Will a new Middle Head masterplan mean a win-win?
Visitors to Middle Head, Chowder Bay and Georges Heights are greeted with a panoramic view of Sydney Harbour and magnificent wildlife corridors.
Over the past 20 years, as development, housing and infrastructure has overtaken other harbourside suburbs, the Headland Preservation Group and local residents have fought off the overdevelopment and rampant commercialisation of the area. This was most evident over the past three years with the successful fight against a $33 million private aged care facility being constructed on the headland.
In 2001, an Act of Parliament established the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust (SHFT) to not only administer the Headland Park in Mosman, but other sites including Cockatoo Island, North Head Sanctuary and Woolwich Dock.
The trust's statutory objectives include maximising public access, but also to protect, conserve and interpret the environmental and heritage values of the land, and this is where the delicate balance of heritage versus development has always been a competing objective.
The SHFT and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) are now embarking on yet another masterplan vision for the headland area in Mosman. This will address issues such as activity and use, constraints and vehicle and pedestrian access, conservation adaptation, landscape management, the use of the precinct, walking tracks and revenue raising.
Newly elected president of the Headland Preservation Group and a long-standing local resident, Julie Goodsir, says she's now feeling more confident that all groups can work together to create a sustainable vision for this important area.
"It's been a long and difficult road over the past 15 years," she tells North Shore Living.
"I think we have gone back into this fighting stage for the good of the area, but at the same time, I feel hopeful now that we can have a constructive vision for the area, where we can all work together for its future."
She confirms the Headland Preservation Group's mandate has always been for protection, education and to keep the area's integrity.
"It's unique. Compared with other parts of the Sydney foreshore, it's underdeveloped and that's part of its beauty.
"It must be preserved - we need visitors and walking tracks and sustainable use but we don't want over-commercialisation. It would be fantastic if we could have visitors coming on ferries from Circular Quay. There is a lot of current activity that we have no objection to, but what is vital is to establish an information and cultural centre because there's so much history on this headland.
The SHFT acting executive director, Susan Culverston, says the trust wants to get vital public comment and also input on the management of the natural environment from the NPWS.
"We have had over 800 responses from the survey during 2016 and we are now looking for strong community engagement and ideas about its future,” she says.
What the community groups say that don’t want is for the area to be turned into a "fun park".
"An Aboriginal cultural centre or an information office would be fantastic because the area has a strong indigenous history," says Ms Goodsir. "There is also military history and fortifications on the headland."
And after a 20-year crusade, the trust, preservation group, and North Shore locals alike are hoping that this time, consensus, protection and good governance can guarantee a sustainable future for the historic Mosman headland.