Life long campaigner says that environmental battles don’t stop

CEN Executive Member, Mike Campbell

The Community Environment Network (CEN) celebrated 75 years of environmental activism on the Central Coast at its annual forum on March 21, when participants came together to share victories and prepare for the challenges ahead.

CEN Life Member, Mike Campbell of Jilliby, said the local environmental movement had been in place long before the inception of CEN.

“The 2021 forum was a great opportunity for CEN’s members, supporters and the broader community to share their knowledge and expertise, so that the local environmental movement can last another 75 years,” Campbell said.

“The amount of energy we produce when we come together is inspiring.

“This year’s theme was Air, Water, Earth, Community and they really are the four pillars we are working for.”

Campbell and his wife Lyn have lived in the region for 43 years.

“Lyn and I actually met during an environmental campaign in 1972 when we were both rallying to save Birdwood Park in the middle of Newcastle,” Campbell said.

With the late Laurie Breen, Campbell was instrumental in applying a green ban to the development of Riley’s Island in Brisbane Water through the Central Coast Trades and Labour Council.

LJ Hooker had planned to develop Riley’s Island but, as a consequence of the green ban, the island ended up being acquired by the NSW Government from the developer and remains an area of important local habitat to this day.

In 1985, Campbell was a leader in the campaign to stop a new coal fired power station from being built on the Pioneer Dairy site at Tuggerah.

“I say to people you never know when you are going to win a battle,” he said.

“The power station had everything set up and ready to go.

“They had their glass front office, but we knew of air quality problems around the power stations to the north.

“We were able to get doctors to sign letters about the air pollution causing breathing problems and asthma in children.

“We got it to a Commission of Inquiry and it blew up in the media, it went national.”

The proposed power stations were never built and the dairy site has been retained as the Central Coast Wetland, an important wildlife corridor and community asset.

“We weren’t expecting that victory and it did, it happened, we knocked it out of the water,” he said.

Campbell has also been part of the campaign against the Wallarah 2 coal mine which he said has been threatening our water catchment valleys for the past 26 years.

He said population growth and development on the Central Coast continue to result in the loss of biodiversity and poses ongoing risks to local forests and wetlands.

He cites the Kangy Angy Rail Maintenance Facility and the road widening through Lisarow as two recent environmental losses.

Campbell said he was concerned about Central Coast Council’s reticence to sign off on a Conservation Agreement with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) to permanently protect Porters Creek Wetland at Warnervale.

“I don’t know why they wouldn’t just sign off on the agreement for such an important wetland,” he said.

“It is a 700ha wetland that holds water to stop flooding further south, it’s like a lake when it fills up and if you make more hard stand areas, like the 58-block development near Porters Creek, you are going to cause the water to flow like a torrent and result in flooding rather than have the natural flows into Wyong River.”

Campbell said education was the foundation of all good environmental campaigns and has been a particular strength of CEN.

“You need to find lots of people to put in submissions and you need to have a lot of integrity and expertise,” he said.

Campbell said issues such as the impending rate increase were concerning many people but “the environmental battles don’t stop”.

He encouraged community members who want to get involved in environmental causes to go to the CEN website for more information.

“It’s not a bad community to be part of; in fact, it is awe inspiring, because you are with people who are experts in their field and they are continually doing great things,” he said.

Media release, Mar 17
Community Environment Network