The whole of Sydney was shocked when 26 of our little penguins were massacred by a fox last winter. The North Head little penguin colony has survived but now the birds face another threat. This time it's man made and may be even worse.
Q station resort hotel wants to crank up the volume at its Quarantine Station site. The Mawland Group, which runs the hotel, has applied to change its planning controls, including boosting visitor numbers, and playing music in an outdoor area just metres away from little penguin nests.
Just as worrying is a request to remove NSW Parks and Wildlife Service as co-proponents of the site, meaning that independent oversight would be minimised and Mawland would have prime responsibility for care of the Quarantine Beach penguin colony.
"It's a terrible suggestion,” Good For Manly councillor Candy Bingham said. “That would mean that our beautiful little penguins, which are already right on the borderline of survival here on the mainland, would be left in the care of a company that has no environmental expertise, and is run for profit. I’m also concerned that Mawland has asked for its environmental audits to be decreased from every five years to every eight years,”
The outdoor music plan is problematic as well.
The proposal is to allow ambient dining music which would not exceed 50 dB - a volume similar to “conversation at home” - when measured at the edge of the outdoor eating area. While it’s true that the existing ban on any amplified music does impose limits on activities - such as weddings - at the site, and the hotel is not asking to play music loud; the penguin colony still needs to be taken into account. Of concern is that penguins choose quiet, secluded areas for their nests and the birds are active around dusk, when the music is likely to be played, with adult birds returning to their nests to feed their young at that time and mating pairs also likely to be disturbed. The same concerns surround the proposal to boost maximum permitted guest numbers from 450 to 600 people.
“All this is less than one year after the endangered colony was savaged by a fox, sparking a massive effort by Parks and Wildlife staff and almost 100 volunteers,” Cllr Bingham said. “The group braved long, cold winter nights and freezing winds to physically guarded the nesting sites at Quarantine station, Collins Beach and Store Beach on a round-the-clock three-month-long vigil. What a disaster if their efforts went to waste.”
The Mawland proposals are now before the Department of Planning and Environment.
Images: Activities at Boilerhouse Restaurant, pictured at Quarantine Beach, may be ramped by.
North Head and the Q Station complex including Quarantine Beach and jetty.
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.