Precinct submission on FDD FINAL April 2019

NORTH SYDNEY COUNCIL DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION NO. DA57/2019

                6 JOHN ST, MCMAHONS POINT

SUBMISSION FROM WAVERTON PRECINCT

                   APRIL 2019           

This submission is made on behalf of the Waverton Precinct. It has been formulated in accordance with public discussion at the Precinct meeting held on 2 April, following a presentation by representatives of the “Say No to Noakes “ campaign. It is noted the Precinct formally opposed the previous DA in 2018.

Waverton Precinct acknowledges the long tenure of the Noakes boatyard and its predecessors in Berrys Bay and supports the ‘working harbour’ concept. The Precinct understands that any business should evolve its services to meet customer demand and business opportunities.

 However, particularly in this location a balance also need to be struck between the interests of the business, its neighbours, and the numerous community, recreational and tourist users of adjacent public facilities. This group is large and steadily increasing in this Precinct and will continue that way.

Our view is that the submitted proposal is an unacceptable over-development of this ship repair yard and should be rejected by the North Sydney Council and by the Sydney North Planning Panel as the Consent Authority. Please see the photo of the specific site as it now looks and a comparative photo image of how it will look with the FDD in place on the next page as a starting reference point to the following submission.

In summary:

  1. Berrys Bay is an iconic location within Sydney Harbour and must not be compromised.
  • The beautiful reserve lands around the Bay have been progressively restored to public ownership and access to the people of Sydney over nearly a hundred years. The consistent change at each point has been to improve the public amenity and utilisation of these areas. The proposed development is inconsistent with the current level of public enjoyment of this area and a reversal of the trend over many decades to continually improve the public amenity of the area.
  • The proposal is incompatible with relevant Sydney Region Environmental Plan 2005; the Council’s Waverton Peninsula Master Plan, and with the Local Environment Plan. It specifically seems at odds with attempts to revive and restore the natural heritage values of the area.
  • The need for a dry dock of this size to be placed at this location has not been established : indeed there are clearly other alternatives in and beyond Sydney Harbour and a healthy list of existing competitors for the exact trade and customer bases which such a FDD is intended to service.
  • The State Government wants naval work done in the revamped large yard at Tomago in Newcastle
  • The proposed development is excessive in size for the proposed location and its visual impact, noise impact and scale is overwhelming and unacceptable in the context of this quiet Bay. 
  • There are substantial and degrading visual impacts especially on local private residents that simply cannot be addressed in a proposed development of such a scale as this dry dock.
  • The artistic heritage of Berrys Bay has not been considered at all.
  • The social impacts of the proposal have not been adequately addressed, particularly consideration of the wide range of people impacted – most obviously nearby residents but also tourists and the many recreational users of the adjacent areas.
  1. The noise and air quality impacts of the proposal are likely to be considerable notwithstanding the containment ideas suggested in the DA submission. There is no proof offered that the  Noakes pollution containment system can actually deal with the paint and other solid waste – like rust, sand and grit from blasting work, and the toxic chemicals used to antifoul a boat – which will be generated. Previous activity by the shipyard provides no confidence that the suggested pollution and noise control ideas or hours of work will even be followed.
  1. The considerable traffic and parking implications have not been properly addressed.

 

CONSIDERATION OF THE MAJOR ISSUES

1.    BERRYS BAY IS AN ICON

Berrys Bay is an important icon among the internationally recognised picturesque settings in Sydney Harbour. Along with Cremorne Point it provides one of the best ‘long views’ of the CBD around the Harbour. Any future development in the Bay must contribute to the image of Sydney as one of the most liveable and beautiful cities in the world and it therefore must fulfil the highest design and environmental standards.

The proposed development does not achieve this at all ; to the contrary, it is a very large steel box, approximately 60 meters long, 20 meters wide and for most of its life it will sit on top of the water at almost 9 metres above the surface. The craft in it – such as large pleasure motorboats and naval craft – will of course be considerable taller again and provide a solid blockage to the local views from much of the ground level around the north and west side of the Bay. It is noted the FDD is expected to be in active use most of the year.

The most significant factors contributing to the iconic status of the Bay are:

  • The natural setting of Berrys Bay with its unobtrusive maritime and recreational uses is unique in the harbour – both historically and still now.  Even at its industrial peak this shipyard has been a set of slipways of a relatively light industrial nature; and heavy industry like that proposed with the FDD is not in any way consistent with a ‘traditional use’ of the facility. Additionally, Noakes  repair activities have been exclusively land based leaving the local shipping channel and mooring areas unaffected by its operations. The FDD will change this relationship.
  • The suggested ‘heritage’ justification that previously large vessels were routinely in the Bay – in particular small oil tankers at the then BP wharf opposite – is a facile argument. Not only were they never at the Noakes shipyard, but In any case these vessels ceased being in the Bay at all over twenty years ago. No maintenance/ repair work on the proposed scale has ever been undertaken here,
  • The deliberate returning of the surrounding foreshore public reserves, such as the adjacent Waverton Oval and Carradah Park, to the people of NSW by different governments over the decades has meant the Bay and its environs have withstood industrial destruction and environmental degradation and have been successfully rehabilitated and turned to other uses.
  • The Bay has been, and remains, extremely important to the artistic heritage of the city. It has one of the best aspects of the city with its deep but wide angle of anywhere on the Harbour and is renowned by artists and photographers for this reason.
  • The Bay remains and is increasingly important to the recreational opportunities for local residents as the local suburbs becomes more densely settled and increasingly popular with tourists. This latter aspect will explode if the Sydney Harbour Highline project, which runs directly behind the shipyard, comes to fruition.

It follows that the proposed development is completely inappropriate in character and scale to the particular character and intrinsic qualities of Berrys Bay.

  • Incidentally, in leaving the Bay, BP paid for the cost of removal of the dolphin berth at Carradah Park, but this anticipated removal has not been actioned due to the decades long argument about the future of the southern end of Berry’s Bay. That wharf actually should no longer exist and we take this opportunity to call on the State Government to promptly relocate the vessels moored there and to action the immediate dismantling and removal of the wharf to open up the views at ground level, as part of the trend of ongoing improvement to the Bay over many decades.

2      FORESHORE LAND RESTORED FOR THE PEOPLE OF SYDNEY

In the 1920’s Balls Head was cleared in readiness for industrial development. It was rescued by Jack Lang and instead proclaimed a public reserve in 1926, becoming one of the most important and the largest reserve west of the Bridge.  Replanting it, designing and creating tracks and building lookouts was a major Depression-era project.

Many other closures of local factories followed over the next decades, both on the waterfront of this Bay and in the surrounding suburbs of McMahons Point and Waverton. The creation of parks and open spaces was the steady result of this transformation. Most recently, in 1997 following the closure of the BP terminal, Bob Carr’s “Vision for Sydney Harbour” recognised that “…Sydney Harbour is too precious to be sold off for the exclusive use of Sydney’s silvertails…”

 At that time the bulk of the Berrys Bay land, together with the coal loader, was handed to North Sydney Council under the Waverton Peninsula Reserve Trust. After considerable public investment these sites have also now been rehabilitated as the hugely popular Carradah Park and the Coal Loader precinct, including the Genia McCaffery Centre for Sustainability and also the adaptive re-use of the Coal Loader platform as a magnificent multiple Award-winning heritage public open space, which opened in March 2018.

The enjoyment of these lands by the people of Sydney – and not just local residents – is in no small part inter-related on the environmental, noise and aesthetic qualities of the adjacent Berrys Bay.

3. COMPATIBILITY WITH SYDNEY REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL PLAN (SYDNEY HARBOUR CATCHMENT) 2005

Development in Berrys Bay must be compatible with the SREP, in particular

  • Sydney Harbour is to be recognised as a public resource, owned by the public, to be protected for the public good
  • the public good has precedence over the private good wherever and whatever change is proposed for Sydney Harbour and its foreshores
  • protection of the natural assets of Sydney Harbour has precedence over all other interests

Similarly the latest Draft SEPP (Environment): reaffirms the vision for Sydney Harbour as an outstanding natural, public asset of national and international significance to be maintained and enhanced for current and future generations; maintains the current principles for the Foreshores and Waterways Area, such that the Harbour is to be recognised as a public resource, owned by the public, to be protected for the public good; and confirms that the public good has precedence over the private good whenever and whatever change is proposed for Sydney Harbour or its foreshores. Crucially, protection of the natural assets of Sydney Harbour has precedence over all other interests.

Consistent with the above, the North Sydney Local Environment Plan states that development consent must not be granted for Working Waterfront where the proposed development is inconsistent with: the size of the site …where the development is to be situated, particularly in relation to the number, size and draft of any boats to be moored; with the proximity, scale and height of surrounding development; or with the scenic, environmental and cultural qualities … of the surrounding area. It also states that development consent must not be granted where the proposed development is likely to have a significant adverse effect on public views and views from surrounding properties.The Precinct considers that these objectives are not being met in the current proposal.

 

4. THE SIZE AND DESIGN OF THE DRY DOCK

 We are concerned the dry dock is simply over size for the scale and ambience of the Bay. If it was ever to have regular use by super motor yachts and Navy mine hunters at the nominated size of 600-750 tonnes (and of course that is exactly the market which Noakes is seeking to enter with this DA), it will completely dominate the Bay views from all nearby walking levels – on the Oval, around the foreshore residences, down the nearby streets – because it will spend most of its time sitting high in the water with large solid boats sticking out the top, not the traditional slim yacht masts which do not block off views or sight angles.

The eminent urban designer and architect David Chesterman AM, was commissioned by the Precinct last year to provide a Visual Impact Assessment. His updated report and accompanying  montages display graphically the impact of the proposed FDD from various vantage points around the Bay. We recommend NSC and the Consent Authority also look at this document in considering their decision. It is an Attachment to this submission.

What most people will be looking at is the enormous rectangular bulk of the dry dock which will be out of character with, and from many angles and aspects will dominate, the rest of the bay. As is apparent from the photo montages and the Chesterman VIA , this FDD facility will have a substantial visual impact both for the public generally and for many residents in the vicinity. While the proponents argue in the DA that there will be minimal impact, the apartment blocks towards the bottom end of John St, those in Munro St, and several houses in Commodore Crescent will be highly impacted (and in some cases have their views permanently dominated by this structure).

Noakes has to date been a traditional boatyard in Berry’s Bay working on private boats, mainly yachts, and small commercial vessels. That is the ‘existing use’ of the shipyard in this Bay.

What is proposed is something entirely different on the scale of a large industrial concern that conflicts in multiple ways with the aesthetic, residential and wider public interest as set out in the SREP.

The DA also has to be considered in the broader context of the evolution of Berrys Bay, which is no longer an industrial part of the harbour but with the demise of the BP facility, the removal of the oil tanks, the rehabilitation of that area and the development of harbourside walks and parks has become an area of outstanding natural beauty and something of a ‘serenity safety valve’ for residents of the more densely settled nearby suburbs and the nearby commercial and educational hub of North Sydney.  

In such a setting, a massive dry dock will be a substantial eyesore from Carradah Park, John St, Boatbuilders Walk, Waverton Oval and multiple other locations that have views or partial views over the Bay. This overall proposed development is just too large. Because of its size, at ground level it totally swamps the aesthetics of surrounding parts of Berrys Bay.

It should be noted that the Bay now exists in the context of surrounding low to medium density residential development, public parks and reserves. The major industry previous located here and the need for access by large vessels to this end of the Bay are long gone. With the dedication of Carradah Park to North Sydney Council the environment has changed. The clock cannot and should not be turned back to a period when an intensive waterfront environment, dominated by heavy industry and impacting adversely on the surrounding area, was considered appropriate.

 

5. THE ARTISTIC AND NATURAL HERITAGE OF BERRYS BAY

Berrys Bay has long been a favoured subject for artists and photographers. Its sparkling waters, low key maritime activity, fantastic long views towards the city centre, and collection of ramshackle boat sheds merge to create a quiet charm that has endured over the years. From colonial painters to artists of the impressionist, modernist and abstract periods right through to contemporary artists and the hobbyists and art classes of today – all have been drawn to this special place.  

Significant artists who lived nearby and frequently painted the Bay include Conrad Martens, Lloyd Rees, William Ashton and Roland Wakelin. Others whose works have the highest regard in Australian collections include Elioth Gruner, Lionel and Percy Lindsay, Sydney Long and Roy de Maistre.

 ”Down the Hills to Berry’s Bay, was painted in 1916 by Roland Wakelin. This painting captures the tranquillity of the Bay and its surrounds. It is widely regarded as the first “modernist” painting by an Australian artist.”  Art Gallery of NSW

Professional artists, art students, hobbyists and photographers continue to be drawn to the Bay. Only in February this year a local artist, Anne Field held a sell-out exhibition of works painted in the Bay area. 

David Chesterman, also a registered heritage consultant, in his attached VIA, documents in detail the transformation of the Bay from its previous industrial state to its present iconic status, resulting from the restoration of its natural beauty and values. In this context, the FDD scale is out of proportion and inappropriate. There never has been any massive rectangular vessel in the Bay close to the size of the FDD. This would not have been appropriate even 40 years ago, far less is it today.

6. SOCIAL IMPACTS

There is minimal treatment of social impacts in the EIS. There is no understanding of the extensive number and range of people who currently benefit from the current limits on the use of this site. For example there are walkers, runners, exercise groups, dog walkers, historical walking tours, painting groups or individuals, photographers or simply those who come from all over Sydney just to look at the view.

Ironically, one of the most popular vantage points is at the end of John St, looking towards Darling Harbour- some 50 metres from the proposed development. The development will entirely block out that view. There is simply no consideration of the impacts on these people. 

We remain particularly concerned that with steadily increasing tourist visits, mainly walking parties, in the district which have increased significantly since the opening of the magnificent Coal Loader Platform Park the ongoing failure by Noakes to honour their previous commitments to create a public walkway across the rear of their property will become a major nuisance to both the walking groups and to the local residents as steadily more people have to use John Street and Dumbarton Street to do their walking tour. Coupled with the anticipated increased car and truck movements mentioned later, this trend is a cause for great concern, notwithstanding unsubstantiated assertions to the contrary in the DA.

Should the ‘Sydney Harbour Highline’ project become a reality, and this is looking quite likely, this will significantly further increase tourist numbers walking straight past the Noakes facility and seeking to enjoy the beautiful views of the Bay as they come down John Street to the Waverton Oval and Carradah Park.

7. NOISE AND POLLUTION

We are concerned that this facility will create a lot of noise and has the potential to create a lot of physical waste pollution when it is working. The nature of the work to be done is welding, drilling, sand blasting, spray painting, engine overhauls and so forth. Existing noise restrictions have been often breached, there is a long history of complaints from adjoining properties concerning this problem, and a substantial enlargement of operations such as is proposed (approximately six-fold according to tonnage) will considerably exacerbate a problem that is already a pressing one. We note the work done by the yard appears to have grown significantly beyond the limits set in the last DA in the 1990s and that this proposal would involve a quantum leap in its noise impact on the surrounding residential area. Not only is the proposal on such a large scale but the noise levels will also intensify within the steel structure of dry dock, notwithstanding the addition of plastic curtains on the inside of the FDD, and even more so when the contemplated steel hulled boats are being repaired and cleaned (as opposed to working with wood or fibreglass for example). We acknowledge the inclusion of ‘acoustic curtains’ on the insides and both ends of the floating dry dock in this latest DA, but remain concerned that the projected noise levels under their model projections will be substantially exceeded in practice. Indeed, given repeated serious breaches of their existing Consent, the community can have little confidence in undertakings for the future.  The end curtains may also increase the perceived bulk of the FDD from horizontal and near-horizontal locations.

The existing operations use a range of hazardous substances (not least, isocyanates and the highly toxic antifouling chemicals that are removed by sand blasting and other abrasive methods) which existing controls have failed to contain within the site boundary. Again, there have been numerous well- documented complaints from nearby residences. This DA asserts that all these waste products will be routed through Noakes existing holding tanks and filtration systems, but the DA gives no information about that infrastructure’s ability to cope with this extra load. These are toxic chemicals and are removed by water blasting of the hull of the vessel before a new layer of antifouling is applied. Conceivably, the whole FDD might need to be washed down internally at the end of each job and certainly there will be a huge amount of water used and contaminated for that purpose.

The other concern is the extraction and disposal of the solid waste created from abrasive blasting, welding and rust removal work and therefore collected within the FDD. This is too heavy to wash out and will presumably need to be somehow extracted with a crane and placed into dump skips. There is no mention in the DA of how this work will be done and related measures to avoid accidental dumping into the water.

Indeed it is not clear at all why the excess spray paint or light debris from sand or water blasting or from metal grinding will not simply go out the open top of the FDD (assuming the plastic curtains being suggested in this DA stop it going out either end) and get blown around the Bay !

The independent air pollution report commissioned last year from environmental engineer Aleks Todoroski, found ‘significant’ air quality impacts that would have otherwise been overlooked.  Todoroski concluded that “there is no reasonable way to tell whether the proposed Project can or cannot achieve acceptable levels of air quality … The issues are significant enough to indicate that it would not be appropriate approve the Project on the basis of the current information”.

Any substantial expansion on existing operations is most likely to simply exacerbate the existing air pollution and noise problems considerably.

 7. A SOCIAL LICENSE TO OPERATE

A ‘social license’ refers to the level of acceptance or approval by local communities and stakeholders of industry and its operations. Developing trust and finding mechanisms for cooperation and ‘win-win’ solutions are crucial for industry and communities to live side by side over the long term. As has been made clear, the community co-exists with the boat yard of the size and nature contemplated by the original 1990 Approved Operating Conditions.

However, even under that DA there has been a long history of non-compliance by this same operator ranging from grinding outside permitted hours, working on weekends, and discharging waste into Berry’s Bay for which Noakes was fined $15,000 by the EPA as recently as 2016. Subsequently there have been further complaints consequent upon which EPA has taken further administrative action. There have been ongoing complaints concerning noise and pollution noted above as well as complaints about Noakes regularly anchoring boats in the Bay outside their RMS lease area. It is also notable that Noakes has failed to construct the public wharf which formed a condition of its last approved DA of 1990/92.

Regrettably, against this backdrop there is little trust upon which to build and little community confidence that a far larger operation would try to contain its environmental and social impacts or even adhere to its Consent conditions or its own operating protocols – because they have a long history of not doing so.

 

8: USE OF THE EXISTING DOLPHIN WHARF OFF CARRADAH PARK.

We are concerned this facility will seek in time to utilise the dolphin wharf adjacent to Carradah Park to temporarily ‘hold’ vessels coming in and out of the dry dock, potentially doubling the problem. We are aware that the dolphin wharf is currently leased to another organisation than Noakes, but access to it is presumably merely a commercial matter.

The Precinct’s view is this wharf should already have been demolished a decade ago in accordance with the State Government undertakings when establishing Carradah Park – and we note that BP provided funds to the government for the removal of this wharf at the time of exiting the area. The wharf is only still there because of the inertia created by over a decade of successive unpalatable attempts to create an appropriate redevelopment of the Woodley’s Boatshed area at the southern end of the Bay.

The Precinct continues to seek that the vessels on that wharf be found new homes and that the wharf be promptly and completely dismantled.

9. PUBLIC PEDESTRIAN ACCESS

There are very few places around the foreshore of the Bay where access to the water is legally available and the proposal does not attempt to improve this position. While we understand that public access to the shipyard itself would be difficult to manage, even a WHS impossibility, the failure to do anything in this corner of the Bay via this DA  is considered by Precinct to be a missed opportunity.

We note that when their last DA was approved, Noakes agreed to construct a public wharf. While not a part of this DA, Precinct takes the opportunity to again request that NSC presses Noakes to deliver on that wharf. The most obvious spots are at the bottom of John St or the bottom of Munro St but neither have much parking and no turning areas for cars, trucks or buses.

10. BUILDING DETAILS

 While the dry dock is notionally and legally a ‘boat’ the reality is that it will remain in place at the boatyard for the purpose of repairing boats for the vast majority of the time, if not exclusively (as that is its very purpose). As such it contravenes the spirit, if not the letter, of the requirements of the NSDCP 2013 where all buildings proposed along the Harbour should be set back from the harbour’s edge. By contrast, this massive structure would be sited beyond the interface of the water and land, meaning that work would be occurring on a floating vessel which is outside the permitted activities in the current site approval.

 

11. PARKING AND TRAFFIC 

Parking and traffic issues need to be considered within the context of the whole Waverton peninsula area. Notwithstanding the claims that the FDD will lead to greater employment and turnover at the boatyard, the 2019 DA gives only minimal consideration to questions of traffic congestion, lack of available parking, or the difficulties of trucking out toxic waste generated by work at the FDD.

 Indeed, parking claimed in the DA in the immediate vicinity as available to the Shipyard is actually public parking on John St. Little consideration has been given to the provision for extra truck or car parking on site, presumably (and sensibly) because extra space is simply not available there. However, parking in John St is already full to capacity during working hours – including by employees of Noakes and by many who are visiting Noakes for business purposes.

It is noted that the FDD must complicate the already difficult parking issues because it will bring in a different type of skillset to the Noakes workforce. Rather than shipwrights and wooden boat craftsmen, this industrial scale operation will necessitate boilermakers, welders, sand blasters, fabricators, and spray painters. In addition many specialists will come in for specific tasks from time to time – and they won’t be arriving by train … more utes and light trucks are inevitable as the scale and nature of the business changes with the FDD. More waste removal trucks and skip trucks would also be inevitable.  

The access roads  (there are only 2) are difficult – narrow and steep with few if any vacant parking spaces – and in our view this will also worsen with truck deliveries when the FDD is operational. These same streets currently provide the main conduit also for walkers and runners into the Oval and parklands.

Should the Highline concept go ahead, it is also going to put significantly more tourist foot traffic into these same streets. In our view, NSC and the Sydney North Planning Panel should work on the basis that in the foreseeable future the Highline project is likely to take shape and act proactively with those implications in mind in assessing this particular DA.

12. THE BUSINESS CASE

THE DA identifies the potential users of the FDD as large private power boats (for ease of imagining, say worth >$5m) and up to ‘minehunter’ size Naval vessels. There undoubtedly is a market for that work, but that does not mean the FDD must be located in this particular bay.

The assertions in the EIS and elsewhere through the DA that no location other than Berry’s Bay is viable for the FDD do not stand up to much scrutiny.  There already is the capacity to service and maintain vessels of the intended size within the Harbour, at several locations – for example the commercial shipyards at Sydney City Marine and at Sydney Ship Repair and Engineering which cater to this same private market. For naval craft there is the huge Thales dry dock facility at Garden Island – the largest dry dock in the southern hemisphere and located inside the main naval base in Sydney.

Therefore not only is there a broad competitive commercial market in existence already among existing established entities on Sydney Harbour, but most of these are actually better equipped and have multiple commercial advantages over the Berry’s Bay site.

Far from being the ‘only’ site, there is no compelling business case for locating the FDD in Berry’s Bay.

Even more importantly, the State Government has made clear that its commitment is to centre  naval repair work in Newcastle, with major public announcements by the relevant Minister in 2017 associated with the major overhaul of the Tomago shipyard through 2017. This site uniquely provides the scale, location, heavy engineering expertise, and modern equipment  – which Noakes simply cannot match from a refurbished 1940’s era FDD located at the bottom of a narrow suburban street.

As a business expansion opportunity, the FDD gives Noakes the capacity to do work it cannot currently do. We understand from speeches recently made by the GM of Noakes that the Navy work is seen as likely to form a potentially huge increase in their profit level.

However, there are established other commercial competitors for the anticipated private work and clearly the Navy already has several options too – so the respective customers do already have choice and the ability to negotiate rates and times for their work.

There is no ‘need’ for a further competitor and certainly not via approval of this specific DA.

CONCLUSION

 Waverton Precinct considers this floating dry dock is simply too large and too intrusive and likely to be too noisy and polluting for the proposed location in Berry’s Bay. Its visual impact will be severe and it will also have an adverse impact on the heritage and natural aspects of the Bay. It is not needed commercially.

We therefore oppose the DA.            

We are pleased to discuss or clarify any aspect of our submission with the appropriate officers.

Ian Grey, Chair Waverton Precinct