Environmentalists angered by Rocky Hill management
An environmentalist has attacked the long-term management of Rocky Hill, one of Goulburn’s most prized natural assets.
In the latest setback following clearing to make way for homes, months of rain washed a scar across the hillside, filled backyards and the Goulburn wetlands below with mud and gravel, and likely killed fish and reptiles.
One of the original movers of the wetlands, Rodney Falconer, former Goulburn High School teacher and environmental consultant, says Rocky Hill is an important scenic backdrop for the town, easily visible and complementing Goulburn’s wonderful heritage architecture. Mr Falconer says the residential development will create yet another hill of ‘ticky-tacky’ homes.
READ ALSO: I have a word for people who complain about the noise at Wakefield Park Racecourse: stop
Heather West of Friends and Residents of Goulburn Swamplands (FROGS) said the clearing of land on the hill, contrary to Mr Falconer’s recommendations years ago, has sent mud pouring into the backyards of May Street . In wetlands, gravel covered grassy areas, mud was dumped into ponds, slopes were eroded and revegetation mulching works were emptied.
Ms West said two of the dams the developers had since built at the cleared site broke in the last downpour.
“Unfortunately when it’s not raining they pump the dams and let the water flow down May Street into the storm drains and into the ponds in the wetlands,” Ms West said.
The Goulburn Group, which launched the wetlands project, says hundreds of tonnes of mud destroyed paths and vegetation and caused significant water pollution, with many fish, reptiles and other species likely killed .
We aggregate the most read About Regional articles from the past week and deliver them straight to your inbox every Thursday afternoon. Subscribing is the easiest way to follow, all in one go.
The Goulburn Group said the flood was an imminent environmental disaster given the indiscriminate clearing of trees and other vegetation on a steep hillside.
“We are appalled that, despite objections and warnings on several occasions, inadequate steps were taken to prevent what happened,” a spokesperson said.
A Goulburn Mulwaree Council spokesman said the developer, Lockenstrand Pty Ltd, had been fined twice for working outside consent guidelines and polluting the water.
A stop work order was issued and the only work allowed was control and prevention measures.
The spokesman said the developer was not allowed to pump silt water from the dams in good weather and had to let the sediment settle as they were only allowed to pump clean water.
“Any dirty water leaving the site is a violation and is considered a pollution incident,” he said. “The Board is currently evaluating our legal options with respect to further action against this developer in this regard.”
Region Media sought developer feedback.
For several years Mr. Falconer provided vegetation reports and recommendations for Rocky Hill. He quotes the author Jim Smith Aborigines of Goulburn District which records the Gandangara natives who had large substantiated land, with large boulders on top of Rocky Hill where the memorial stands today. Below these rocks was a boy’s initiation ground.
Requests by author Mary Gilmore, who lived nearby, to leave culturally significant Indigenous areas intact were ignored when the community built the war memorial.
Large areas of the hill were scrambled to make the war memorial and the vegetation was stripped. The original eucalyptus forest has not grown back. Instead, Tasmanian and South Coast eucalypts have spread from nearby street trees to the northern edge.
READ ALSO: Looking for a great job in local media? Region Media recruits in the Riverina
At the south end of Rocky Hill stood an old scribble gum with a healthy understory in which most Grevillea arenaria grew, which protected insects and small birds. This area was part of an important migration route for native animals from the south coast to the plateaus. The southern rim may still be home to Rosenberg’s monitor lizard, an endangered species of goanna.
Woods of yellow boxwood, another threatened ecological community, grew at the bottom of the hill.
“I don’t know how it was abandoned, certainly the environmental protection laws did it a disservice,” Falconer said.
He had also learned from the land authorities that water flowed from rocks on the hillside long after periods of heavy rain.
“Any house dug in there, disturbing the rock, could endanger them and lead to possible landslides etc.,” he said.
“This whole central part of Rocky Hill was large, botanically diverse, and had a lot of old chewing gum in it. He was in fairly good condition and a major asset to the town, but not seen as such by some of the older councilors in particular,’ he said, referring to the former Goulburn town council.
He said the council failed then and still does to appreciate Rocky Hill as an environmental and aesthetic asset.
“Management of this site has not been carefully monitored,” Falconer said.
Original article published by John Thistleton on Riotact.