Damage at Sparrow Ground
This is a letter to the city of Ballarat sent by the Friends of Sparrow Ground.
To the City Compliance Officer,
The Friends of Sparrow Ground are a local neighbourhood group dedicated to maintaining open space, the local environment and recreational opportunities in Ballarat East and Canadian precincts.
Two weeks ago a tree was removed and some earthworks were undertaken by a contractor at the rear of a property in 15 Canadian Springs Drive Canadian. Some earth disturbance was noticed and images were taken for observation.
On Friday 20th September 2013, at approximately 8.30 am, Mr Jeff Rootes (one of the friends) visited Sparrow Ground and observed a “Ballarat Ground Works” truck, low loader trailer, bob cat, excavator and several men constructing a swimming pool at the rear of the property. Mr Rootes spoke to the bob cat operator and informed him of the damage the operator was doing to Sparrow Ground. Mr Rootes estimated an area of perhaps 200 square meters had been affected. He asked whether a works permit been obtained. The answer was no.
Mr Rootes reported the incident and damage to the City of Ballarat at approximately 9.00 am. Mr Rootes was told that a by laws compliance officer would attend to the matter.
On 22nd September, the Friends held a planned weed pull morning at the park. During the morning the damage site was inspected by the attending members.
The Friends are appalled at the extent of the damage to the park.
- There is now a vehicle track running from the south west corner of the park at Kline st to the centre of the park grassland area. The footpath entrance has been damaged by trucks accessing the park. This track is approximately 150 meters long and has compressed the grassland and wildflowers along the edge of the treed section of the park.
- There is now extensive scalloping and vehicle tracks in the centre of the park where it appears vehicles, bob cat, excavator and other equipment has been loaded and unloaded and quarry materials have been left behind.
- There is now a heavily compressed track about 30 meters long leading to the work site from the centre of the park.
- The area to the rear of the property now has several truck loads of earth fill deposited on the parkland. Broken fence parts are strewn in the wildflower area.
- There is now extensive damage on the fire trail beginning at the corner of Spencer St and Richards St and running for approximately 100 meters to the work site. The damage is consistent with a caterpillar tracked vehicle.
- The extent of these compacted tracks, destroyed wildflower beds, churned fire trail track and scalloped grassland now exceeds 2000 square meters.
- Landscape experts tell us that this will take years to repair and will need significant replanting with indigenous stock and an ongoing weed removal and maintenance regime.
The area concerned is covered by the Vegetation Protection Overlay 1 from the C95 KOALA AND KOALA HABITAT PROTECTION section of the Ballarat Local Planning Scheme and it forms part of the fauna corridor from Sparrow Ground to the Canadian Forest. The area also has ESO5 overlay within its confines. This overlay requires a protection zone with extensive environmental protection before any sort of earthworks or activity is undertaken. The fact that the works are a result of a private swimming pool being built compounds the problem. The pool could have been built without any impact of the park at all.
This area of the park known as Block F is noted in the parks vegetation study undertake in 2007* and the ground cover was considered to be of the “highest quality” vegetation condition with a wide and extensive variety of ground cover plants.
What has happened in this unwarranted and uncaring attack on the park is beyond comprehension. The works were undertaken by a so called reputable landscape company. Where was their duty to comply with local by laws?
The Friends have spent countless hours in the park weed pulling, removing exotic and feral plants and after fifteen years of hard work were beginning to feel that the park was in good order and as much a community asset in our part of Ballarat, as the the Botanical Gardens are to the west side of Ballarat. Just a month ago, a resident photographed a koala in a tree not more than 20 meters from the damage site!
The Friends feel that in one stupid, unthinking, unprofessional private act, much of the good work of the local community has been undone.
The Friends call upon the City of Ballarat to prosecute the offenders to the full extent of the law available and more importantly make sure that full restitution of the landscape is undertaken at the expense of the perpetrators.
Would you please put a stop to any further work at once, and inform us immediately. The owner should be denied any further access to the park. The owner could complete their project, providing a permit for the works exists, utilising their access to Canadian Springs Drive. The dumped earth fill should be removed via the fire trail after the current wet period is over and the track is solid enough to allow a clean up vehicle or machinery to undertake the works under councils environmental controls and supervision.
Would you please investigate the circumstances of this damage to the park fully immediately and keep us fully informed. We expect to be fully involved in the preparation and implementation of the restitution plan.
Please feel free to contact us for further information. We do have images of the area before, during and after the works were undertaken, the contractor, vehicles and machinery involved.
Friends of Sparrow Ground
*Reference: Vegetation Management Plan, Sparrow Ground Reserve, City of Ballarat, Practical Ecology 2007 Pp 30 and 31