Protection for historic Fatima Island

The Greens have welcomed this week’s Marrickville Council decision to fund urgent investigations into the work needed to protect Fatima Island, one of the last remaining islands in the Cooks River.

At its 3 December 2013 meeting the Council voted to allocate the $25,000 necessary to obtain a professional report about the current state of the island and to provide recommendations for appropriate remediation strategies.

The action was taken after the Greens put an urgent notice to the August Council meeting (see August 2013 post below), urging Council to take action to prevent the island from eroding away.  

Greens Councillor David Leary said, “There has been a huge groundswell of community support for Fatima Island, which helped sway some of the Labor and Liberal Councillors who had previously a expressed reluctance to fund or take responsibility for protecting Fatima Island.

“Protecting our precious green spaces, local biodiversity and heritage are important to our residents. This was evident from the many people who forwarded stories of their association with Fatima Island, going back as far as the 1950s.”

Some of this important heritage and environmental values of the island are detailed in the background to the Greens motion (below).

“The Greens look forward to receiving the report early next year, and hope that our fellow Councillors continue to stand with the community in voting to protect Fatima Island,” said Clr Leary.

For more information contact Clr Leary at dleary@marrickville.nsw.gov.au.

In the lead up to the meeting the following community groups expressed their support for the investment by Council in Fatima Island:

Cooks River Valley Association

Marrickville Heritage Society

Wolli Creek Preservation Society

The Mudcrabs (Cooks River Eco-Volunteers)

Saving Our Trees

Total Environment Centre

NSW Heritage Network

Botany Bay and Catchment Alliance

Friends of Tempe House

As well as numerous individuals including parishioners of Sts Peter & Paul Parish Tempe and members of the Cooks River Motor Boat Club.

A new FRIENDS OF FATIMA ISLAND email list has also been established by residents who are driving the campaign. To receive updates, please subscribe to: fatimaislandfriends@gmail.com 

Photo by John Veage, from St George Leader, at http://www.theleader.com.au/story/1608145/fatima-island-memories-of-little-surprises/
Photo by John Veage, from St George Leader, at http://www.theleader.com.au/story/1608145/fatima-island-memories-of-little-surprises/

Greens Notice of Motion for 20 August 2013 Marrickville Council Meeting

That Council:

  1. Urgently investigate the erosion of Fatima Island in the Cooks River;
  1. Undertake any urgent, necessary remedial works identified, in order to protect the island against further erosion pending the development of the Cooks River Plan of Management;
  1. Liaise and consult with relevant agencies and community groups to ensure that any urgent works are identified and undertaken appropriately, including the Cooks River Valley Association, Canterbury Council, Sydney Water, Metro Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Marrickville Heritage Society;
  1. Include in the investigations consideration of whether nearby work on the banks of the Cooks River and/ or people visiting the island are contributing to the erosion;
  1. Consider funding for any urgent works in the September budget revision; and
  1. Provide a report to Council of the investigations.

Background

Urgent action is needed to protect Fatima Island, which has become seriously degraded in recent years.

Fatima Island is an important historical and environmental site in the Cooks River, near Kendrick Park, Tempe. It is a sanctuary to local birds such as pelicans, ibis, common silver gull, little pied cormorant, little black cormorant and the crested tern.

In recent years the island has been getting smaller, and the rock retaining wall along one side of the island has partially collapsed. At least two trees have been washed away, and the roots of the large remaining tree on the edge of the island are increasingly exposed and appear at risk of falling over.

Fatima Island is the only remaining island of several that existing prior to European invasion.

It is close to a significant midden site at Kendrick Park and, together with the two adjacent islands that were known to have existed circa 1880, was a place of early contact and relationships between the local Aboriginal Traditional Owners and non-Aboriginal communities.

In 1951 it became a place for a Catholic rosary pilgrimage, honouring a Portugese statue of Our Lady of Fatima. It was from the 1950s that it became known as Fatima Island. In recent years this name has provided a familiar reference point for Muslim community members.

Local organisations such as the Cooks River Valley Association and the Marrickville Heritage Society have been campaigning to protect Fatima Island.

In 2013 Marrickville Council committed to include Fatima Island in the Cooks River Parks Plan of Management.

However the current state of the island requires urgent action to prevent further damage to this important cultural and environmental site.

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