Disclaimer: This is Dianne’s personal interpretation of what was of value in our fight against Go Ape/Adventure Forest. I am writing it in response to queries from other similar groups. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of BRAG as a whole. Please feel free to leave any comments on my ‘New Battles’ post in the news section.

Acts, Plans and Policies

Very early on in BRAG’s fight against Go Ape/Adventure Forest, a Councillor said something along the lines of, “In the end, we accept or refuse a development application on planning grounds.” That is, the big question is: “Does it comply?” Consequently, we sought out every bit of legislation, every Plan, every Policy we could find that might be relevant. The answer in our case was clearly, “No, it does not comply.”

So, my first piece of advice is to read the reasons the Hills Council Development Assessment Unit gave for recommending the Go Ape application be refused. There is a table listing all the issues raised by objectors – there are more than 30 issues that have next to them the wonderful words “This issue warrants refusal of the application.” The final recommendation (The Refusal) lists nine overall reasons for refusal – seven of them quote an Act, Plan and/or Policy.

Now, re-read the documentation for the proposal in your area. Is there anything in there that may be contrary to relevant legislation, Plans or Policies?

People may object to a proposal for many reasons, some of them very emotional. However, I believe you need a core set of objections based on planning regulations. Who in your group has experience or qualifications that would help? One of our speakers at our conciliation conference had a Masters in Environmental Science, which was very useful. Is there anyone who is practised at reading legislation? Seek them out!

An Example

The proposal for Hill Road Reserve, West Pennant Hills involves the rezoning of land and the removal of existing Blue Gum High Forest so that 11 houses can be built. Because of bush fire risks, the proposal allows for an Asset Protection Zone (APZ) of 35m. On the Bush Fire Prone Land Map, the reserve is shown as being Bush Fire Prone Land Vegetation Category 2. It is my understanding that BFPL Vegetation Category 2 requires an APZ of 30m, but  Category 1 requires an APZ of 100m. An APZ of 100m would require the removal of much more endangered Blue Gum High Forest. So, is the Category 2 classification correct?

The NSW Rural Fire Service Guideline – Bush Fire Prone Land Mapping says on Page 7:

2 Vegetation Groups are: -
Vegetation Group 1 – Forest
Vegetation Group 2 – Woodlands, heaths and wetlands
Vegetation Group 3 – Moist rainforests, shrubland, open woodlands,
mallee and grasslands.

3 Once vegetation classes have been determined and mapped across a
council area, application of bush fire vegetation categories to the
vegetation groups must be completed. The following Vegetation
Groups relate to bush fire vegetation categories as follows: -
Vegetation Groups 1 and 2, greater than 1 hectare – Veg. Category 1
Vegetation Group 3, greater than 1 hectare – Veg. Category 2

The Hills Shire Council website has a Factsheet for development on bush fire prone land which says:

Category 1 vegetation appears as orange on the map and represents forests, woodlands, heathlands, pine plantations and wetlands. Land within 100 metres of this category (indicated by the red buffer on the map) is also captured by the Bushfire Prone Land Map due to the likelihood of bushfire attack.

Category 2 vegetation appears as yellow on the map and represents grasslands, scrublands, rainforests, open woodlands and mallee. Land within 30 metres of this category (indicated by the red buffer on the map) is also captured by the Bushfire Prone Land Map due to the likelihood of bushfire attack.

Perhaps the Hill Road Reserve really is Category 2 as shown on the map – I haven’t seen it. But it sounds to me more like Category 1 “Forest”. These land maps have multiple disclaimers about accuracy. My first line of investigation would be check that accuracy – if Hill Road Reserve can be reclassified as BFPL Vegetation Category 1, an APZ of 100m would make the proposal untenable.

Weight of Numbers

In the case of the Go Ape/Adventure Forest proposal for Bidjigal Reserve, “230 submissions were received objecting to the development” and “Twelve (12) submissions were received supporting the development”. 191 people signed the book at our conciliation conference, though we believe over 200 were present – it was packed.

So, my second piece of advice is to get as many people involved as possible. To this end:

  • There are the obvious avenues such as door-knocks and letter-box drops. A cogent set of reasons for opposing the proposal helps to sway the undecided, but don’t expect everyone to agree with you.
  • Get an e-mail list. When we door-knocked, we had a form so that sympathetic people could give us contact details, including e-mail addresses. Hint: get them to print – many of our e-mail addresses turned out to be illegible.
  • Create a web site. This Save Bidjigal Reserve site is hosted by 2MHost, who also do the domain name registration. It costs only US$42.75 for 12 months web site hosting and domain name registration. We use WordPress for the web site itself – easily installed from the control panel that comes with the hosting service.
  • Seek out people with experience or qualifications in relevant fields, or who can help with specific tasks like the printing of flyers.
  • Seek out organisations that may lend weight to your objections.
  • Seek out Council planners – perhaps you will be able to get an idea of relevant legislation or other useful information.
  • Seek out publicity. Go to your local press and try to find an interested reporter. Present well-formulated arguments as to why the proposal should not go ahead.
  • If there are plans on display, get as many people as possible to submit objections. Hopefully, you will have your cogent arguments based on planning considerations, but all objections are useful.
  • And finally, but very importantly, get as many people as possible to contact Councillors and/or MPs. Email them, write to them, telephone them to have a chat.

We tried to remain non-confrontational at all times, though, of course, we had members who were very emotional. Our aim as an organisation was to be as professional as we could.



The original “Action” page:

Thank you to everyone who sent submissions, phoned and emailed Councillors, attended meetings, gathered signatures, photocopied, letterbox-dropped, and offered support in any other way.

There’s not much more we can do now but wait to see if Go Ape appeal to the Land and Environment Court.

What action can I take?

There are several vital ways you can help fight the proposed development of a Go Ape course within Bidjigal Reserve:

  • Telephone, email or write to all Councillors today to express your concerns about the Go Ape proposal. A sample letter and contact details are below.
  • Also email your concerns to the council planning officer, Adam Dean;  but time is short, so do it very, very soon. His email address is Adam Dean.
  • Use our Contact form to ask to be added to our mailing list, and to volunteer for things like letterbox drops or to offer any expertise you may have.
  • Tell your neighbours, friends and family about the Go Ape proposal, direct them to this web site, and get them to email councillors and council – but they’ll need to do it very soon.
  • Sign the petition if you haven’t already done so, and get your neighbours to sign too; use the contact form to let us know if the petition hasn’t been in your area and you would like to sign it.

You can also do something practical to help the Reserve by answering the call by the Board of the Bidjigal Reserve Trust to volunteer for one of the many tasks available.

Sample Letter to Councillors

When writing to Councillors, it is usually best to be specific about just what your objections to the Go Ape proposal are. A letter or email might look something like this:

Dear Councillor

Re: DA 36/2010/HA – proposed Go Ape development

As a concerned resident and frequent user of Bidjigal Reserve, I wish to voice my objection to the proposed Go Ape development within the Reserve. My main concerns are:

  • The removal of trees, vegetation and habitat from a precious area of urban bushland
  • The impact of 30,000 visitors a year on both threatened species and the broader population of flora and fauna
  • The noise impact on existing users of the Reserve and on local residents
  • The lack of parking facilities on weekends when sporting activities already take up all available parking
  • The increased fire danger presented by so many visitors who are there for the thrill rather than to appreciate the bushland
  • The precedent set by allowing an intrusive commercial development inside sensitive public bushland

[Name and address]

Of course, you should adjust this letter to suit your circumstances and your particular concerns.

Councillors’ Contact Details

East Ward
Clr Larry Bolitho
PO Box 75
Castle Hill  NSW  1765
0412 174 413
Clr David Bentham
95 Arcadian Circuit
Carlingford NSW 2118
9630 5290 (home)
0427 292 140
Clr Andrew Jefferies
28 Parkland Road
Carlingford NSW 2118
0427 928 111
Central Ward
Clr Peter Dimbrowsky (Mayor)
PO Box 75
Castle Hill  NSW  1765
9680 8420
0419 664 438
Clr Tony Hay
PO Box 75
Castle Hill  NSW  1765
0422 508 975
Clr Justin Taunton
PO Box 93
Round Corner NSW 2158
0448 083 108
North Ward
Clr Greg Burnett
PO Box 6065
Rouse Hill Town Centre PO
Rouse Hill Town Centre NSW 2155
0402 849 794
Clr Barbara Burton
PO Box 69
Round Corner NSW 2158
9651 1865
0417 254 171
Clr Robyn Preston
PO Box 7773
Baulkham Hills NSW 2153
0419 200 300
West Ward
Clr Michelle Byrne
PO Box 75
Castle Hill  NSW  1765
0448 268 140
Clr Mike Thomas (Deputy Mayor)
PO Box 75
Castle Hill  NSW  1765
0423 798 891
Clr Raymond Harty
PO Box 75
Castle Hill  NSW  1765 (business) or (after hours)
9649 5000 (work)
0412 265 876