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Thursday, 11 September 1958
Page: 1154

Mr CURTIN (Kingsford) (Smith) . - I wish to discuss a matter which would doubtless come under the heading, " Miscellaneous Services ". I refer to the destruction of Commonwealth property and the interference with the comfort and welfare of surrounding residents which is taking place on the old Randwick rifle range. Some eight years ago a licensee, K. C. Styles, commenced to remove sand from this area, which is bound by Bundock-street. Moverley-road, Elphinstonestreet, and the Randwick naval stores. The pattern of operations has been consistently the same. Vegetation is cleared, the overburden is pushed to one side by a bulldozer and the clean white sand beneath is then carted out by trucks.

Mr Aston - You are behind the times. I have had the Minister out to look at the area!

Mr CURTIN - I want the Minister to have another look at it and see that the licensee carries out his obligations. The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) has failed the residents of the area in this matter. The licence requires progressive restoration, by grading and planting grass as each section is worked, but the department has never forced the licensee to comply with that requirement.

Mr Aston - That is not right, either.

Mr CURTIN - Almost the whole area has been denuded of vegetation, and the dirty sand left behind drifts freely in all directions, to the serious detriment and nuisance of a large number of residents, many of whom have paid £4,000 and £5,000 for their homes. The residents have complained to me of the very serious position which obtains during windy weather. In some cases evacuation to the homes of relatives and friends has been necessary. Sand has penetrated into dwellings despite all efforts to keep it out. There has been damage to exterior and interior paintwork, soft furnishings and carpets. Ceilings have been caked with sand and black dust. Meals have sometimes to be eaten in bedrooms because dining rooms facing the area are uninhabitable. Even worse, sand and dirt has been blown into the adjacent school and has affected children's lunches and play. Noisy tractors disturb the rest of residents before daylight, both during the week and at weekends. There is an endless stream of huge sand trucks to and from the area. Local residents have to meet the cost of repairing damaged streets. The person responsible for the damage pays no rates.

In July or August, 1956, Mr. J. Innes Brett agreed to meet Mr. W. J. Aston, M.P., the licensee K. C. Styles, and residents' representatives on the site. In view of the supposed impartiality of the department, residents were surprised to see the departmental officer arrive and depart from the conference in the licensee's limousine. At the meeting it was pointed out - in the face of denials by the licensee - that the electricity commission had been asked to supply fly ash as filling for the site. We do not want fly ash in that area! Two years have gone by and the department has done nothing more. At that meeting, the licensee-

Mr Aston - Why does not the honorable member allow me to tell him what has happened in the meantime?

Mr CURTIN - I have seen this area and I do not need to be told that nothing has been done. At the meeting in question, the licensee, with the approval of the departmental representative, gave a firm assurance that positive steps would be taken to restore the area. That was in 1956. This is 1958.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! To what vote is the honorable member referring?

Mr CURTIN - I am referring to the destruction of Commonwealth property, about which I am most concerned as the protector of the property. The licensee further undertook that 25 per cent, of the opened-up area would be covered each year, so that it would all be finished within a period of four years. Two years have gone by and nothing has been done. As had been the case with all previous undertakings given, the licensee did not honour that undertaking, nor did the department see that it was honoured. What is going on, Mr. Chairman? Is there some col lusion between the department and the licensee? Ugly rumours are current, and I am very concerned about the matter. A letter from the South Coogee Progress Association states -

On 13th October, 1957, residents once again held a meeting which was attended by Mr. W. J. Aston, M.P., who, on 30th October 1957, accompanied by the Minister, the Hon. Allen Fairhall, the Chief Property Officer for New South Wales, Mr. R. Snellgrove, and the departmental officer . . inspected the area. . . .

Despite the statements of the honorable member for Phillip, Mr. Snellgrove, the Chief Property Officer, stated at that meeting that proper departmental supervision of the property had not been carried out, but that in the future, strict compliance with the terms of the licence would be insisted on by the department. The letter goes on to state -

On 3rd December, 1957 the Minister wrote as per copy of letter enclosed. Residents' requirements did not coincide with the solution proposed by the Minister.

The attitude of the residents was that a serious nuisance was being caused to them and that a private person was being allowed to ruin property belonging to the Commonwealth, worth easily £250,000. 1, as the protector of that property, am very concerned in the matter. The residents have demanded that, because of the apparent inability or lack of desire on the part of the department properly to supervise the property, the licence should be cancelled. I also demand that the Minister take action in that direction.

As the residents point out, steps should be taken to plant grass on a margin of 500 feet from all respective boundaries, this margin to be extended as rapidly as possible, and the work of final grading and grassing to be completed within a period of nine months. The residents felt that the Minister's proposition should be given a trial, and they decided to wait and see whether his proposal would eliminate the nuisance. ' Unfortunately, the Minister's proposition has failed, as did that of the departmental officers.

One of the residents made arrangements for the licensee to be supplied with all the grass runners that would be required, but the licensee dismissed the arrangement with a wave of his hand. Mr. Snellgrove's letter completely misstated the true position.

Apparently, he, too, got somewhat off the line. The Progress Association letter states -

Firstly, no re-grading or grass planting was proceeded as he claimed Although we have been patiently waiting to see signs of " the licensee's energies on the major work", no further re-grading of the area has been carried out since.

The residents of the district are concerned because of the ruination of Commonwealth property. According to present departmental plans, by the time the licensee has completed operations on this area, a large proportion of the land will be worth considerably less than it was worth before operations commenced. We find that there is to be a steep drop in levels of approximately 600 feet west of Moverly-road down to the existing level of the land on which the naval stores are built. There is to be a 600-foot depression. That is what is to happen after these excavators and, may I add, racketeers, get to work on the sand hills.

The residents find it hard to understand how it is that this Commonwealth property is being exploited in a manner to suit the convenience and profit of the licensee, with complete and callous disregard for the health and convenience of the residents, particularly the children. The letter goes on -

As it must be agreed that the licensee and departmental officers have had adequate opportunities to give tangible evidence of a sincere effort-

We only want to see a sincere effort being made - to abate the nuisance being caused, and have barely even attempted to do so we appeal to you, Sir, as the representative of the Kingsford-Smith electorate .to take any steps within your power to-

1.   Have removal of any further sand from the Randwick Rifle Range completely suspended forthwith, and

2.   Have complete rehabilitation of the area proceeded with immediately. (Please accept our thanks far your interest and consideration in this matter . . ..

Interest and consideration which were not shown, may I say, by the honorable member for Phillip when he promised all kinds of things in regard to the rehabilitation of these properties. I demand that my constituents in the area be given the consideration that their case merits. I want to know why it is that the Minister for the Interior has not shown the concern that one might expect in regard to a property worth at least £250,000. I hope that he will give it his attention immediately and have arrangements made for the excavations to be filled in. I make a special plea for the children in the area. Their health merits every possible consideration.

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