President’s report 2016/17

President’s report 2017

I’d like to think not all election outcomes in 2016 were unexpected and terrifying.

My inauguration as President of Curl Curl Lagoon Friends took place without fuss, and our executive committee has had us busy from day one.

Early on, we set about reviewing our constitution, confirming our mission and collaborating on a strategic plan for the years ahead. Our thanks to Mark and Susan stack for their significant contribution to preparing, facilitating and drafting this document. This has guided how our volunteer efforts will be best directed and where we’ll be most effective.

Our focus for the near future will be on protection of the lagoon, knowing that one day it will be returned to its once-pristine condition, and to educate the community on the value of the lagoon environment.

Your membership fees and donations have supported an active year advocating on behalf of the lagoon we all treasure.

Clean Up Australia Day

Word has got around about our kids’ treasure hunt on Clean Up Australia Day. Local children brought their parents along to pick up rubbish around the lagoon in John Fisher Park, and our record number of 105 volunteers collected a meagre 40 bags of rubbish. This reduction in volume is testament to the changing littering habits of locals and visitors to our park.

Special thanks to vice-president, Viktorija McDonell, Steve Brickwood and Dave Platter for your logistical prowess, and extended thanks to the many volunteers who appeared on the day.

Advocacy to Council under Administration

When council amalgamations took effect, stakeholder groups such as the Curl Curl and Dee Why Lagoon Committee and John Fisher Park Advisory Committee were disbanded. These were council-led forums where diverse stakeholders such as sporting and environmental groups sat together to progress initiatives in a measured and constructive way.

We felt this led to a fragmented approach to management of these key environmental assets, and addressed the administrator and staff at a council meeting to this effect. Our concern was that community committees were not being consulted early enough and weren’t treated as partners in implementation of the initiatives that most affect them.

Council at the time was responsive, and since this time has proactively contacted us regarding proposals, inviting us to consultation sessions and providing adequate information to make informed submissions. We were pleased with the way we were consulted on the proposed walkway through The Glen near Surf Road as part of the Palm Beach to Manly walk, and are hopeful of an outcome that is sympathetic to the fragile environment it traverses.

Our executive members also engaged directly with Council Administrator Dick Persson on several occasions to raise issues and provide constructive solutions on concerns such as:

  • Netball parking and traffic management around John Fisher Park, and
  • The need to reclassify Stirgess Reserve from sportsground to passive recreation space as a park.

We’re pleased to now have a dedicated contact at council with responsibility for John Fisher Park, Jeremy Smith – Manager Park Assets – Planning Design & Delivery.
Thanks to Deb Moffat, Ray Cox, Jane Lush, Louise Hislop and Pam Rawling for their operational smarts and advice.

Partnership with Council Staff

This year, we’ve been thrilled to join forces with Northern Beaches Council’s Natura Environment unit to conduct a bird count survey over a two-year period to better understand our local avian population. Experts, enthusiasts and complete novices meet at the wooden bridge on the last Friday of the month at 7:30am, select a vantage point and count what they see over a 20 minute period.

We thank Jeanne Thuez, Environment Officer – Lagoons, for her expertise, organisation and motivation on this project. We’re each more appreciative of the birdlife around us, and we look forward to the survey results.

Over the last 18 months or so, we’ve been so captivated by the science behind our local ecosystem, we organised a series information nights for the community that were impressively well attended. Our guru in this respect is Jason Ruszczyk, our other favourite Lagoons Environment Officer.

We’re fortunate to have a scientist on our doorstep who is such a great communicator and whose enthusiasm for lagoon health is infectious. Thanks to Jason, we can all rattle off the term ICOLL (Intermittently Closing and Opening Lakes and Lagoons) with aplomb.

More on the oyster project to come.

Our Local Representation

We have found an involved and interested partner in our new State MP, James Griffin, elected earlier this year. He declared in his inaugural speech in parliament one of his priority initiatives to be fixing up Curl Curl Lagoon, and in a further address commended the work of this very organisation. This is encouraging, and has opened up a dialogue regarding potential next steps.

I encourage anyone with enough time on their hands to read the relevant transcripts – it does make the chest swell with pride to have our rehabilitation and protection efforts recognised at this level.
Curl Curl Lagoon Friends met with council staff Jeanne and Jason, as well as with Todd Dickinson, Executive Manager Natural Environment & Climate Change and Adrian Turnbull, Manager Coast & Catchments, to talk through the collective vision and potential projects to improve Curl Curl Lagoon*. The proposal was presented to MP James Griffin to consider when applying for Coastal and Estuary Grants and promoting the interests of our electorate.
There is a survey currently open for anyone to review and make comment on these, facilitated by Mr Griffin at:

Pride in our Place – no Optus Tower

In a display of coordinated and determined effort, CCLF together with residents saw the Development Application for a 26m mobile phone tower in Adams Reserve rejected by Council and an independent panel of assessors.
• Over 800 petition signatures collected
• More than 150 objecting submissions made
• Manly Daily profiled concerns of residents and CCLF
• Over 13 speakers including CCLF President, Paula Cowan, presented arguments against the proposal before the Northern Beaches Development Assessment Panel in July.
We thank our local MP, James Griffin, councillor Natalie Warren, CCNPS Council, sporting groups and the hundreds of residents who stood together to protect the character of the locality we love.
Enjoy the view, people!

Council Elections

Curl Curl Lagoon Friends hosted the Curl Curl Ward candidates for the recent council elections, at North Curl Curl Surf Club. We had a crowd of about 65 people who were rewarded with a courteous and cordial night, hearing the candidates speak and answer their sometimes tricky questions! We congratulate Michael Regan, our returned Mayor, David Walton and Natalie Warren on their election and thank them for their support tonight.
We look forward to a fruitful relationship with them as we continue to care for our local environment.

Bush Care

If you’ve ever wondered what can be done about the weeds you’ve noticed invading our natives bushland, the answer could be closer at hand than you think. In just a few hours a month, you could learn how to recognise and remove weeds while making new friends at Bush Care. Join the custodians of Alan Newton Reserve on 1st and 3rd Saturdays at 9am and become part of the solution.

Respected Community Group

Curl Curl Lagoon Friends members are a diverse group with valuable and unique perspectives and experience. We have been approached by alert members to provide submissions on a range of issues this year from local to state issues. Thanks to these grassroots prompts, we have:

  • Corresponded with Premier Berejiklian regarding the Biodiversity Conservation Bill and Local Land Services Amendment Bill that we believe will weaken protections for native flora and fauna;
  •  Helped to mobilise the community regarding the proposed Optus Monopole;
  •  Provided submissions regarding the CCNPS redevelopment project on matters of its impact on the local environment, lagoon health and heritage.

We thank Ray Cox, Chris Thomas, Steve Brickwood, Sophie Stack, Rebecca Eddington and others for bringing issues to our attention and lending their expertise to the response our group was able to make.
We value the input of those passionate about celebration and protection of our local treasure, Curl Curl Lagoon.
We look forward to the year ahead in the knowledge we have forged strong partnerships with the people who share our vision.

*Potential improvement projects

1. Improving the Curl Curl environment

This component of the project will complete a number of outstanding actions from Stage 4 of the Curl Curl Rehabilitation Project including:

  • Creating better foreshore areas around the lagoon for bird and fish habitat
  • Removing weeds to improve views and access between Griffin Road and Curl Curl Beach
  • Installing better access points to the lagoon and beach
  • Supporting our local volunteer bush regenerators and our local environmental groups in
  • protecting this special waterway
  • The actions will make a significant improvement to the look and feel to the eastern areas of the lagoon which have not had substantial works done as part of the earlier stages of the Curl Curl Rehabilitation Project.

2. Community involvement – “From Pollution to Pride”

$40,000 over 2 years

  • Education program for businesses and residents upstream of Greendale Creek and around Curl Curl Lagoon.
  • Installation of interpretive signage along the path and at the major structures to provide community information about lagoon condition, what they can do to help as well as providing experiential activities.

Bush Regeneration

Alan Newton Reserve Map

Bush regeneration is one of the most important things that Curl Curl Lagoon Friends do. By restoring the plant life, we enable more native wildlife to move into the area and make the Lagoon a more pleasant place for everyone to enjoy.

Our bush regeneration work is now focused on restoring Alan Newton Reserve. This area is located just to the west of Griffin Road on the north side of the Lagoon. Future work will continue the improvements along the Lagoon-edge riparian zone in the direction of the netball courts.

Volunteers meet on the first and third Saturday of each month from 8 to 11to remove invasive species, improve the soil and plant and encourage the growth of appropriate natives.

Lantana Removal

A new bush regeneration effort is in the planning phase that will focus on removing invasive lantana and restoring native vegetation and habitat in the dunes along Curl Curl Beach. This should begin towards the end of summer 2012-13, as the weather cools off.

How to Help

Volunteers receive free, brief training from Warringah Council. They get the chance to be part of an enjoyable team  and to make a lasting and visible difference in the Park that has been called the lungs of the Northern Beaches.

If you want learn more about how to help, contact us.

A Brief History

There was a time when Curl Curl Lagoon was a pristine waterway with a sandy bottom, clean beaches, large fish and a healthy natural environment. It would flush to the ocean from time to time but never completely empty. The openings were natural, too, not caused by locals with spades!

Surprisingly, that was only about fifty years ago. In a few short decades of urban development, we humans managed to poison the water, destroy the surrounding vegetation and habitats and silt up the stream.

Because, the lagoon area was a garbage tip!

The final insult came in the late 1970s when there were proposals ranging from filling in the whole creek and running it through pipes – to piping in sea water to flush the lagoon sludge out onto the beach. And so was born the Curl Curl Lagoon Committee… To put some reality back into the situation, on the 15th July 1980, at the North Curl Curl Surf Club, a committed group of citizens formed the Curl Curl Lagoon Committee.

At that first meeting, David James, an environmental consultant to Warringah Council, stressed the need to protect the few natural environments still existing in the area. He urged the new committee to adopt a constuctive, well-informed approach to gaining the respect of Council and Government and pressing for improvements to the health of the lagoon and the surrounding environment.

They set about the rehabilitation of the lagoon… Throughout the years the committee has initiated and sponsored many projects and events – all with the singular aim of improving Curl Curl Lagoon, the beach, the sand dunes and John Fisher Park. Imagination was the name of the game – who can forget the great “Clean-a-goon” campaign?

Protecting native flora and fauna by providing or preserving natural habitats has been a major part of the committee’s work. This has involved plantings of native trees and other plants that used to grow here naturally – as well as a biodiversity of wetland species for stormwater treatment.

Between Harbord Road and the beach, there are an amazing thirty-six places where water enters the lagoon system – the creek itself plus lots of stormwater drains. Through mini-wetlands, gross pollutant traps and bush regeneration, the committee and the Council have always worked together to clean up this water – meeting challenge after challenge.

The committee also recognises the role of children and young people as the environmentalists of the future and has contibuted widely to educational programmes.

Of course, the biggest project is one that is still going on – the Curl Curl Lagoon rehabilitation project. This is a four staged program me of works which started with the Gross Pollutant Trap at Harbord Road (to stop silt and things like plastic bags from getting into the creek) and continued with the fantastic works on Greendale Creek during 1998 and 1999.

This whole project is a tribute to what a dedicated community and an imaginative Council can achieve when they work together.

There have always been battles to fight There have been inevitable fights – especially when a very significant part of the area is John Fisher Park – which is used for both sporting and recreational purposes. From time to time one body or another starts to demand dedicated facilities, more carparking, fences or larger buildings despite all commonsense evidence pointing to them not being in the interests of the area and the environment.

Of course, there have been major victories – like acceptance of the Rehabilitation plan, the fun of having the community get together to plant trees and enjoy our fantastic asset and the satisfaction of seeing more and more community members joining the group and becoming stronger – standing up for their rights and making their views heard. It’s the people who do it Over the last twenty years, dozens of dedicated people have served on the Curl Curl Lagoon committee. They’ve always been backed up by hundreds more who help by joining the planting days, helping the “Regenerates” – our bush regenerators – or just by paying their membership fees.

The contributions by Warringah Council and local businesses are always significant and fantastic – but so much of the hard-slog work of looking after the lagoon and the area around it is done by volunteers who head out in all weather to dig and plant and chat and prune and pull weeds.

Then we became friends… In 1998, the Curl Curl Lagoon Committee became the Curl Curl Lagoon Friends Incorporated – to better reflect the reason for its existence and to recognise its important role in a more formal structure.

In 2000,  that Stage 3 of the Curl Curl Lagoon and Greendale Creek Rehabilitation project took place. This stage saw the cleaning up of the bed and banks of the creek up to the point where it meets the lagoon. The bridge at Park Street was built over the lagoon and the rock weir was built to make sure that even when the lagoon is empty, the creek won’t be.

Initially Stage 4 was the next big challenge but the benefits of dredging proved to be contentious. Initially Council spent over $1 million in studying and implementing the Rehabilitation Plan. As part of the plan, more than a dozen reports were done to study the Lagoon and at the time the majority favoured targeted dredging in the main body of water. They concluded dredging would provide ecological, economic, water quality and aesthetic benefits.

However over the years, further research commissioned by Warringah Council concluded that dredging would not produce the benefits initially foreshadowed.

Our focus continues to be on improving the water quality by reducing the amount of run off and waste entering the lagoon and the placement of oyster balls in parts of the lagoon to trial them as an effective filtering system.

Curl Curl Lagoon Friends look forward to continuing to maintain the the focus clearly on making Curl Curl Lagoon, Curl Curl Beach, John Fisher Park and the surrounding area places that will always be huge assets for Warringah – and in fact the world environment.

“Treat the earth well – it was not given to you by your parents. It was lent to you by your children” –  Native American Saying