WEPA President Gay Spies OAM was extended the privilege this week of addressing the Willoughby Girls High School (WGHS) World Environment Day Assembly.
Like many of their generation, the WGHS students have a heightened awareness of the environment with a strong contingent joining the recent students’ Strike 4 Climate Action. Gay’s visit was hosted by the school’s Environment Club which presented on its recent audit of school waste, spoke on pollution issues and showed ‘Three Seconds’, an award-winning video about the need for climate action (you can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sacc_x-XB1Y)
Gay outlined to students how she was drawn into environmental activism when she bought bushland at Castlecrag. She founded WEPA with a group of friends in 1981 to establish bushland management in Willoughby municipality. In 1983 an Urban Bushland Plan of Management for the area was finally adopted – only the second in NSW. In 1985 WEPA started the Sugarloaf Bush Regeneration project which ran for 25 years.
In the late 1980s, WEPA pressured Council to stop dumping into Flat Rock Gully. Decades of careful planting and bush management restored the site as an important part of the Flat Rock Gully catchment, a habitat for native species absent in other parts of Willoughby City and an area for recreation.
The story of Flat Rock Gully demonstrates the need for continued vigilance and action to preserve our bushland and protect the environment. Flat Rock Gully was recently identified by the State Government as a probable site for digging for the proposed Beaches Link car tunnel. The tunnel will not only destroy 6 acres of regenerated bushland but also brings threats of air, dust, noise and odour pollution as well as traffic congestion to this and other nearby sites on the lower North Shore. This at a time when the Government has acknowledged the importance of preserving open space, greening the city and encouraging public transport. Gay noted that the battle for Flat Rock Gully continues.
Gay ended by encouraging students to be active in their local communities, to gain an understanding of how all levels of Government worked and to be ready to stand up for their environment and a safe future.