June 25 - July 15, 2023: Issue 589


ambiguous reply to Pittwater MP's query on Barrenjoey Headland accommodation proposal renews concerns

Member for Pittwater Rory Amon has called on the Minns Labor Government to keep their promise and rule out ‘Airbnb’-style accommodation on Barrenjoey Headland. The call follows a draft Plan of Management prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 2022 which allowed the heritage listed buildings on Barrenjoey Headland to be turned into ‘Airbnb’-style accommodation. 

“During the recent election campaign, I secured vital concessions from the then Liberal Government that the Boatman’s Cottage would be maintained as a residence for the local caretaker, that the road to the top of the Headland would not be upgraded to allow for commercial activity on the Headland, and that a Strategic Reference Group with residents included would be formed to determine and finalise the Plan of Management,” said Mr Amon.

Prior to the March 2023 election, then Shadow Minister, the Hon. Penny Sharpe MLC and Labor candidate for Pittwater, Jeffrey Quinn, attended a January 2023 rally – both ruling out the proposed commercialisation of Barrenjoey Headland and leaving locals under no illusion that there would be no ‘Airbnb’-style accommodation at Barrenjoey under a Labor Government [1]  a statement from the the Pittwater MP reads

“Since the election, I have questioned the Labor Government about whether they will rule out ‘Airbnb’-style accommodation on the Headland. Labor have broken their promise to scrap the plan and have put commercialisation of the Headland back on the table, advising Parliament that “options for heritage buildings [on Barrenjoey Headland] will be considered by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage when reviewing the final plan of management.” Mr. Amon said.

The Member for Pittwater is speaking of a question tabled by him on May 9th 2023:

In relation to the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Lion Island, Long Island and Spectacle Island Nature Reserves Draft Plan of Management:

(1) When is the Plan of Management due to be finalised?

(2) Will the proposal for the permissibility of short-stay visitor accommodation at Barrenjoey Headland be removed from the Plan of Management prior to it being finalised?

(3) Will the proposal for the permissibility of short-stay visitor accommodation at any other locations covered by the Plan of Management also be removed prior to the document being finalised?

The answer received on June 13th 2023 was

(1) A new plan of management for Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is being finalised for the Minister for the Environment and Heritage's consideration in the near future.

(2) The heritage value of buildings at Barrenjoey Head and other locations within Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park will continue to be protected by any new plan of management. Management options for heritage buildings will be considered by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage when reviewing the final plan of management.

(3) See response to Question 2.

The ambiguity in the response has renewed concerns in the community that the last open to all and accessible to all historic lighthouse in NSW may be removed from public hands for private users.

Assoc. Professor Ricard West AM, President of the Palm Beach Whale Beach Association, spoke to Pittwater Online News last week, stating,

''Palm Beach & Whale Beach Association (PBWBA) is concerned to learn that Penny Sharpe, as the Minister responsible for NSW National Parks, appears to be wavering in her commitment against commercialisation of the heritage listed Lighthouse Keepers' cottages on Barrenjoey Headland Palm Beach.''

''At the January 2023 Rally organised by PBWBA to protest against the then Liberal State Govt’s plan to develop the cottages for short term holiday accommodation, we were honoured to have Ms Sharpe, a long time political crusader for fairmindedness, as a guest speaker. Ms Sharpe reminded the large crowd that it was a Labor government that produced the Conservation Management Plan for Barrenjoey Headland in 2002. Speaking about it at the rally, she said:

‘…it was decided then that this was a special place and wasn’t to be commercialised or privatised.’

At a later part of her speech, she said:

‘…when you start to put out all this stuff about adaptive re-use, potential for conference facilities, potential for accommodation, then you’re going to degrade the place straight away…and if ever that happens it really is unacceptable.”

She also congratulated those present who fought similar proposals in 2013 adding that all over the state people are fighting against ‘proposed developments such as these.’

Now it appears that “options for heritage buildings [on Barrenjoey Headland] will be considered by the new Labor Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage [Penny Sharpe] when reviewing the final plan of management.” We are very concerned as to what these options might be.'' Prof. West said

''The Barrenjoey Lighthouse buildings, dating back to 1881, are the oldest remaining structures in Pittwater and their setting on a wild and beautiful headland untouched by modern infrastructure gives them a unique appeal. And, being made of sandstone quarried on site, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse complex is very different from the other Lighthouses dotted up and down the NSW Coastline. 

There are many practical difficulties to developing the cottages commercially - the huge expense of converting them for accommodation, difficult access for visitors across a beach (often completely underwater) and up a steep track without a vehicle, safety concerns particularly at night even if expensive lighting is installed, and the practical challenges of rescuing people in an emergency.

Just as we have done in the past, the PBWBA will continue to campaign against providing paid accommodation on Barrenjoey Headland. In doing so, we emphasise that this is not a NIMBY response.

Rather, we stand with the people who make over 250,000 visitations to this site annually, and the generations after them who will benefit from the buildings being used for cultural purposes honouring the indigenous, colonial and natural history that abounds in this unique area.'' Associate Professor Richard West AM, President PBWBA 

''In so doing, we urge Ms Sharpe to the stand by the principles she espoused at our January rally, and remind her of the motion that passed unanimously on the day to:

  • Remove any reference to “accommodation” in relation to Barrenjoey Headland;
  • Alter the Plan of Management (PoM) to prevent NPWS or the Minister making Barrenjoey Headland available for any purpose which might relate to accommodation;
  • To protect and preserve the natural, cultural, historic and built environments of the headland in accordance with the National Parks and Wildlife Act;
  • Encourage daytime use of assets on the headland for cultural, educational, artistic and informational use;
  • To prepare a separate PoM specifically for Barrenjoey Headland.''

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment webpage hosting the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Island Nature Reserves Draft Plan of Management documents from the 2022 consultation has not been updated since November 2022 when the feedback period elapsed.

That page advises under 'When will the plan of management be finalised?' that:

At the close of the public exhibition period, we consider all submissions on the draft plan and prepare a submissions report. We provide the Greater Sydney Regional Advisory Committee and the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council with the plan, all the submissions and the submissions report. They consider the documents, make comments on the plan or suggest changes, and provide advice to the Minister for Environment and Heritage.

The Minister considers the plan, submissions and advice, makes any necessary changes and decides whether to adopt the plan under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Once a plan is adopted, it is published on the NPWS website, and key stakeholders, including those who made a submission on the draft plan, will be notified.

On Wednesday June 21st 2023 a Motion regarding Heritage Protection was passed in the NSW Parliament. Tabled by The Hon. Peter Primrose, The Hon. Penny Sharpe's contribution to this discussion elucidates her stance in regard to heritage buildings is embedded in decades of a love for and protection of the same, and is undiminished, despite having to witness the destruction of public Heritage buildings that should have been kept - for the public - when in opposition.

The Minister for Climate Change, Minister for Energy, Minister for the Environment, and Minister for Heritage stated;

''We should remember that in 1977 the Wran Government introduced the Heritage Act. It was not simply because the Wran Government wanted to do that. It came off the back of many years of protest, of the green bans, of communities coming together to defend what they thought was important and under pressure from rapacious development—which is the whole story of Sydney since colonisation. 

''It was the work of people like Jack Mundey and the Builders Labourers Federation and the many community members who banded together and saved Kelly's Bush, saved us from having a car park overlooking the Opera House in the middle of the botanic gardens and saved the Queen Victoria Building—the idea that we could have lost the Queen Victoria Building! We lost some of our exhibition buildings because of a failure to care for heritage.'' Ms Sharpe said


''The Heritage Act is important as an agreement between the community and the Labor Government and Parliament of the day that was a settlement in relation to the issue of housing and what was going on at The Rocks. It was partly about all those working-class communities at Millers Point who were being moved out. They were moved out and there were massive protests. We should remember that the Sirius building was built as a result of those protests and of the settlement between the Wran Government and the community in relation to heritage. When I drive past the Sirius building it still infuriates me. We built an incredible building so that working‑class people could live in the heart of the city and age in place in social housing for the rest of their lives.

The previous Government sold it for $20 million. Those opposite did not want to heritage list it because they said it would cost too much. The penthouse at the top of the Sirius building will probably cost $20 million. That is another example of failed privatisation and a tragedy in relation to understanding the importance of heritage, people and place and the stories we tell ourselves. The sell-off of the Sirius building tells us that we do not care about the working class, aged and disadvantaged people who were living in the building. We just sold it off for a quick buck. That is an example, writ large, of the problems if we fail to care for heritage. As the heritage Minister, I look forward to trying to turn that around.''

The Hon. Penny Sharpe speaking at the January 2022 Barrenjoey Rally.

Although the new government had been in charge for 10 weeks when Mr. Amon tabled his question, scrutiny of Ms. Sharpe's work so far shows a focus on saving more Cumberland woodplain and koalas through discussions with her federal counterpart, scrutiny of all the documents tabled to be ticked off just prior to the 2023 State Election, the 99 year lease for Cadman's Cottage with a feedback period that ran over Christmas and New Years for example, atop what's entailed in the four portfolios under her custodianship - keeping the lights on for example. 

The 2016 proposal to exclude the public from Barrenjoey Headland commenced on March 21st and was quashed in late May 2016, the 2013 attempt at the same was opened in June and denied in August.

While the turn around between statements such as those in the 2016 accommodation at Barrenjoey documents of: 'This use would result in parts of the Precinct (directly surrounding each cottage) to be closed off from public access. As part of any leasing arrangement, ensure that mechanisms are in place that allow for public access throughout the whole Precinct at regular intervals throughout the year.', and replies to 'HANDS OFF BARRENJOEY!!!!'  being answered with an 'ok, .... for the moment', averages at around the 10 week mark  - it is clearly too soon this time. 

No news is good news as local families head into the Winter school break - and have time for a walk.... to Barrenjoey.