On Saturday I had the real pleasure to host a wonderful event at Kelly’s Bush in Sydney’s north.  More than a hundred people turned up at this beautiful piece of publicly owned and protected urban bushland on the shores of  Sydney Harbour.

We were moved by the music of Ecopella, inspired by the words of Green Bans legend Jack Mundey and honoured to be in the presence of three of the original Kelly’s Bush battlers, Joan Croll, Miriam Hamilton and Christina Dawson.

SHHMC Photo Kelly's Bush No 3 14 Sept 13

David with Jack Mundey

We held the event at Kelly’s Bush because it was here, more than 40 years ago that the first successful Green Ban was put in place to protect this urban bush from being bulldozed for a housing subdivision by the developer AV Jennings.

While we celebrated this history we were also reminded of the thousands of years of prior occupation of the land by Gadigal people with an acknowledgement of country and a guided Aboriginal heritage talk from the Aboriginal Heritage Office.  Karen, David and Phil from the AHO were there to share their extraordinary knowledge of this rich and living past.

SHHMC Photo Kelly's Bush No 1 14 Sept 13

David with the Kelly’s Bush Battlers and others

The Green Bans movement went on from Kelly’s Bush to protect not just urban bushland but the Rocks, Paddington, Kings Cross, Centennial Park and the Botanic Gardens from being knocked over for grossly inappropriate development in the 1970’s.

This combination of an environmentally connected union movement and engaged residents literally saved Sydney’s history.  So to stand beside Jack, Miriam, Joan and Christina on the site they protected was not only a pleasure for the natural surrounds and company, it was a direct connection with a wonderful activist past and an inspiration for our work for the future.

Why were we there though?  The answer is simple, in 1979 as a result of the surge of activism around the Green Bans everyone in NSW first got the right to be heard on development matters, to make a submission and have a democratic say in planning decisions.  Roll on to 2013 and the O’Farrell government has a draft planning Bill that it wants to present to Parliament this month to remove that right to have a say for 80% of development.

Unless we rekindle the spirit of Kelly’s Bush we will see developers getting private certifiers, or council planning staff to approve industrial and warehouse development up to 20,000 metres square on bushland, a row of 20 semi-detached houses on your street and the destruction of your 2 story local shopping centre and its replacement with residential and commercial tower blocks – all without you having any say.

Helping rekindle that spirit is the Better Planning Network.  Corinne Fisher, the principle spokesperson for the BPN spoke at Kelly’s Bush about how that growing network of more than 420 resident, environment, heritage and community groups is working to, in her words “Kill the Bill.”

Environmental campaigner (and Cessnock Greens councillor) James Ryan, who also spoke at the event on Saturday, explained how the government’s draft planning bill removed ecologically sustainable development from the law and refocused the law to promote development regardless of its social and environmental cost.

To find out more on the threat to your community and environment being proposed by the O’Farrell government and what you can do to make a difference go to: Planning Law Reform.