Garden Island to get bigger. Photo: Andrew Woodhouse

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BY ANDREW WOODHOUSE

Noise doesn’t just happen, it is made to happen and  is the biggest threat to our well-being in the inner city.

I’m not just talking about screaming, jet engine-style leaf blowers, construction site jackhammers or doof-doof nightclub noise forcing residents onto Stilnox to get some zzzs.

We are living in disturbia, not suburbia.

I am also talking about our tax-payer-funded Royal Australian Navy (RAN) at Garden Island who say locals are whingers.

There is a groundswell of community concern about the RAN’s snub to neighbours’ amenity. 

And no, the Navy was not here first. The residents were. 

Garden Island wasn’t separated from Potts Point until 1939. 

Potts Point may have lost its point but not its residents. 

Now the Navy intend to build massive new wharves. 

The two-stage works and later works will cost a staggering $700 million over the next decade and will not be completed until after 2030.  

Using Orwellian double-speak they’re described as “Critical Recovery Infrastructure” projects, to pre-empt necessary approval.

But the money needs Federal Parliamentary approval first.

Stage one costing $238 million is now being considered by its Parliamentary Works Committee. 

Last week these high priests of planning met in Woolloomooloo to put their case to the public.

The room was packed with a full armada of over 40 white-uniformed, brass-buttoned, shiny-shoed Navy personnel with a phalanx of Defence staff as reserves.

It was a land-locked battle.

The tense meeting was met with threats of eviction for interrupters and as I was the only resident, I took that to mean me.

We were told objections were minimal, yet no resident group was notified, thus evading scrutiny. 

Commander Andrew Fraser, from HMAS Kuttabul, says “local whingers ‘crave engagement’”. 

The new works will mean 53 large trucks clogging local roads six days a week removing debris.  

The RAN says traffic will be “acceptable”. I reject this: the roads will be grid-locked.

Residents were also told by Lieutenant-Colonel Fox, Project Director, that noise will be measured by the NSW Environment Protection Authority and that there will be noise screening.

Can that be true? 

In his email of 8th May he states: “The project does not require … monitoring or reporting with NSW EPA.”

And when I phoned the noise screen manufacturer I was told these flimsy light-weight flaps have limited effect, even with 360-degree coverage. Currently, they only provide 180-degree coverage. 

No relief from screening is possible, another furphy.

The Navy says: “it is expected that potential noise impacts … could be effectively managed to an acceptable level.“ But will they? And acceptable to whom? And how?  The noise from Garden Island  is unacceptable now. 

I do note, however, there is expected to be some reduction when dockside generators are finally removed after the two stage project is fully complete – after 2030. 

But has the Navy ever completed a major project on time and within budget? 

So there is no noise management plan, no noise mitigation, no decibel cap or sanctions for non-compliance. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. 

It’s a two-fingered salute to taxpayers who are funding this extravagant indulgence. 

We say the Navy’s motto, “We serve Australia with pride” is really “Serving ourselves from the taxpayers’ pot of gold with pride”. 

Is RAN rally just an acronym for Really Atrocious Noise?

To have your say before you go deaf email the works committee: pwc@aph.gov.au 

Andrew Woodhouse is the President of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage and Residents’ Society