Uphill battle to come to an end

Over our dead body: Jacqui Kirkby (left) and her husband Peter Gibbs (right) with (left to right) Sister Jocelyn Karmer, Father Paul Maunder, Sister Jennifer Jones from the Discalced Carmelites. Picture: Chris Lane

Over our dead body: Jacqui Kirkby (left) and her husband Peter Gibbs (right) with (left to right) Sister Jocelyn Karmer, Father Paul Maunder, Sister Jennifer Jones from the Discalced Carmelites. Picture: Chris Lane

For the last 10 years Jacqui Kirkby and her husband Peter Gibbs have soaked up the green hills that surround their heritage-listed Varroville House.

However, the last three years have also been spent fighting to ensure the picturesque Scenic Hills that surround the property remain in tact.

On Thursday night, they’ll find out whether they’ve been victorious when the Joint Regional Planning Panel makes its decision on the proposal.

Despite opposition from Ms Kirkby, Mr Gibbs, surrounding neighbours including the Discalced Carmelites, Campbelltown Council and local MPs, the Metropolitan Catholic Cemeteries Trust has continued to push ahead with its plans for a 136,000-plot cemetery.

Ms Kirkby said it should have been rejected years ago.

“How did something so inappropriate and ludicrous, that has so much opposition, get so far?” she said.

“We bought into an environmentally protected area and the concept of that.

“We are the custodians of the house so it’s our job to protect the heritage.”

Ms Kirkby said the proposal had left the couple in a precarious position – remain in the house and be surrounded by grave stones, or sell.

However, with real estate agents estimating the properties value had fallen by about half, packing up wasn’t a practical option.

“If it gets approved our property would be crippled and so would we,” Ms Kirkby said.

A spokesman for the trust said there was a “genuine urgency” for a new cemetery in Sydney.

“It is expected that all Sydney’s crown operated cemeteries are expected to be filled by 2043 and there is a genuine urgency to find additional burial grounds, which the Macarthur Memorial Park will deliver to the fast growing community in the Macarthur area,” he said.

The Varroville resident said the trust had approached the couple about purchasing the property.

However, bad blood between the parties meant that wasn’t a option either.

“They (the trust) have behaved in such bad faith that it’s not possible to talk to them about anything,” she said.

“They are asking us to sell out the heritage and sell out our community.

“It’s been incredibly stressful because for three years we’ve done nothing but fight.

“We haven’t had any choice but to fight it because it’s the position we’ve been put in.

“If this cemetery gets signed off we may as well write a cheque to the Catholic Church for millions of our hard earned dollars.”

Macquarie Fields MP Anoulack Chanthivong said he hoped the JRPP would “listen to the community and council” and reject the proposal.

Though he not optimistic.

“I’m concerned because it seems like developers have the upper hand over community interests,” he said.

“We need to stop (developers) from destroying our environmental buffer.”

Campbelltown MP Greg Warren said it wasn’t a case of the community being “anti-development”.

“No one is saying ‘we don’t want a cemetery’, this is an issue about location,” he said.

“At the centre of this debate is the importance of the preservation and conservation of the Scenic Hills for our existing and future residents.”

Ms Kirkby said she had “no confidence” and “no faith” in the JRPP to make a decision in the community’s best interest.

“If the planning system works as it should, they (the five JRPP members) should knock it back.”

Anyone wishing to ask questions at the JRPP meeting must register at or jrppenquiry@jrpp.nsw.gov.au.

Details: Thursday, August 25, 5pm, Campbelltown Civic Centre, Queen Street.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop