Botany Bay, just south of Sydney, is an iconic and historic place for indigenous Australians and the European settlers who followed James Cook’s landing in April 1770.

Its splendour hasn’t stopped a runway of Sydney Airport being built into the bay or a petrol refinery being located at Kurnell on the southern tip. But now the ultimate defacement is being proposed on Crown land by Rockdale Council — a car park for more than 100 vehicles to be constructed over the sand dunes along the sweeping beachfront at Brighton-le-Sands.

The two commercial venues which will benefit from the car park will be the Le Sands and Botany Bay Restaurants. The community is up in arms. Rockdale MP and former Planning Minister Frank Sartor has taken a leading role in opposing the development and organized an angry public meeting to protest to the state government.

The outcry is being resisted by Rockdale’s Labor Mayor, Councillor Bill Saravinovski, and both his Labor and Liberal colleagues. They all want the car park constructed on the shores of Botany Bay even though it is some distance from the actual Brighton-le-Sands commercial centre (though very close to the two restaurants).

The ALP has used Le Sands Restaurant for its election fund-raisers for decades and has become one of its favorite out-of-the-city haunts for business lunches.

Enter “Leaping” Leo McLeay, former federal MP for Watson and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is lobbying on behalf of the car park.

McLeay, who famously claimed $65,000 compensation for injuring his elbow after falling from a bicycle he hired from the Parliament House gym, has been in touch with Labor colleagues in the State Government urging their support.

Lands Minister Tony Kelly had earlier told the council to defer its decision on the car park because he said there had been insufficient “community consultation”. Now he is ready to rubber-stamp the project, allowing construction to start in the new year.

Naturally, no one expects the new Planning Minister Kristina Keneally to intervene because her right-wing faction is 100% behind the Botany Bay vandalism.

The council’s ethics statement is couched in lofty tones:

“Rockdale City Council strives to maintain a high ethical standard of behaviour in the application of its laws and policies. This is reflected in our Code of Planning Practice which seeks to maintain a balance in both the need for quality development and environmental protection.”

Clearly, Botany Bay’s foreshores are exempt from these aspirations.

The whole sorry saga recalls the words of the classic sixties song by Joni Mitchell (no relation):

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey