By BEV JORDAN
The Sisters of Mercy have lodged a development application for their Marymount Mercy Centre at Castle Hill and have offered to give a 2.7ha forest (nearly a third of the site) to Hornsby Shire Council.
The site at 36 David Road has been owned by Sisters of Mercy Parramatta since1958. The Marymount Mercy Centre was opened in 1965.
The Turpentine-Ironbark Forest takes up nearly a third of the 8.8-hectare site. The Sisters have offered to pay for the maintenance of the forest.
A statement on the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta website states:
“The Sisters of Mercy Parramatta have long committed to living gently on the land. Under their care, the forest has tripled in size since in 1958. It is now home to birds and other native animals and contains many threatened species such as the Powerful Owl and the turpentine tree.”
The forest is classified as an ‘endangered ecological community under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.
While first used as a centre for young Sisters undergoing their training it expanded to offer programs for priests, religious and laypersons. It has also been home to Sisters serving local Catholic Schools in Castle Hill, North Rocks and Carlingford.
The Life Programs alone attracted over 2000 people on site over many years.
The Sisters have spent three years trying to find a domestic or international partner to continue a ministry on-site without success.
“We have therefore made the difficult but necessary decision to relocate from the property and in due course to offer it for sale. The proceeds will be reinvested in Ministry and Mission,” says their statement.
The centre closed last year.
The Sisters want to ensure that by putting the ownership of the Forest in Council’s hands will protect it for the local community in perpetuity.
The statement says: “The DA serves two purposes – an attempt to influence the future development of the site beyond the Sisters’ ownership, and to separate and quarantine the forest so its protection is guaranteed.”
Friends of Berowra Valley have launched a campaign against the building plans and will be making a submission to Hornsby Council.
President Karen Benhar said: “If you ever wonder how we lose our threatened species, then this is how it all happens.
“You develop intensely next to their habitat and the disturbance causes them to disappear or stay and not breed. With only 120 pairs of breeding Powerful Owls left in Sydney this is a disaster.“
They say 60 households will cause traffic and night light.
Submissions will close on November 11th. To find out more about the application