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Bondi Beach Olympic Volleyball Stadium in 2000



From: Friends of the Earth Sydney - Forestry Group

This brief has been prepared by Friends of the Earth Sydney to expose the Sydney 2000 Olympics impending despoiliation of Sydney's Bondi Beach - an international icon for visitors to Australia.
The threat to the beach and public space is from a temporary but massive Aust$20 million spectator stadium on the natural sandy beach to seat 10,000 people.
Objections, including a petition of over 12,000 local residents and 3 newly elected local Green Party councillors on a platform opposing the stadium, relate to:
- Olympics takeover of public beach and parkland for 6 months displacing cultural facilities;
- risk of drownings from changed beach form and disruption of professional lifeguard services and volunteer beach "lifesaver" services;
- risk of tunnel collapses in construction;
- wastage of Aust$20 million on a temporary venue;
- alleged misleading and deceptive conduct by Olympic authorities in the planning process;
- precedent for further development pressure on Bondi Beach;
- evictions from affordable housing near Olympic venues.
Interestingly the local Waverley Mayor who has collaborated with State Government authorities in a funding deal to proceed with the project has nevertheless described the 10,000 seat volleyball stadium on Bondi Beach as "a pretty dumb idea": Sydney Morning Herald 2nd Oct 1999 at page 10.
Significantly beach volleyball and as many as 16 sports altogether will be axed from the Olympics after Sydney: Sydney's The Daily Telegraph 7th Nov. 1999 at page 28 referring to a plan by IOC executive board member Thomas Bach.
Meanwhile the $20 million which may be wasted on a temporary volleyball facility runs counter to the "Games $140 million black hole" and the fact that "Olympic staff face axe" (as reported by senior journalists with the Sydney Morning Herald 4th Nov 1999, page 1, and 19th Nov. 1999 at page 1, respectively.) Similarly see "Forget your profit: Rogge" in The Daily Telegraph 22nd Nov. 1999 such that "The NSW Government should give up its $30 million profit from the the Sydney Games if the SOCOG budget came under pressure, the International Olympic Committee's man in charge of the Sydney Olympics, Dr Jacques Rogge, said at the weekend."
This brief attaches the following documents:
1. Text of Waverley Council's heritage brochures "Black Sunday" re mass rescue and tragic drownings due to a "rip" tide and "Shark! Shark!";
2. Legal analysis including background arguments re financial threats made against local councillors opposed to the stadium construction;
3. Extracts of local media reports re:
(a) Sydney beach pollution;
(b) Dangerous surf conditions;
(c) Dangerous construction issues;
(d) Olympic tickets scandal affecting sponsors, public confidence;and
(e) Loss of affordable housing for low income earners in Olympic suburbs.
4. Speech by retired local councillor/resident against Olympic stadium on Bondi Beach.
For further comment contact Tom McLoughlin natural areas campaigner for Friends of the Earth Sydney on mobile 0410 558838 or Sydney tel. 9517 3900.
"Waverley Heritage Leaflets Number 30
Sunday, 6th February, 1938, appeared a typical summer's day on Bondi beach. The crowd of 35,000 enjoyed the surf and sand, and waves were breaking evenly about 100 feet off shore. The bathing area flags were positioned almost directly opposite the Bondi Pavilion about 80 yards apart. Life savers wondered how they would find space on the congested beach for their weekly surf competition events. At about 3.00p.m. two duty patrols were changing shifts at the Bondi surf club and some 60 members were mingling around waiting for the competition. The races were never contested!
Suddenly, three tremendous waves rolled onto the beach in such a quick succession that the water could not recede. When a sufficient lull in the wave cycle did eventuate, the massive backwash was phenomenal. Swimmers were swept into a deep channel and out to sea. There was instant panic. Men, women and children fighting for their lives. It was mass hysteria at its worst. In a frenzy the shouted, screamed, cried, begged and prayed. They grabbed, clawed and fought.
On the beach there was a stunned but short-lived silence. Lifesavers leapt into action, manning the seven reels already on the beach, or swimming into the turmoil without belts and only their surfing skill to help them. Panic also swept those relatives and friends on the beach. The hastily summoned local police could not cope and called for reinforcements, doctors and ambulances. The surf club house began to resemble a hospital emergency ward as the rescued were brought in. About 30 were resuscitated on the beach while others were rushed to hospital.
A visiting American doctor, Marshall W. Dyer, said, "I have never seen and I never expect to see again, such magnificent work as was done by those lifesavers."
After some 30 long hours agonising minutes the water was cleared. It was time to count the cost. Approximately 250 bathers required assistance; 150 were rescued unharmed; 60 were suffering from immersion; 35 were rescued unconscious and revived; and five people were dead Bernard F. Byrne, Ronald D. McGregor, Charles L. Sauer, known as sweet, Michael Kennedy, known as Taylor, and Leslie R. Potter. Sixty years after these tragic yet heroic events we remember them as well as those brave lifesavers. In the words of the Coroner, Mr Oram, "Their work is voluntary and it is wonderful work they do."
Published by Waverley Library from sources within the Local History Collection."
[The above incident is significant in that modern day problems with "rips" are still being reported - see below, and the University of Sydney's Coastal Studies Unit has indicated in writing there is a real risk of backwash effect from a new construction creating dangerous "rips".]
"Waverley Heritage Leaflets Number 31
A piercing scream and the woman diapered beneath the thrashing water. "She then seemed suddenly to rush out to a distance of several yards as if the shark had taken her legs from under her and pulled her out."
The attack took place at Bronte beach in the twilight hours of Wednesday, February 13, 1924. Miss Nita Derritt, a 30-year-old sales-woman from Hurlstone Park "was badly mutilated by a 10 ft monster in five to six feet of water". Bronte lifesavers, Eric Bennet and Jas Brown, together with Constable C. E. Rushbrooke, ran bravely into the water and brought her to shore. "The left leg had been taken off from below the knee and the right foot was torn away from the ankle, hanging only by a thread". Miss Derrett [sic] miraculously survived but had both legs amputated.
"Shark!" No other cry frightens beachgoers more. The very word stirs emotion and conjures up primeval fears of unseen horrors.
Since the advent of shark meshing off Sydney beaches no death has occurred from shark attack since 1937. Sharks caught in the nets include the grey nurse, hammerheads, tigers, whalers, pointers, seven-gilled, blacktip and Port Jackson.
Bondi had two grim fatal attacks within a month of each other in 1929. Colin Steward, 14, died after being savaged on January 12, in waist deep water on a sandbar 40 yards off the beach, and John Gibson, 39, was taken by "one of the monsters that cruise off Bondi", on February 8.
A year earlier saw a happier outcome. Max Steele, 19, a Bondi lifesaver, was chasing big waves on the afternoon of April 14, 1928. It was dull and cloudy and a large sea was running when the shark grabbed him by the leg, pulling him several metres underwater. "The first thing I knew of the attack was when I saw blood in the swirling water", the victim later recalled. He courageously fought and punched the shark until it released him. The shark had stripped the flesh from his leg but he managed to swim 200 metres back to the shore where he collapsed. Bondi lifesavers Tom Meagher and Allen Rennix, with beach inspector, Stan McDonald, helped pull him onto the beach. Taken to hospital, Max Steele had his leg amputated, but eight days later was able to sit in his father's car and watch a surf carnival. Steel(e) indeed!
Published by Waverley Municipal Library from sources in the Local History Collection. Waverley Heritage No. 31"
[It is interesting to note that a 5 foot 9 inch Hammerhead shark was caught - literally by hand - at Bronte Beach near Bondi on 20th May 1970: Refer Sydney Morning Herald 21st May 1970 page 5. Hammerheads are known to be dangerous. Other leaflets in the Waverley Heritage Leaflets series include "Sand and Scrub", "Waverley Wildlife", "The Bondi Sewer", "Bondi Pavilion" and "O'Brien's Estate Bondi Beach".]
"Memo: to all councillors, General Manager Waverley Council, Greens Caucus Re: failed rescission of volleyball stadium contract between Waverley Municipal Council and Olympic Co-ordinating Authority From: Tom McLoughlin, former Bondi Beach Ward councillor Date: 30th September 1999
1. The threat to surcharge councillors
At last Tuesday's meeting of Waverley Council, the ALP's Cr Ted Plummer, whose group has enjoyed 12 years of power [and whose Party is in power at State government level], made submissions on the beach volleyball stadium for Bondi Beach. He claimed councillors who supported a rescission of the council's contract with the Olympic Co-ordinating Authority (OCA) could be hit with a surcharge for damages under the Local Government Act (LGA). He added that I "did not have a clue" about the risk to councillors. Certainly councillors being threatened with financial ruin is a serious threat - but is it justified or intimidation? I certainly don't advocate Green councillors gambling their financial existence on the stadium issue, nor do I believe the threat is real.
Plummer conceded himself that the issuing of a surcharge is very rare though the procedure does exist.
Sections 435 to 438 of the LGA allows for surcharging at the discretion of the Director-General of the Local Government Department as indicated by the words "may": s.435(1). What Cr Plummer omitted was that s.436 allows for notice and submissions to rebut a surcharge being issued and also allows for review by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal of any decision to issue a surcharge. This accords with normal processes of administrative law including the right to be heard (i.e. natural justice).
In such a process the D-G (and perhaps the Minister), or a Tribunal can be expected to consider the relevant context for rescinding a commercial contract before issuing a surcharge. Some relevant matters include:
- there is ample precedent for rescission of a commercial contract if legally justified e.g. Waverley Council under the ALP rescinded the contract with the company providing the Xmas/New Year entertainment in 1995 and 1996 and appointed another service provider;
- allegations of criminal negligence currently being made against Waverley Council if the stadium is approved relating to backwash effect causing invisible rips and therefore drowning risk to tourists. This matter has been raised squarely by the Coastal Studies Unit of Sydney University in their correspondence as independent experts;
- the public interest nature of the controversy over the stadium with a 11,000 strong petition against the stadium, with Green councillors elected on a no stadium ticket, especially Cr WY Kanak;
- the broader financial benefit to the community of avoiding unnecessary public expenditure of up to $20 million on a temporary venue;
- section 232 of the LGA encourages councillors to represent the views of residents and ratepayers and review council's policies and performance, while section 731 of the LGA excludes liability for councillors "if the matter or thing was done in good faith";
- the deceptive omission in earlier discussions with OCA from 1997 of the magnitude of the venue (the size of the Sydney Entertainment Centre) and lengthy time of disruption to the public park and Bondi Pavilion;
- the range of more recent misleading and deceptive conduct by OCA which frustrates the contract as it relates to the development application process for the beach volleyball venue including:
(a) incorrect diagrams;
(b) lack of exhibition to the public of DA documents as required by law;
(c) omission of backwash/rip effect as identified by Coastal Studies Unit of Sydney University - a serious threat to life;
(d) lack of resolution of the concern with weak concrete structure of the promenade which forces construction vehicle traffic over 50% of the beach to reach the site;
(e) the very likely inability to insure council against public liability; etc
- the misleading and deceptive nature of development application for "temporary demountables" in Bondi Park in the name of "Waverley Council" which in fact was to be funded by the OCA in the amount of $200,000 (per the admission to council by Mayor Paul Pearce). This development application's approval by Waverley Council of its own application was ruled illegal with costs awarded against Waverley Council by the Land & Environment Court (or was it Supreme Court?) on the grounds of inadequate advertising. The whole exercise was a subterfuge to gain approval for part of the venue relating to telecommunications services for the beach volleyball event.
Given the above factors I submit various ground of administrative law would be available to invalidate a surcharge for personal liability for councillors including recognised legal grounds of:
- unreasonableness
- failure to consider relevant factors (including the above)
- consideration of irrelevant factors (e.g. political interests etc)
The question becomes in light of the above why doesn't the OCA and the State Government just get over it, stop bullying the Bondi community and move the beach volleyball stadium to a more suitable location?
This legal analysis should be provided to the new, independent legal advisers investigating the legal basis for rescinding the volleyball contract - to be retained pursuant to the resolution of Waverley council on Tuesday 28th September 1999."
(a) Sydney beach including Bondi Beach pollution.

- "Swimmers at risk on filthy beaches" Sydney Morning Herald 27 Oct 1999.
"Only one in six of Sydney's ocean beaches, and none of the harbour beaches , met national water standards last summer, putting swimmers at risk of infections.[Bondi failed]";
- "City beaches fail health test" The Daily Telegraph page 19, 27 Oct 1999;
- "Games venue polluted" Daily Telegraph page 15, 28th Oct 1999. "The water where tri-athletes plunge into Sydney Harbour during the Olympics suffers from bacterial pollution levels which exceed national health guidelines, The Daily Telegraph has learned." [Note Bondi is not in the harbour.];
- "Deadline missed on clean-up" The Daily Telegraph page 17 2nd Nov. 1999.
"The State Government is more than two years behind a deadline to impose strict regulations on Sydney's major sewage pollution sources." "Beaches unsafe to swim at last weekend due pollution .. Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Coogee ..."
- "Victims of the black lagoons" The Daily Telegraph 4th Nov. 1999.
"Sydney's northern beaches are plagued by a series of coastal lagoons ranking among the most polluted in the city." [Note Bondi is a southern beach.]; and
- "Paradise lost as sewage spreads" The Daily Telegraph page 17, 5th Nov.
1999 referring to Paradise Beach baths on the north shore;
(b) Dangerous surf conditions.
- "Rough seas leave 40 swimmers in trouble" Eastern Suburbs Messenger 11th Nov. 1999 page 9. "A warning has gone out over dangerous swimming conditions at Bondi following the rescue of 40 people from the surf last Sunday. Swimmers found themselves caught up in rips as a rising tide combined with the rough seas to create hazards all along the beach. Waverley beach services manager George Quigley said winds had eroded the underwater sand banks that make for safe swimming conditions.";
- "New season, old habits" The Daily Telegraph 11th Oct 1999, page 7. "The lessons of last summer during which 50 people drowned were quickly forgotten when thousands of people yesterday headed for the beach on the hottest day since last December. A the temperature reached 34 degrees [Celsius] people went to city beaches but many ignored warnings and swam outside the patrolled area flags."
- "Sharks on cruise choose lamb roast" Sydney Morning Herald 23rd Oct 1999, page 3. "Sharks cruising off Sydney are eating their lamb complete with wool, head and bones, consuming Coca-Cola without opening the can and swallowing unhealthy amounts of chip wrappers."
- "Beach tips for tourists" Eastern Suburbs Messenger 21st October 1999 page 10. "Waverley [which covers Bondi] and Randwick councils are striving to educate tourists about surf safety following a number of deaths through drowning last summer."
- "Safety needs a Bob each way" The Daily Telegraph 17th Nov. 1999 re new water safety publicity campaign with NSW Premier Bob Carr "To capture the rebellious nature of the State's youth, the Premier wears dark glasses and appears on a TV set perched on the sand at Bondi Beach... Mr Carr ..."We have got wonderful beaches but they can be treacherous."

(c) Dangerous construction issues
- "'Beach tunnels may collapse' Protesters fight back" Eastern Suburbs Messenger October 28th 1999 page 10. Tunnels beneath the Bondi beachfront have emerged as the latest issue in the fight against the Olympic volleyball stadium. A residents' group is worried the 70-year-old tunnels could collapse under weight of construction vehicles.... Bondi Beach Precinct convenor Ray Neeson says ... "At least two are suffering concrete cancer and they're being held up by steel and wooden supports"...
(d) Olympic tickets scandal affecting sponsors and public confidence.
AFR = Australian Financial Review
SMH = Sydney Morning Herald
TDT = The Daily Telegraph
- "Hotels scrap Games deal to cap prices" SMH 6th Oct 1999.
- "City's reputation at risk if visitors are ripped off" SMH 6th Oct 1999
- "Hotels damned for their Olympian greed" SMH 7th Oct 1999
- "Olympic tickets just for the rich" TDT 15th Oct 1999;
- "Olympic fact or fiction from our former Mr Fix-it" SMH 21st Oct 1999;
- "$100 million secret/Rich get more seats at Games" TDT 22nd Oct 1999 page 1;
- "SOCOG refuses to open its deliberations to the public" SMH 22nd Oct 1999
- "Honesty will be put to the test" editorial in TDT 25th Oct 1999;
- "Why scrutiny serves the public interest" TDT 25th Oct 1999 page 10;
- "5 BLIND MICE/Olympic chiefs reveal their public deception" TDT 26th Oct 1999 page 1;
- "Please explain, says Fels letter" SMH 27th Oct 1999 at page 7 [Prof. Fels is head of the powerful Australian Competition and Consumer Commission];
- "Secret ticket programs threaten sponsors' deals" SMH 27th Oct 1999 at page 7;
- "The Olympic scams" Sydney Morning Herald editorial 28th Oct 1999;
- "SOCOG's gold medal backflip" Australian 28th Oct 1999 page 13;
- "Carr needs a circuit breaker" SMH 28th Oct 1999;
- "Are sponsors Olympic mugs?" SMH Business section 4th Nov. 1999;
- "Minister' kept in the dark' over special Games tickets" AFR 6th Nov. 1999;
- "Fair Trading inquiry over price gouging" SMH 9th Nov. 1999
- "SOCOG mates 'got top ticket tips'"[under a picture of beach volleyball no less] AFR 9th Nov. 1999 at page 4;
- "Gold medal arrogance" SMH editorial" 16th Nov. 1999;
- "IOC damage control costs more than $7m" AFR 17th Nov. 1999;
- "Big three say no to inquiry/Olympic sponsor doubts" TDT 17th Nov. 1999;
- "SOCOG management overhauled" AFR 23rd Nov. 1999 page 3;
- "Scapegoat/Olympic ticket chief demoted after report" TDT 23rd Nov. 1999 pages 1, 11;
- "Report lashes Games chiefs" SMH Nov.23rd pages 1, 8,9, and editorial at page 20;
(e) Loss of affordable housing for low income earners in Olympic suburbs.
- "Tenants face high jump of 20%" Sydney Morning Herald 3rd Nov. 1999.
"Olympic development is pushing Sydney rents up, according to a tenants' lobby group, with some council areas recording rises of more than 20 per cent in the past 12 months.... Compared with a year ago, new tenants are paying more to rent three bedroom houses in ... Waverley (13.9%) [which includes Bondi]".
[Bondi residents are now reporting eviction and lease renewals only until prior to the Olympics.]
Speech to Waverley Municipal Council on 21st September 1999 by former Bondi Beach Ward councillor and local resident Tom McLoughlin
"Mr Mayor, Councillors, Council officers
I am speaking in support of the motion by the Green councillors to rescind the agreement for a temporary volleyball stadium on Bondi Beach, the size of the Sydney Entertainment Centre, and to support the complementary motion by the Liberal councillors.
I have some insights into this issue as a former ward councillor and as a local resident. I've been particularly impressed with the combined opposition to this mainly commercial enterprise. This opposition crosses the political spectrum and across low to high income levels.
It may be argued tonight that to rescind the contract with the OCA is not on - that it's a done deal. The main claim here is that council will be liable to a claim for damages. I submit this threat of damages is a political and legal bluff.
For instance on the political side of things a rescission of the agreement will save taxpayers a very precious $20 million dollars that could be used to keep public transport charges down, or delay public rent rises, employ TAFE teachers facing the sack, or protect group housing for the disabled. it could be used on regional services like youth training and employment.
Any of these worthy projects should take priority over a $20 million dollars wasted on a temporary venue for a recently invented commercial sport of beach volleyball - all designed to maximise revenue from ad breaks going to US and European television audiences.
One should consider that 11,000 people have signed a petition being lodged in Parliament, as well as the recent tripling of the number of Green councillors running specifically on a no stadium ticket. Sam Einfeld as an independent was also elected on a platform of protecting open space. Even the swing to Labor's Cr Moscatt in Bondi Ward of 11% probably relates to the many bits of literature going out to voters emphasising residents first and protection of the environment.
But it's one thing to say residents first and to say lets protect the environment and another to stand up to the state government acting like a construction junkie. But stand up to the state government we must. For too long the state government has run roughshod over this part of the city. With their threats of taking over planning control, and damages claims, they effectively force approvals without being put to the test.
If it's not the Swiss Grand [hotel] overwhelming a whole city block on Campbell Parade, it's the excessive Westfield which is set to grow even bigger, or it's Meriton high rise at the Junction courtesy of Rail Access Corporation.
It was unfortunate to see our Mayor in May at a local meeting of 1,000 people make a promise to fight the stadium and then have his office diminished by doing a backflip. But democracy is more important than any one individual including Minister Michael Knight and his threat of "consequences" quote unquote. The lack of thought by the Olympics people is exemplified by the following clipping in the Sydney Morning Herald advertising the free "Olympic Games Countdown Calendar" featuring a view of Bondi Beach which will be totally blocked by the stadium when it's built.
If we don't make a stand against this $20 million dollar "carbuncle on the beach" as the local actors call it [e..g. Michael Caton of the film "The Castle"] - then in 2002 the emboldened State Government will put in a heavy rail station in Bondi Park as stated in this article dated 19th September 1999 - written by the chief political reporter for the Sun Herald and sourced to pro-developer [Transport] Minister Carl Scully.
Waverley community has already by default lost its planning powers over the beach and it's time to reclaim those planning powers through political and legal action.
In regards to damages claims there is plenty of grounds for a cross claim for damages against the OCA for misleading and deceptive conduct. OCA are culpable for omissions of critical information. Some of these omissions could well be life threatening resulting in huge compensation claims. I refer in particular to the backwash effect causing invisible rips as a result of changed beach form as indicated by the Coastal Studies Unit of Sydney University.
There is plenty of other misleading and deceptive conduct by the OCA to the Trade Practices legislation. There was no exhibition of all the relevant development application documents.
There was no resolution of the problem with heavy construction vehicles - which cannot travel on the weak concrete promenade - creating the prospect of a construction vehicle transport zone on the sand for 50% of the length of the beach.
Apparently the diagrams in the documentation are dodgy.
There is a real legal question as to the right of the OCA to use public recreation space for a commercial sporting event contrary to the Crown Lands Act.
In the debate tonight there may be claims that councillors cannot break a contract because this might cause a claim for financial damage. Apart from an attempt to censor democracy, this threat is resolved by the capacity of councillors to make a counter claim for damages for misleading and deceptive conduct.. Another related claim might be that somehow calling the agreement off would be "misconduct" and make councillors liable to financial claims against them under the Local Govt Act.
This same threat was made against me when I publicly campaigned against Council's Waterloo Incinerator, a financial asset, polluting Sydney air. The threat was rebutted specifically by reference to section 232 subsection 2 of the Local Government Act which states the role of councillors is to:
- represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers - to provide leadership and guidance to the community
In subsection one it states councillors are to "play a key role in the creation and review of the council's policies and objectives and criteria relating to the exercise of council's regulatory functions" and "to review the performance of council".
These roles and responsibilities as defined in the Local Government Act are a sound defence to claims of misconduct as they were in my situation in relation to the campaign to close down the incinerator.
I urge councillors not to be bullied by the state government and to actively defend Waverley community's democratic right to oppose commercial development of public parkland and beach. I urge councillors to vote to rescind the contract and obtain legal support where necessary to uphold that democratic position.
[Note: At this meeting a majority of councillors voted to seek further legal advice to provide a strong legal basis for rescinding the contract with the Olympic authorities to build the stadium on Bondi Beach.]

Last Updated: May 2016
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