Cronulla Sand Dune and Wanda Beach Coastal Landscape | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Cronulla Sand Dune and Wanda Beach Coastal Landscape

Item details

Name of item: Cronulla Sand Dune and Wanda Beach Coastal Landscape
Other name/s: Part of Kurnell Peninsula Headland, Cronulla Sand Hill
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Landscape - Natural
Category: Coastal environment
Location: Lat: -34.0353040428 Long: 151.1744940140
Primary address: Captain Cook Drive, Cronulla, NSW 2230
Parish: Sutherland
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sutherland
Local Aboriginal Land Council: La Perouse
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT7303 DP1130200
PART LOT7304 DP1130200
LOT1055 DP1140838
PART LOT1056 DP1140838
PART LOT1057 DP1140838
PART LOT1059 DP1140838
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Captain Cook DriveCronullaSutherlandSutherlandCumberlandPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The Cronulla Sand Dune, Lucas Reserve and Wanda Beach as a landscape are of historical and contemporary cultural significance to the Aboriginal community. The dune landscape possesses historic, scientific, cultural and natural significance as a site of early European contact with Aborigines, a place of environmental transformation as a result of European agricultural practices, habitat for the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog within a modified environment, and a location for significant Australian films. The dune and Wanda Beach possess social significance as a place of recreation and tourism since the late nineteenth century and community activism to protect the dune from sand mining in the later part of the twentieth century. As the last major exposed dune in a landscape degraded by 70 years of sand mining it has land mark and aesthetic qualities that are held in high esteem by the community (HO)
Date significance updated: 29 Jan 03
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: not applicable
Builder/Maker: not applicable
Current use: open space subject to development, recreation, nature conservation
Former use: grazing, sand mining, recreation, film making

History

Historical notes: It is well known that the north-east point of the Kurnell Peninsula was the first landing spot for Captain Cook on Australian soil and the site of first contact between the English and the Australian Aboriginies in NSW. On 29 April 1770 the Endeavour anchored in Botany Bay and Cook stepped ashore. (The area is now marked by a stone memorial (1890) and included within the Botany Bay National Park.) Cook's party stayed in Botany Bay for eight days, collecting botanical specimens, mapping the area and making contact with Aboriginals. Forby Sutherland, a crew member, died on 30 April and was buried at Kurnell and Cook named the headland to the south in his honour. Cook described the area as lightly wooded with sandy soil, and he reported back to England that it was suitable for agriculture.

Following Cook's advice, Captain Phillip and the First Fleet landed at Kurnell on 18 January 1788. They began clearing and digging wells, but quickly abandoned the site and sailed north to Port Jackson a week later.

The first land grant in the area was issued in 1815 when James Birnie, a whaler and merchant, was given 700 acres of land and 160 acres of saltwater marshes on Kurnell Peninsula. He called it 'Alpha Farm', and built a cottage. The grant included Captain Cook's landing place.

In 1801 John Connell, an ironmonger, arrived in Sydney as a free settler. In 1821 he was granted 1000 acres at Quibray Bay adjacent to Birnie's grant.

In 1828 Birnie was declared insane and his land was sold to John Connell, giving Connell possession of the entire peninsular. Connell built a new house, 'Alpha House' on the foundations of Birnie's original cottage.

In the 1830s Connell and his two grandsons, Elias Pearson Laycock and John Connell Laycock, began to harvest timber from the estate. The logs were transported by water. In the 1840s a canal from Woolooware Bay was dug and the logs were floated into Botany Bay to be loaded onto ships and sailed up to Sydney.

In 1848 John Connell died, leaving his estate to his grandsons. In 1856 the first Crown land auctions in the area took place and John Connell Laycock bought a further 700 acres, bringing his total landholdings to over 4500 acres.

Laycock also owned property in Sydney which he had financed through mortgages to Thoms Holt. In 1860 a fire destroyed the Prince of Wales Theatre and adjacent properties owned by Laycock. He was under-insured and was forced to auction his properties.

Thomas Holt bought Laycock's whole estate at Kurnell in 1861 for (Pounds)3275. Holt had arrived in Sydney from Yorkshire in 1842 and made a fortune during the gold rushes of the early 1850s. Holt moved to Sutherland, consolidated the scattered holdings of the Laycocks and further increased his landholdings to approximately 13,000 acres. He built a number of mansions, ran his 'Sutherland Estate' in the English manner, and commuted to Sydney to manage his business affairs.

According to a report on the estate in 1868, Holt's land was still largely uncleared virgin bushland covered with scrub and timber. Holt then began clear his land of timber and to plant grass seeds imported from Germany. The Sutherland Estate was divided into eleven portions with split-rail fences (the remains of some are still to be found on Towra Point), which were then divided by brushwood fences to make over 60 smaller paddocks.

Holt attempted grazing, first with sheep which had to be destroyed when they became infected with footrot, and then with cattle. The land was not suited to such intensive grazing, and, following the removal of the trees, the cattle then removed the stabilising grass cover and exposed the sand dunes underneath. Where Captain Cook, 100 hundred years earlier, had looked upon a lightly wooded scene and made no mention of sand dunes, by the 1870s, large expanses of sand had been exposed along the coastline. These dunes then become unstable and began to move at a rate of 8 metres a year.

These environmental interventions of clear felling and grazing resulted in a technically degraded landscape but they created what became the distinctive Cronulla sand dunes.

In December 1885 the train line from Oatley to Sutherland opened. It was extended to Waterfall in 1886, and finally to Kiama in 1888. The area began to attract visitors and day-trippers from Sydney. Popular destinations were Oatley, Como and Waterfall. Horse-drawn coaches began to travel the distance between the railhead at Sutherland to Cronulla on the coast, and in 1911 a steam tram service began operation. This opened up the area to seaside holiday-makers.

By the 1920s and 1930s the sand dunes were acknowledge to be a desolate and desecrated landscape and their economic viability was minimal. However, by the 1920s Cronulla had become famous for its surf beaches with uninterrupted golden sand which stretched for five kilometres along the coast and the bare dunes became synonymous with Cronulla. Though desolate, the large expanses of sand became an popular playground for generations of children.

In 1933 Sutherland Shire Council declined an offer to set aside 2000 acres between the Cronulla Golf Club and Kurnell as a reserve. In 1937 it declined another offer to buy 720 acres of sand hills. In the 1930s the Holt family began to remove sand for use in the building industry.

The desert atmosphere attracted filmmakers. In 1941, the Charles Chauvel movie, Forty Thousand Horseman about the Australian Light Horse Regiment during World War One and starring Chips Rafferty, was filmed on the sand hills. Other films that have utilised the dunes as a location include The Rats of Tobruk, Thunder in the Desert, Phar Lap and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

In 1951 Caltex Oil Company first approached Sutherland Shire Council to build a new oil refinery at Kurnell. It required a site of 400 acres and initially the Council rejected the proposal. The issues sparked a series of protests from environmental groups and those concerned that the refinery would despoil the Captain Cook Landing Place Reserve. Shortly after, however, the Council withdrew its objection, and what became known as the Australian Oil Refinery Company, a subsidiary of Caltex, opened in 1954. At the same time, the Sutherland Shire Council built Captain Cook Drive to service the refinery.

In January 1965 the bodies of two 15-year-old girls were found on Wanda Beach. They had been bashed, stabbed and sexually violated. Their murderer was never found, and the case remains one of Australia's most notorious, unsolved crimes.

The Australian Oil Refinery Company remains the largest single industry on the Peninsular. The Holt Group (owned by the descendents of Thomas Holt) continues to be a major landholder, but large sections of the Peninsular have been progressively sold off to other private interests and, since the 1950s, the area has been heavily industrialised.

The removal of sand from the dunes began in the 1930s, but following the post-war building boom, it has been estimated that in excess of 70 million tonnes of sand have been removed. The Australian Oil Refinery, once obscured by towering dunes, is now visible from Cronulla, and a fraction of the original dunes remain.

The ongoing heavy industrialisation of the Kurnell Peninsula has been resisted by many community groups, and the area has become a site of continual public protest between developers, locals and environmental groups. In 1986 a proposal to build a chemical plant by the German pharmaceutical company, Bayer, prompted public protests, environmental objections and a Commission of Inquiry. The project was abandoned on both environmental and economic grounds.

The Kurnell Peninsular has been the subject of a number of Commission of Inquiries through the 1970s and 1980s. The most recent Commission of Inquiry in 1986 by Commissioner Woodward led to the re-zoning of the Australand site to permit non-residential uses, including tourist facilities, serviced apartments, commercial, recreational and light industrial uses. The area had been subject to sand extraction since the 1950s and the only portion of the land not subject to sand removal was the H2 dune, which is the high dune to the north-east of the site. Its protection as a surviving remnant of the former Cronulla dunes was recommended along with an Interim Conservation Order under the Heritage Act.

In 1990 Australand bought Lot 113, DP 777967 from Breen Holdings and the Hooker Corporation. Sand removal ceased in 1990 and the area has been vacant since and remains largely denuded.

One effect of recent sand extraction on the site has been the creation of a number of artificial ponds or waste dumps which have filled with water. In a number of these, the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog has established itself and these ponds are now important breeding grounds.

In 1996 the Cronulla Dunes and Wetlands Protection Alliance nominated the dune for protection under the Heritage Act.

The Aboriginal community holds a strong interest in the remaining undisturbed sand dune. The action of the shifting sand has the potential to capture objects, and all traces of Aboriginal objects are necessarily destroyed by sand removal. Therefore, the H2 dune has high potential to reveal archaeological evidence of former Aboriginal occupation such as middens, flaked sharpening stones, carvings and ceremonial sites.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Cultural - Coasts and coastal features supporting human activities-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Scientific: Geoperiod Tertiary Epoch Pliocene 1.7 to 12 million years ago-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. Eora Nation - sites evidencing occupation-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. Eora Nation - burying and remembering the dead-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of cultural and natural interaction-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of mining-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Exploration-Activities associated with making places previously unknown to a cultural group known to them. Routes taken by Captain James Cook-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Forestry-Activities associated with identifying and managing land covered in trees for commercial purposes. Coastal timbergetting-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use Dairying-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use Sheep farming for lamb and mutton-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going bushwalking-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going swimming-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Thomas Holt, pastoralist and politician-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with John Laycock, timbergetter and politician-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The site has historic and cultural significance for the Aboriginal community.
The Kurnell Peninsular is well known as the place where Captain James Cook first landed on Australian soil in April 1770. It is also the site of first contact between the English and Aboriginal people in NSW. In 1788 it was briefly the site of Captain Arthur Phillip’s first settlement until the First Fleet relocated to Port Jackson. As such, the whole peninsular has acquired a special historical and iconic status in the history of European settlement in Australia and the history of contact between the English and Aboriginal communities.
The landscape today bears little resemblance to that experienced by local Aboriginal people and first observed by Cook in 1770. What was a predominantly vegetated and lightly wooded landscape has been heavily modified as a result of European agricultural practices.
In the late nineteenth century the dunes became popular with tourists from Sydney. This period is associated with the opening of the railway. Between the 1920s and the 1950s Cronulla became a popular holiday destination famed for its beaches and sand dunes. The use of the dunes for recreation has continued to the present day.
The Cronulla sand dunes have been used as a location for major Australian Films. The sheer expanse of the dunes was effectively used to convey remote desert regions in films such as the epic 1941 Charles Chauvel film ‘Forty Thousand Horsemen’ which starred Chips Rafferty. The film detailed the battles of the Australian Light Horse regiment in Palestine during World War 1. A number of local residents worked as extras in the film. The ‘Rats of Tobruk’, ‘Thunder in the Desert, ‘Phar Lap’ and ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ also utilised the dunes as a location.
Sand removal began in the 1930s, but accelerated from the 1950s onwards to supply sand for the Sydney building market. Sand removal has essentially evacuated the once prominent dunal system from the landscape. The Cronulla Sand Dune above Wanda Beach survives as the last major exposed dune (undisturbed by sand removal) along the coastal strip and, together with the adjacent Lucas Reserve and Wanda Beach, serves to demonstrate the historical, environmental and cultural transformations of the area over the last two hundred years.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The site has historic and cultural significance for the Aboriginal community.
The Kurnell Peninsular has a strong association with John Connell Laycock (1818 - 1897).
Laycock grew up on the Kurnell Peninsular, his free settler grandfather and guardian having acquired almost the entire Peninsular by 1838. The family was actively involved in timber getting, transporting ironbark, turpentine, blackbutt, mahogany and red cedar to Sydney by ship. Laycock, with his brother, eventually inherited these lands and secured further property in the Sutherland district, eventually amassing 4500 acres.
Laycock was a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Central Cumberland (1859–1864) and Clarence (1864 - 1866). Laycock also held the title of Quarantine Keeper at Bradley’s Head (1878 - 1884).
The destruction by fire of his Prince of Wales Theatre and adjoining properties forced Laycock to sell his heavily mortgaged properties to his friend and fellow member of the Legislative Assembly, Thomas Holt.

The Kurnell Peninsular has strong associations with the Holt family, and in particular Thomas Holt (1811-1888) who acquired the Peninsular in 1861 from John Connell Laycock and began the program of clear felling and grazing that so dramatically altered the landscape.
A successful wool buyer and property speculator, Holt acquired over 1.21m hectares of land in NSW and Queensland between 1851 and 1880, making him one of the wealthiest men in the colony.
During the 1860s Holt consolidated his landholdings on the Peninsular (which included Captain Cook’s landing place). His accumulated holdings represented 5,261 hectares of what is the present day Sutherland Shire.
Holt built several fine homes in Sydney including ‘The Warren’ in Marrickville and ‘Sutherland House’ in Sylvania (built 1871, destroyed 1918).
Holt was a Member of the first NSW Legislative Assembly in 1856 and its first Treasurer June - August 1856). Holt was the Member for Newtown (July 1861 - November 1864) and a Member of the Legislative Council (1868 - 1883).
Holt is notable for employing Aboriginals on his Sutherland Estate and for establishing the oyster industry at Kurnell and introducing Buffalo grass to Australia to control sand dune degradation.
The Holt family continues to own land on the Kurnell Peninsular via a number of incorporated companies (the Holt Group).
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The site has historic and cultural significance for the Aboriginal community.
The Cronulla Sand Dune is aesthetically distinctive and is a landmark at both the Local and State levels.
From the 1870s the sand dunes at Kurnell were one of the most visible features of the landscape of Botany Bay, recurring in almost all of the panoramas from important view points. They were visible from many parts of Sydney and at one stage the Blue Mountains.
The exposed dunal system became a landmark of note for nineteenth-century day-trippers from Sydney who would take the ferry service from La Perouse to Kurnell Bay to see Cook’s landing place, the dunes and Cronulla beaches.
The dunes, some of which rose to 44 metres in height, and Cronulla Beach were a popular tourist attraction between the 1920s and 1950s when Cronulla was a resort town.
The height and sheer expanse of the dramatic dunal system provided a desert location for film production between the 1940s and 1980s.
The landmark qualities of the Cronulla Sand Dune, which rises 33 metres at its apex, have been enhanced by the fact that it is the last significant undisturbed dune in what was a massive dune system.
The Cronulla Sand Dune together with the adjacent Lucas Reserve and Wanda Beach survives as an important coastal landscape, synonymous with Cronulla.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The site has historic and cultural significance for the Aboriginal community.
The Cronulla Sand Dune is of cultural heritage and spiritual significance to the La Perouse Aboriginal community, some of whom are direct descendants of the Aboriginal leaders who met Captain Cook in 1770.
The undisturbed dune is of significant interest to the Aboriginal community as many of the other hills and dunes inhabited by their ancestors have been removed or disturbed since sand removal commenced in the 1930s. The community asserts that the area is known as a burial site.
As the last major undisturbed sand dune in this area, the Cronulla Sand Dune has been the focus of long-term local and environmental activism.
The Sutherland Shire community has been actively seeking the recognition and protection of the Cronulla Sand Dune for almost a decade and it has become a significant reference point for the contemporary Sutherland community. The proposed local heritage listing of the sand dune by Sutherland Council received 642 supporting signatures in 1999.
The Cronulla Sand Dune has strong social significance as a place of recreation for residents and tourists alike since the late nineteenth century. The sand dunes, some of which rose up to 44 metres, were the focus for many local residents and tourists who engaged in sand sledding, hand gliding and horse riding amongst the dunes.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The site has historic and cultural significance for the Aboriginal community.
The Cronulla Sand Dune has the potential to yield further information on the Aboriginal habitation of this area. The drifting nature of the dune ensures that it entombs burials and environmental material as it moves.
The Cronulla Sand Dune has been acknowledged as having some potential to contain archaeological material such as shell middens, artefacts or burial sites.
The water bodies adjacent to the Cronulla Sand Dune are an important breeding ground for the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog and hence have the potential to yield further scientific information on the Green and Golden Bell Frog.
The Cronulla Sand Dune provides evidence of the impacts of agriculture and logging on the dunal landscape, an area of ongoing research in Australia.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The site has historic and cultural significance for the Aboriginal community.
The Cronulla Sand Dune is an excellent example of the remnant Cronulla dune system as it existed prior to the commencement of sand removal in the 1930s.
The denuded dune demonstrates the effects of timber getting and grazing activities in the nineteenth century and their contribution to the creation of a modified landscape.
In its relationship to adjacent Lucas Reserve and Wanda Beach and the surrounding environment degraded by sand removal, the Cronulla Sand Dune serves to demonstrate the scale of environmental transformation that has taken place over the last two hundred years including the creation of habitat for the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The site has historic and cultural significance for the Aboriginal community.
Sand dune systems close to Sydney are rare. Whilst the coastal sand dune communities of Kurnell have been substantially degraded as a consequence of 70 years of sand removal, the surviving unvegetated Cronulla Sand Dune is intact and remains an excellent example of the former dune landscape.
The Cronulla Sand Dune in the context of its setting, intactness, aesthetic qualities and social significance is held in high community esteem.
The water bodies formed by sand removal surrounding the Cronulla Sand Dune have been identified by NPWS as a significant habitat for the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog.
Integrity/Intactness: The Cronulla Sand Dune and adjacent Lucas Reserve and Wanda Beach demonstrate a high level of intactness in terms the modified dunal landscape as it was created following late nineteenth-century grazing activities. They form an intact remnant of historical landscape that no longer exists. The long term conservation of the dunal system and in particular the unvegetated mobile sand dune may require stabilisation and revegetation works.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0166826 Sep 03 1549703
Register of the National Estate - InterimKurnell Sand Dune100173   
Register of the National Estate - InterimKurnell Sand Dune100713   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAustralian Museum Business Services2011Wanda Heritage Dune Pathway: Aboriginal Heritage Impact Assessment
WrittenClaire O Rourke2003Heritage list draws a line in the sand to protect dunes (SMH article)
WrittenDavid R Kirkby1970From Sails to Atoms: First Fifty Years of Sutherland Shire 1906-1956
WrittenGarth McKenzie1996Cronulla Integrated Resort: DA and EIS
Writteninformation from website of the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre (not stated) View detail
WrittenJ. C. Beaglehole (Editor)1955The Journals of Captain Cook on his Voyages of Discovery
WrittenKevin Hilferty1986Sutherland: Australia's Birthplace
WrittenMary Dallas Consulting Archaeologists/Dan Tuck on behalf of MDCA2013Archival Photographic Recording: Former Sandmining & Processing Works Depot - Shearwater Landing, Greenhills Beach, Sutherland Shire, NSW
WrittenN. Carter1969Australian Natural History: A "Paradise Lost" - the Kurnell Peninsular Since 1770.
WrittenRex and Thea Rienits1968The Voyages of Captain Cook
WrittenSusan Jackson-Stepowski Heritage Planning Consultant2011Wanda Beach 'Cultural Landscape' & Cronulla 'Heritage Dune' - Statement of Heritage Impact for track up-grade

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5051207
File number: 10/07771; S96/00890


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