innocent refugee children left in limbo.

So, we grandmothers cannot be silent. We urge the prime minister and all parliamentarians to work together to resettle the child refugees and their families held on Nauru into safe community settings on the Australian mainland.

We’d rather be taking our grandkids to the beach than protesting, but we won’t stop until the last asylum seeker and refugee child leaves Nauru.

Wendy Power, Bondi Beach


Dear Beast – I can always tell when someone writing to The Beast will end up attempting to insult me. It is the ‘I’ve lived here longer than you’ sneer. I see that George Sinclair (Chill Out About Wood Fires, Letters, The Beast, October 2016) is the latest to hurl it in my direction. To me, that line always sounds like something you’d be likely to hear at a Pauline Hanson’s One Nation rally. Anyway, I fail to see how length of residency in Bronte has any relevance to the discussion around wood fires and their adverse health impacts.

But for Mr. Sinclair’s benefit, I note for the record that both sides of my family have, at various times, lived and died in the Coogee, Waverley, Bronte, Bondi area since the early 1880s. Buried in the Waverley Cemetery are two sets of my great great grandparents, along with a few other relos. So I stake my family’s claim to be some of the earliest settlers of the European variety in the Eastern Beaches area. If Mr. Sinclair thinks that helps my arguments about wood fire smoke, well, that is great.

Back to the issue of wood fire smoke. In matters medical, evidence beats anecdote. All I am hearing from those arguing in favour of wood fire smoke is anecdote and unconvincing insults. I do not expect people to immediately support my call for a ban on wood fires in Waverley. I know people have a romantic view of wood fires. All I can do is raise the issue and highlight the evidence that wood fire smoke is potentially extremely harmful to the health of Waverley residents. If you can smell the smoke, it’s doing you harm. If people have sound scientific evidence that wood smoke doesn’t harm your health (as opposed to anecdote or what they just think) please share it with us.

Mr. Sinclair finishes his anecdote by telling me to “get real, get a life, and stop trying to influence everyone else’s life”. As much as I appreciate the advice, the problem, Mr. Sinclair, is that my very real life is dedicated to helping people to be healthy. And if there is one thing that has become crystal clear to me during my 20 years of medical practice it is that prevention is so much better than cure. By reducing wood fire smoke in our environment we have the potential to prevent lung and heart disease, and even death. So George, I will continue to try to “influence everyone else’s life”. It’s my job.

Stephen Lightfoot, Bronte


Hey guys – Who is this person on your last cover? She looks weird and her interview answers are weirder and confusing. Surely we’ve got a Home & Away actor nearby who has better chat? Also, bring back Mad Frothers.

Dave (address not provided)


Over the last few years, Andrew Worssam and Greg Maidment have been waging a campaign to retain that glorious seventh wonder of the world, the aboveground car park at Bondi Beach. Attempts to point out the benefits of removing the aboveground car park, such as the extra parkland gained or increased safety for pedestrians, seem to fall on deaf ears.

Mr. Worssam’s latest argument (Underground Car Park At Bondi Beach, Letters, The Beast, September 2016) is that the proposed underground Bondi Beach car park will flood, turning it into a ‘water feature’. To emphasise the point, we are provided with a cartoon illustration of a scuba diver floating above a submerged vehicle! Mr. Worssam says his claim is based on his reading of the Waverley Council’s ‘Coastal Risks and Hazards Vulnerability Study’. I’ve gone through this study (available on Council’s website) and cannot find anything in it to support this claim. A one or two-storey car park built into the slope behind the Pavilion, under Bondi Park and Campbell Parade, would be adjacent to the Pacific Bondi car park. Presumably the latter is not at risk of flooding; why then should an adjacent car park flood?

Perhaps it would be wise to await the results of Council’s feasibility study before speculating (or scaremongering) on this? Yes, the feasibility study! That technical document put together by experienced experts who happen to have qualifications in disciplines like engineering. Perhaps Mr. Worssam can share his engineering insight so we can all understand why it will become a ‘water feature’?

The other claim made in the September 2016 Beast is that the additional recreation space gained by removing the aboveground car park would only be along the “unattractive western strip adjoining Campbell Parade” (Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Letters, The Beast, September 2016). We are told that Queen Elizabeth Drive (QED) will be retained as a “service road”. This service road argument has been recurring for three years, e.g. “The small gain in green space is not worth it. There’ll still be a service road along the front (of the Pavilion), we just won’t be able to use it” (Letters, The Beast, July 2013). This argument gives the impression pedestrians will not be able to access a future QED. Are we really to believe Council would bother to remove the car park from QED, only to leave it empty? Council fact sheets (available online) make it very clear that Council’s intention is to “green and pedestrianise QED”. Artist diagrams of a future QED show pedestrians strolling along shaded by trees. There is a discrepancy between the above claims and council documentation. Mr. Worssam, can you please explain why “we won’t be able to use it”?

Also, in the September 2016 Beast, Messrs Worssam and Maidment claim that removing the aboveground car park will result in an increase in recreation space of only 15 per cent. However, may I ask, 15 per cent of what? A percentage is a proportion of something bigger. So what are we measuring against? The entire suburb of Bondi? Having both argued that a future QED will only be a “service road” – i.e. not recreation space – does this 15 per cent figure include or not include QED? They should describe the larger area the percentage references so we understand what “creates 15 per cent more recreation space” means. If you quote it, you must explain it.

Mr. Maidment says, “The proposed underground car park would be a hazardous and unsavoury place” (Wentworth Courier, 06/07). Is there any evidence to back up this alarming comment, e.g. police statistics, academic studies? Have there been attacks in local underground car parks? Is this a hunch? Is it cynical scaremongering? Please explain?
Mr. Worssam also complains that trees behind the Pavilion may be removed during the construction of an underground car park. According to the council fact sheet, any removal of trees would be temporary. It’s reasonable to say that replacing a vast aboveground car park with parkland means we could end up with fifty or a hundred times the amount of trees temporarily displaced. Perhaps concern should be expressed for the hundreds of extra trees we don’t have, which we could have.

The proposed car park is very often compared to Westfield by Mr. Worssam. A one to two-storey car park built into the slope behind the Pavilion could be accessible by foot, as is the case with Redleaf Pool car park in Double Bay. Continuously comparing this to the Westfield car park is, in my opinion, an outlandish exaggeration.

I believe the second paragraph of Mr Worssam’s letter in the September Beast reveals the primary motive for this fight to retain the aboveground car park – the concern they may have to walk a little extra from their parked vehicle. We have the recurring claim it will take an extra 20 minutes to park – “Getting in and out of an underground car park could add 20 minutes…” (A Worssam, Wentworth Courier, 20 April, 2016). Really? The walk from the back of the Pavilion to the promenade is, say, a minute. Walking out of an underground car park to the back of the Pavilion is perhaps another minute. This is a lot less than 20 minutes! Indeed, a lot of people parking would have their walk shortened, e.g. those going to the Pavilion, the playground, the Bondi Markets. Let’s get a grip here! We are talking about a minute or two either side. Seriously, is that really going to ruin one’s day at the beach?

I kindly have this request for Messrs Worssam and Maidment: the next time you see the promenade/park/playground filled to capacity, please try to imagine how the extra space gained by removing the aboveground car park would ease congestion for all. Please imagine how the extra parkland will give us more room to lay down a picnic blanket, or have a barbecue, or sit on the extra seating and tables. Please imagine how a tree-shaded pedestrian promenade on QED would bring relief to the elderly on a hot day. Please imagine strolling on an upper pedestrian boulevard on a summer’s evening enjoying the spectacular setting. Please think of all the local children brought up in units without a backyard – don’t they deserve a bigger park so they have more room to play? Have you seen how full the playground is on weekends? There would be room for a second playground. Please observe the cars that drive past the Pavilion without slowing down. Contemplate the danger this poses for pedestrians, especially children. Please think of the extra safety people will have as they move between the park and beach. They will no longer have to zigzag through parked vehicles and traffic. You must surely agree these are all good things that will benefit everyone? Please weigh up these benefits against the possible ‘inconvenience’ of walking an extra two minutes from your parked vehicle.

Why do I feel strongly enough about this subject to write this letter? I am a local parent bringing up a young child in a unit. I take my three-year-old daughter to Bondi Park and promenade at every opportunity. It is effectively her backyard and play area. The same goes for my friends and their children. We want our children to have enough room to play. We want to be assured they are safe from vehicles as they zip on their scooters in front of the Pavilion.

Enrolments in local pre-schools and primary schools are booming, e.g. Bondi Public is at 141 per cent capacity! What does that indicate? It indicates that many young families are choosing to remain local rather than move to the suburbs. There are more local children than ever before, and many are being brought up in units. Look at Bondi Farmers Markets on a Saturday morning, full of young families utilising it as a backyard. When you can’t let your kids run out the back of the house you need recreation spaces that are sufficient, and safe. Perhaps my motives for writing this are selfish? Well, I’d rather be selfish for the wellbeing and safety of children than to preserve my favourite car park spot.

When Beach Street in Coogee was pedestrianised in the early 90s there were some who complained about losing their parking spot directly across from the water. The resulting transformation of the Coogee beachfront was stunning and a major benefit to local families. You only have to walk along the promenade on a sunny Sunday afternoon to see what a success it was. One would never dream of returning the Coogee beachfront to how it once was, i.e. a busy road dissecting the beach from the park.

A. Worssam complains that an underground car park means we “end up with a lot less precious time at the beach”. He must have a very pressing schedule – the extra walk is, say, 50 metres? Sydney’s growing population means an increasing number of visitors will increasingly come by public transport. Tourist visitors will also increase. It is not right that a few regular locals should seek to prevent the expansion of recreation space in one of Australia’s most popular locations because they fear losing “precious time” walking to/from their parked vehicle. This, in my opinion, is a gross disservice to the vast majority.

Mark Hersey, Bondi