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The fate of Tamarama gully is causing a stir among Waverley residents. A development application before the Land and Environment Court (LEC) has the inhabitants of Birrell Street and surrounds anxious that they will lose the public space at the top of Tamarama gully.

Scores of concerned locals crowded the gallery at Waverley Council’s meeting on February 16 striving to convince the council to act before it was too late.

A DA currently before the LEC seeks to provide road access to 362 Birrell St, one of two properties located on the piece of land that makes up much of Tamarama gully. The section of land is categorised as an unmade road with Birrell St officially extending down toward Tamarama Beach.

Calls of “close the road” and “no road” filled the council chamber as several residents addressed the council with impassioned pleas to save the space. The appeals of the speakers were met with great applause from the gallery.

Waverley councillors carried a motion to reapply to the Minister for Lands Tony Kelly and the Minister for Roads David Campbell to close the various sections of Birrell St under threat from the proposed DA.

The motion, unanimously supported by the Waverley councillors, included an appeal to NSW Premier Kristina Keneally to support the bid to close the unmade section of road on Birrell St.

Waverley Mayor Sally Betts expressed her frustration with the minister over the issue.

“We are extremely disappointed at the Minister for Lands Tony Kelly’s refusal to close this section of the road in spite of Council’s lobbying for years on this issue,” Mayor Betts said. “Minister Kelly’s decision flies in the face of everything that our community wants.”

Labor councillor Ingrid Strewe also expressed her frustration – at the mayor. Cr Strewe said the problem of Birrell St had come up under her mayoralty and progress had been moving swiftly before Mayor Betts took office.

Cr Strewe also accused Cr Betts of trying to make political gain out of a mistake, suggesting that if the council had worked unanimously toward a resolution sooner, the issue would already have been  resolved.

“If they hadn’t mucked about and forgotten to do it for nine months the minister [for lands] might have been able to close it, but the minister is not going to close roads once they are back in court,” Cr Strewe said.

A recent rally held by Waverley Greens councillors, Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon and Green bans leader Jack Mundey at Tama park on January 30 helped to draw the large attendance to the meeting. The rally called on residents to attend the February 16 meeting and voice their concerns about the fate of the park.

Greens councillor Prue Cancian said it was great to see so many concerned residents at both events.

“As Jack Mundey said, people power saves public open space and heritage,” she said. “Waverley Greens, with support from the community, will continue our campaign to return 362 and 364 lands to Tamarama Park and to close the unmade section of Birrell St.”

The LEC is expected to hand down its decision within weeks.

– By Liam Kinkead