Compliance blitz day targets offending building sites to make the Parramatta River swimmable again
On Wednesday 24 May the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Department of Planning and Environment and local councils will be out in force to conduct a soil and erosion control compliance blitz at construction sites around the Parramatta River.
The blitz day is part of the month-long Get the Site Right campaign being conducted to inspect developments of all sizes, ranging from small home renovations to large apartment estates and major road construction.
Developers who have received warnings from initial inspections and have not made their sites compliant will be issued penalties. Developers are required by law to contain and manage sediment on their work site. Non-compliance can lead to fines from $8000 to $15,000 per incident.
The Get the Site Right initiative is part of the Parramatta River Catchment Group’s mission to make the Parramatta River swimmable again by 2025, and highlights the role that developers and builders play in cleaning up the river.
It also reflects the strong community support to improve the water quality of the river. A recent survey of more than 1100 people living around the Parramatta River and its creeks found that almost seven out of 10 residents who swim are interested in swimming in a designated area of the Parramatta River.
In the first blitz last October, over 50 per cent of those sites inspected were found to be non-compliant. Six months on, the hope is that this rate will decrease as building sites get on board and manage environmental controls adequately.
The blitz is being conducted across the local government areas of Blacktown, Burwood, Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Hills Shire, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Parramatta, Ryde and Strathfield.
Community members are encouraged to report pollution incidents by calling the Environment Line number 131 555. Guidelines on sediment and erosion control are at: www.ourlivingriver.com.au.
PRCG Chair, Clr Jerome Laxale, said the compliance blitz is just one of several important initiatives aimed at achieving the mission to swim in the Parramatta River by 2025.
“We know that people want to swim in the River, but if things stay the same, we won't be able to achieve that. Our community wants a cleaner river and developers will need to play a part to help us accomplish our mission.”
“In our recent community survey, more than half (54%) of residents said they would prefer to swim in the river if it took them half as long to get to as the beach, and one in 10 swimmers have swum in the Parramatta River in the past 12 months,” Clr Laxale said.
“Our community is looking for more local, natural places to swim. It is only through working together in partnership with the community and all levels of government that we can bring about meaningful change and give the community what they want.”
NSW EPA Regional Director Metropolitan Branch, Ms Giselle Howard, said initiatives such as the Get the Site right campaign highlight the need for developers to understand the vital role they play in helping to improve water quality and the long-term sustainability of the Parramatta River.
“Many developers still haven’t made the connection between non-compliance and preventing the community from being able to swim in the river,” Ms Howard said.
‘Run-off from their building sites can pollute the river with dirt, soil, sand and mud, which can in turn smother native plants and animals that live in these waterways. Eroded river and creek banks also destroy habitats, and stormwater drains blocked by sediment can lead to flooding and overflows.”
“We don’t want to find high rates of non-compliance – we’re hoping that this year’s joint taskforce will show a significant increase in the number of sites that are doing the right things when it comes to site management. That said, we will take strong regulatory action where it is required.”
“We look forward to working with local councils on the blitz day to raise awareness with developers and the community about the effects of sediment run-off.”
On Wednesday, 24 May, the 11 participating councils, NSW EPA and Department of Planning and Environment will be patrolling building sites across the Parramatta River catchment area.
Interviews, photos and other media opportunities can be arranged upon request.
Campaign statistics on the one-day blitz will be made available on Monday 29 May and the whole month’s statistics will be made available on Monday 5 June. Statistics will include number of sites inspected, number of notices issued, dollar amounts fined, types of offences and names of developers issued with penalties.