Background

Camden Residents’ Action Group (CRAG) was established in 1973 as a non-political, non-profit community organization, with heritage and environment objectives of maintaining the unique historical character of Camden township and other heritage sites and generally conserving and improving the environmental amenity of the Camden local government area.

The group formed as a grass-roots response to an earlier Council’s endorsement of sacrificing a unique heritage and environment in the name of ‘progress’.

In 1973, the State Government proposed a ‘Three Cities Plan’ for Camden, Appin and Campbelltown. The impact of this was to give the green light to speculative developers who quickly sought out much of Camden Park for housing, proposed medium density development around St John’s Church and saw no problem with replacing historic buildings in the township with new ones.

In 1973 the Camden community supported a new local candidate for Council, and later Liberal Member for Camden, Dr Liz Kernohan  who pledged to resist the short-sighted destruction of a unique historic town and its rural heritage. Although CRAG was not opposed to the concept of growth areas in places beyond already established urban areas, both  CRAG and Council at the time were opposed to the categorisation of historic Camden as a growth centre. CRAG formed a fruitful consultative relationship with Dr Kernohan and Council through a time that could have seen the end of Camden as we know it today.

CRAG continued to represent those who believed in its stated heritage conservation and environmental amenity objectives, being involved with many policies and issues over the decades since its inception. This involvement has included constructive consultations and input into various Camden Town Centre Master Plans, Traffic Studies, Local Environmental Plans and Heritage Studies. Some of the issues considered by CRAG include: sand mining in the Nepean River; the conservation of the scenic hills; the establishment of a bush corridor in Mount Annan/Spring Farm; inappropriate developments in the vicinity of St John’s Church, including a decked car park proposed in 2006; housing development at Cawdor; air quality in Camden and Sydney’s south west as well as the proposed second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek and the regeneration of Kings Bush. In particular, CRAG was successful in obtaining an Environmental Trust grant to restore the Camden Wetlands in 1992-93. This project transformed the area along the cycleway from a degraded horse paddock with dumped rubbish, into the wildlife habitat and conservation area that it is now. The wetlands now link nicely to Kings Bush which was subsequently regenerated with CRAG input from the mid 1990’s onward.

Through an independent Council and a democratic representative process the heritage conservation area of the Macarthur town was mapped and legislated in 2010 through the Local Environmental Plan. It was believed that Camden township was henceforth safe from developers seeking short-term profits at the expense of the town’s amenity for residents and conservation of heritage values into the future.  Camden had preserved a special quality, loved by the residents and cherished by those who venture from Sydney to enjoy rare country atmosphere so close to Australia’s largest city.

Unfortunately that began to change in 2012, when far from being independent, the Council became controlled by a partisan majority faction that decided that heritage conservation planning controls constrained development.  The latest Council Vision for the Camden Town Centre proposes amending the height and heritage provisions of its heritage conservation area, which was laid out as a private town on Camden Park by James and William Macarthur in 1836. High rise and infill development in this small area of the municipality would destroy a unique piece of Australian heritage.

In the name of what particular interests tout as ‘progress’, the special character and ambience of Camden is again under existential threat.  Many others of course see the economic viability of Camden being enhanced, or indeed dependent on its differentiating qualities of heritage, village townscape and unique rural features.

Once again CRAG is fighting to save Camden. If you share CRAG’s objectives please join us.