On 13 August 2021, the Geographical Names Board officially approved Bayside Council’s request to rename Eastlakes Reserve as Jack Mundey Reserve. Mundey was neither a local resident, councillor nor mayor. Yet sixty years ago, he led a movement that saved these four acres of land as a park for the local people.
The reserve, situated within the centre of a new housing development christened ‘Eastlakes’ (a much more appealing name than ‘Botany Swamps’, as it was previously known) is used for recreation, exercise and community events. To understand how Mundey—a rugby player, labourer and communist who left school at the age of fourteen—came to be honoured in this way, we need to go back to 1961.
Jack Mundey Reserve was once part of the much larger Rosebery Racecourse. In 1961, Sydney Turf Club contracted L.J. Hooker Real Estate to sell the racecourse to the highest bidder. The sales brochure proclaimed that this 56.5 acre site was just ‘four miles from the heart of the city’; ‘perfectly cleared and level’ and ready for development. In characteristic sales hyperbole, the brochure confidently declared that ‘without a doubt, it was this century’s greatest opportunity for developers and investors.’
Despite the sales pitch, the land was passed in at auction on 26 September 1961. Sydney Turf Club negotiated with the highest bidder and signed a contract for Rosebery Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Parkes Development, to purchase the site for £450,000 (£75,000 below the reserve price). Six acres on the eastern and western edges of the racecourse were reserved for the Housing Commission of NSW and not included in the sale. Harry Seidler, the famous modernist architect, would design the housing commission unit block on Maloney Avenue.
Initially, Parkes Development planned to sub-divide the land into 187 lots and build detached, modest cottages. Their plans from 1961 show 2.3 acres reserved for ‘park and recreation’, which was only half the four acres (7 per cent) of the site which Botany Municipal Council reserved for parkland when they re-zoned the racecourse for residential development. Both the developer’s plans and the Council’s zoning were a far cry from the health benefits and philosophy of the ‘garden suburb’ that had informed residential planning at the turn of the century, just sixty years earlier, and which led to the construction of Daceyville from 1912-1920 just a few miles to the north.
Successive iterations of plans for the 56.5 acre site were submitted to Botany Municipal Council for approval. Due to the scale of the development, the NSW Minister for Local Government, Phillip (Pat) Morton, also had to give his stamp of approval. Paul Strasser, a businessman and one of the co-founders of Parkes Development, estimated that the cost of the ‘Eastlakes Scheme’ was $17 million. Eventually, planning and building commenced for 1,500 low-cost residential units (spread across 111 buildings no more than three stories high), 50 cottages, and a shopping centre. To raise funds for the next stage of the development, units were sold as the plans were approved by Botany Municipal Council and built.
The unit blocks built at Eastlakes looked like little red boxes and were known colloquially as the ‘Sydney six-pack’. Built of liver-red bricks, the walk-up flats were built in groups of six or eight units. The architectural style was sturdy and utilitarian with few flourishes. They were cheap to build and soon became part of the Sydney vernacular. Sixty years later, architectural students at the University of Technology would study the units at Eastlakes as a type of medium-density housing.
In 1961, Parkes Development established Rosebery Development Corporation Pty Ltd to manage the sales. Migrants, mostly from southern Europe, were the main target market. Paul Strasser, having migrated from Hungary in 1948 with his wife and son, was well aware of the challenges facing new immigrants to Sydney. Perceiving both a need and a business opportunity, Parkes Development started sponsoring immigrants to come to Sydney. After vetting their applications, meeting them at Sydney airport, and helping them find employment; they helped them to purchase a flat—from Parkes Development!
The first units were sold in 1966 for the modest price of $9650 each. Newly-arrived residents hoping for a better life moved in and watched the new suburb of Eastlakes being built around them. Buyers reported being assured by sales agents that a park was planned for the centre of the estate and that units facing the park therefore commanded a higher price. Imagine their surprise and dismay, when in October 1971 they saw pallets of bricks being delivered to the space they expected would be parkland, and drainage channels being dug.
In 1968, the new residents had formed the Lakes Centre Progress Association and already complained to Botany Council and the State Minister for Planning about the lack of playing space for children at Eastlakes. An aerial photograph of Eastlakes from 6 October 1971 clearly shows a large patch of open space in the centre of the development and ‘The Lakes’ Shopping Centre surrounded by unit blocks which have a very different footprint to the detached houses in the area. This open space became the focus of the second green ban in history.
Four months previously, on the other side of the harbour in the much wealthier suburb of Hunters Hill, thirteen ‘upper-middle class morning tea matrons’ (as Jack Mundey affectionately dubbed them) had contacted the NSW Builders Labourers’ Federation (BLF) when they had exhausted all other avenues to save a remnant piece of bushland from development by AV Jennings. The NSW BLF were drawn into the fight to save Kelly’s Bush when a public meeting of 600 locals in June 1971 convinced them that there was widespread community support for the women’s cause. The Builders Labourers’ refused to build the twenty-five luxury residences that AV Jennings had gained permission to erect. When AV Jennings threatened to use non-union labour instead, the NSW BLF agreed to down tools on an AV Jennings office tower in North Sydney, if forced to do so, declaring that the partially erected building would be a ‘half-finished monument to Kelly’s Bush’. At the time, this was referred to as a ‘black ban’.
Inspired by the residents of Hunters Hill, Eastlakes residents called a public meeting on 7 November 1971 and invited representatives of the NSW BLF. Mundey recalls that about a thousand people attended the meeting and asked the union to support their campaign to save a small 4-acre site for a park in the heart of the estate. There were about five thousand people, mostly migrants with young families, living in Eastlakes at the time. The BLF agreed and work stopped on the next set of residential units, which were purported to cost $1.5 million.
By this time, Mundey had been secretary of the NSW BLF for nearly four years. During his tenure, he had earned the respect and trust of some of the 14,000 members by working with the President, Bob Pringle, and Joe Owens, Organiser in the NSW BLF, to democratise the union. They found a way to translate the proceedings of union meetings into seven languages so that the members, the majority of whom were migrants, could understand what was being said and participate in the decision-making. They led the members in successful campaigns for better wages and working conditions. The rank-and-file members repaid them with trust and loyalty. Most were prepared to use their labour as bargaining power for causes that did not specifically benefit them, such as the green bans. Mundey’s logic was: ‘What’s the use of winning a 35-hour week if we’re going to choke to death in planless and polluted cities, devoid of parks and denuded of trees? What’s the use of winning that?’ 
Increasingly, the union was using their industrial heft to claim a say in what they would build. As Mundey said in January 1972:
Yes, we want to build. However, we prefer to build urgently-required hospitals, schools, other public utilities, high-quality flats, units and houses, provided they are designed with adequate concern for the environment, than to build ugly unimaginative architecturally-bankrupt blocks of concrete and glass offices… More and more, we are going to determine which buildings we will build …The environmental interests of three million people are at stake and cannot be left to developers and building employers whose main concern is making profit. Progressive unions, like ours, therefore have a very useful social role to play in the citizens’ interest, and we intend to play it.
Parkes Development were less concerned with these principles than the size of their profit. While sales agents might have promised a park, layout and drainage plans dated 23 February 1964 clearly show that the parcel of land in the centre of the estate is marked ‘Future Development Stage II.’
The local residents, with the support of the NSW BLF and the Minister for Local Government (who, after fielding ‘numerous representations objecting to over-development’, revoked Botany Council’s approval of the development on the contested site), forced Parkes Development back to the drawing board. On 7 April 1972, Parkes Development submitted plans to build four 8-storey residential towers with a total of 176 units on the existing carpark of ‘The Lakes’ Shopping Centre in compensation for dedicating Lot 6 as recreational, open space. Their original plan, approved by Botany Municipal Council on 10 September 1969, had been for two residential unit blocks with just twenty-four and thirty-three units apiece. Botany Municipal Council supported their expansive plans, as did the Minister for Planning and Local Government. Both entities regarded it as ‘fair compensation’ for giving up four acres, which had an estimated value of $600,000, and providing $5,000 to the Council for landscaping the park.
Local residents were outraged. They sent ten petitions with 125 signatures and 15 letters of objection to their Council. Botany Council dismissed ‘some of the reasons … for objecting’ as being of ‘no consequence’ as ‘they relate to assurances allegedly given … by a Trade Union.’ On 4 March 1973, residents put down their pens and took up their placards at a public meeting on the would-be park at Eastlakes. One brave alderman [sic], Mrs M Kelly, urged the residents to support the development proposal as it was ‘the best deal we can get’. But the 150-strong crowd agreed with the Lakes Centre Progress Association that the ‘price’ of the park was too high. They felt the area was already over-crowded, with about 5,600 people, and there was insufficient parkland and too much traffic congestion. To push the developers to revise their plans, they called on the BLF to extend their black ban to all further building on the Eastlakes estate. The NSW BLF called a meeting attended by 200 members, who voted unanimously to stop work if the proposed development went ahead. In a savvy tactic that showed the BLF knew how to pressure developers, the union threatened to stop work on the site of the former Hotel Metropole, which Parkes Development had purchased in 1969 for the high price of $243/square foot and demolished with the intention of erecting an office building for $22 million.
Parkes Development were definitely rattled. In March 1973, they asked the State Planning Authority if they could dedicate the contested land as a park after their residential apartments had been erected as they feared that ‘the Building Workers Industrial Union [they had confused the BWIU with the BLF] might make it impossible for the units to be erected’. As a sign of their commitment to the park, they planned to lodge a bank guarantee of $500,000 with the State Planning Authority. The developer’s sneaky manoeuvre was borrowed from the BLF playbook: they would withdraw the park if the BLF withdrew the labourers.
Paul Strasser also invited Jack Mundey to lunch at the Menzies Hotel (one of his properties)—twice. He attempted to negotiate and persuade him to lift the building ban. Mundey explained that the NSW BLF were supporting the local residents and that Strasser should be negotiating with them, not the union. 
When we called them Green Bans, it had a more noble argument and we weren’t just trying to increase the wages and conditions of the workers [through a black ban], we were looking on a wider angle at the quality-of-life issues.
However, it was not the green ban, but a legal technicality that now delayed the developers. In order for the controversial site to be proclaimed and gazetted as open space, it first had to be included in a town or country planning scheme, a hoop that Botany Municipal Council had side-stepped by approving the Parkes Development proposal under ‘Interim Development Order no. 16—Botany’. Council moved quickly and by June 1973 they had prepared and adopted a planning scheme, which was duly sent to the State Planning Authority for their ‘early attention’. The scheme was approved by the Authority and the Minister for Local Government on 4 October 1973. However, at the eleventh hour, the Department of Environment, in a letter to Botany Municipal Council dated 3 October 1973, reminded them that the developer should have undertaken an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the proposed ‘high density development’. Council’s town planner commented that he thought it was ‘ludicrous’ that the Minister for Environment was opposing a development approved by the Minister for Local Government, after that minister had already intervened once to prevent a smaller residential development (of only fifty-seven units) to guarantee some parkland. It is difficult to know what prompted the Department of Environment to act at the very last minute, but the departmental secretary does mention receiving a letter from the Lakes Centre Progress Association on 24 February, 1973! Despite their indignation, Botany Municipal Council agreed to ask Rosebery Development Corporation to undertake an EIS for the development proposal which they had originally submitted over 18 months ago. This was completed before Christmas 1973.
The study showed that the ratio of green space to residents was 0.67 acres/1000 people in Eastlakes. This was nearly five times less than in the neighbouring suburbs of Mascot and Rosebery. Nevertheless, Botany Municipal Council wrote to the Department of Environment on 22 January 1974 asking them to waive the need for further action on the EIS. They clearly saw the provision of the EIS as a box-ticking exercise and not a mechanism to check if the proposed development was environmentally appropriate.
No changes to the plans resulted from the EIS. On 16 September 1974, Botany Council’s Deed of Agreement with Rosebery Development Corporation was executed, allowing the development of four residential towers with a total of 176 units and an extension to The Lakes Shopping Centre. At the same time, both parties also signed a Memorandum of Transfer whereby, for a fee of $1, the land which the locals wanted to retain as a park (Lot 1 DP 565621) was transferred to Botany Municipal Council. Rosebery Development Corporation also paid Council $5,000 for landscaping the park. The green space was saved, but there would now be another 176 families vying to use it. At this point, the green ban was lifted. Mundey admitted that the concessions that Botany Council had made to the developer to save the park were ‘beyond our scope’.
And then, one week later, on 21 September 1974, local council elections were held in New South Wales. These represented a seismic shift in local politics. One of the first acts of the new council, was to write to the Minister for Planning and Environment on 26 November 1974, proposing that Botany Municipal Council’s agreement with Rosebery Development Corporation be revoked, and asking minister John Fuller for financial assistance to purchase the land set aside for Eastlakes Reserve. This newly elected Council was on the side of the residents, not the developers.
The minister advised Botany Council on 18 December 1974 that he was powerless to act and that they should seek legal advice. Disappointed but not deterred, Council sent another missive to minister Fuller on 8 January 1975 pleading their case for financial assistance to purchase the land, which they hoped would allow them to buy their way out of the agreement with Rosebery Development Corporation. The minister sought advice from the NSW Planning and Environment Commission before replying on 11 April 1975 that, as the problematic land was ‘of purely local significance in the open space context’, he could not justify expending limited financial resources on its purchase.
One can only imagine the incredulous conversations in the Botany Council chambers when this correspondence was tabled. The Minister for Planning and the Environment had intervened to prevent or delay development on ‘Eastlakes Reserve’ in November 1971 and October 1973 but now that Botany Council agreed with the Liberal Government’s concerns about over-development, the minister was refusing to help. Botany Council was stuck. In desperation, they sought legal advice from Russell Bainton QC, asking if there was any possibility that they could back out of the previous Council’s legal contract without significant penalties. Bainton gave his legal opinion over six pages on 5 September 1975, almost one year after Botany Council had signed the fateful Deed of Agreement. His answer was an unequivocal ‘no’. He stated: ‘It is in my opinion quite plain that the Council is bound by the deed of 16 September 1974.’
Botany Council’s political and legal escape routes had both been blocked. There was nothing they could do. Luckily, however, the winds of financial change blew in their favour: the property market crashed in the mid-1970s, causing Parkes Development and Rosebery Development Corporation to lose many of their investors. Not even their close association with NSW Liberal Premier Robert Askin could protect them from the consequences. One of the biggest players in the speculative property game, Parkes Development Pty Ltd was hit hard and fell spectacularly into liquidation in 1977.
Over the next five years, Rosebery Development Corporation submitted new development applications which reduced the number of units from 176 to 128 in 1977, and then to just forty-eight units spread equally across two four-story blocks in 1978. The construction of these units facing Gardeners Road and extensions to The Lakes Shopping Centre continued to be impeded by confusion over what plans Council had approved, what deeds of agreement (and variations thereof) had been executed, and appeals by the developer to the Local Government Appeals Tribunal. Legal advice was sought by all parties, including that of two further Queen’s Counsels: Murray Wilcox in June 1980 and November 1981 and MH Tobias in May 1982. Finally, on 20 May 1982, Botany Council received advice from their solicitors that regardless of the legal status of the approvals they had given to the developers (which they wanted to revoke), this would not affect the dedication of Lot 1 DP 565621 as a park. The name ‘Eastlakes Reserve’ had been approved by the Geographical Names Board and gazetted on 2 September 1977. The area could now be dedicated as ‘open space’.
Nearly eleven years after the first Eastlakes Green Ban of November 1971, the local people got their park. In 2017, Bayside Council gave the 4-acre site a makeover, installing new play equipment, pathways and garden beds. The park is used frequently by some of the 6,912 people who live around the park (ABS 2016 census figure). On a sunny day you’ll see men playing backgammon or chess on the tables, children kicking a ball and people exercising their dogs. In 2021, fifty years after the first green ban and in recognition of the role that Jack Mundey and the NSW BLF played in saving the park, Bayside Council renamed it ‘Jack Mundey Reserve’.
In 2012, Crown Group commenced the redevelopment of ‘The Lakes’ Shopping Centre. Their $192 million plan to build more than 400 units in two high rises straddling Evans Avenue with 14,404 square metres of retail and community space was approved by the State Government in 2013. It was later revealed by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that Crown Group’s international CEO had made large donations to a Liberal Party ‘slush fund’. The City of Botany Bay Council appealed the approved development in the Land and Environment Court on the grounds that there was inadequate planning for traffic flow and public transport. They lost the appeal in 2015 and Crown Group’s urban renewal project commenced. Their plan to build 490 ‘world-class luxury apartments’ is in direct contrast to the history of low-cost housing in the suburb. It has already increased the price of housing. In 2012, the median unit price in Eastlakes was $385,000, the lowest in the southeast of Sydney. Today it is $645,000. Unlike in 1971, there was no organised social activism to stop this development at Eastlakes.
In 1973, Paul Strasser was controversially awarded a knighthood for his services to the property industry. Ironically, just four years later, due to the impact of the green bans which delayed his construction projects in Eastlakes, Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross and the mid-1970s property crash, Parkes Development went into liquidation with debts of $66 million. Strasser died in Sydney in 1989 at the age of seventy-seven.
There were forty green bans in just four years, halting projects worth a combined estimate of $3 billion in 1974. In 1975 Jack Mundey and other leaders of the NSW BLF were expelled from the union by Norm Gallagher, who led the federal branch and was later convicted of corruption. Mundey continued to serve the community as an elected councillor for the City of Sydney from 1984 to 1987 and chairperson of the NSW Historic Houses Trust (now Sydney Living Museum) from 1995-2001.
In 2000, Jack Mundey was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for ‘service to the identification and preservation of significant sections of Australia’s natural and urban heritage through initiating ‘Green Bans’ and through the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales’. He died on 10 May 2020, aged ninety. Mundey was honoured with a state memorial service on 10 March 2021 and flags were flown at half-mast on all public buildings in NSW. He is survived by his wife, Judy Mundey (nee Willcocks), who shared his values and passion for the natural environment, heritage, social equality, and justice, and supported him fully in all his endeavours.
The author would like to thank Dr Meredith Burgmann for encouraging her to write this article and Judy Mundey for her inspiring passion for social equality.
 L.J. Hooker, 1961, ‘Rosebery Racecourse, Sydney, Australia’. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 ‘Rosebery Plans’, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 October 1961, p 14
 Sydney Morning Herald, 21 June 1961, p 8 and 15 September 1964, p 14.
 Redevelopment of Rosebery Racecourse, Layout Plan 517-17 for Rosebery Development Corporation, February 1961. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 University of Technology, Faculty of Design Architecture and Building, unit 11209, Assignment 01A.
 Thompson, Ruth, 1986, Sydney’s Flats: a social and political history. PhD Thesis, Macquarie University, p 168.
 ‘Eastlakes Residents press for parkland’, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 1971, p 2.
 Sydney Morning Herald image archive, 28 October 1971.
 Correspondence from Pat Morton to Botany Municipal Council, 20 October 1971, Eastlakes collection, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Jack Mundey, ‘Preventing the Plunder,’ in Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee (eds), 1988, Staining the Wattle, McPhee Gribble/Penguin, Melbourne, p 177.
 Mundey, Jack, 1981, Jack Mundey: Green Bans and Beyond. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, p 86.
 ‘Eastlakes residents press for parkland’ in Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 1971.
 Burgmann, Meredith and Burgmann, Verity, 2017, 2nd edition. Green Bans Red Union: The saving of a city. Sydney: Newsouth, p 179.
 Macdonald, Marion, ‘Developers make him see green’ in The Bulletin, 12 May 1973, p 36.
 Quoted in Pete Thomas, 1973, Taming the Concrete Jungle: The Builders Laborers’ Story, Sydney: Australian Builders Labourers Federation, pp 56–7.
 Layout and Drainage plan prepared for ‘The Lakes’ Shopping Centre at Rosebery, 28 February 1964. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Correspondence from the Honourable Pat Morton to Botany Municipal Council, 20 October 1971. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Rosebery Development Corporation Pty Ltd, 1973, Eastlakes Estate Proposed Final Stage of Development Environmental Impact Statement, November 1973, Appendix C. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Correspondence from Botany Municipal Council to The Honourable Pat Morton, 29 October 1971. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Botany Municipal Council Town Planning Report, 12 January 1973, p 2. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 ‘Residents seek union black ban’, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 March 1973.
 Botany Municipal Council Town Planning Report, 12 January 1973, p 5. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 ‘Residents seek union black ban’, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 March 1973.
 ‘Union to put ban on Eastlakes home units’, The Sun, 6 March 1973.
 ‘Developers make him see green’, The Bulletin, 12 May 1973, p 34.
 ‘Big Spender’, The Bulletin, 12 July 1969, p 59; ‘Speedy Office Project’, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 November 1971 and Tinker, Jon, 1974, ‘Tin-hatted conservationist’, New Scientist, 6 June 1974, p 620.
 Correspondence from State Planning Authority to Botany Municipal Council, 27 March 1973. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection. The BWIU were not involved in the green bans.
 Mundey, 1981, pp 87-88.
 Mundey, 1981, p 104.
 Correspondence from Botany Municipal Council to the State Planning Authority, 8 June 1973. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Correspondence from the Department of Environment to Botany Municipal Council, 3 October 1973. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Town Planning Report, 10 October 1973. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Correspondence from the Department of Environment to Botany Municipal Council (BMC), 3 October 1973, Eastlakes Development, Bayside Local History Archive. The Department had written to BMC in April seeking further information about the development but neglected to follow this up.
 Rosebery Development Corporation Pty Ltd, 1973, Eastlakes Estate Proposed Final Stage of Development Environmental Impact Statement, November 1973, Appendix A. Bayside Libraries Local History Collection
 Correspondence from the Botany Municipal Council to the Department of Environment, 22 January 1974. Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Certificate of Title, Volume 12378, Folio 125, NSW Land Title Office.
 Mundey, 1981, p 88.
 Correspondence files, Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Bainton, Russell, Re Rosebery Development Corporation Pty Limited—Ex Parte the Council to the Municipality of Botany, Opinion, 5th September 1975, Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Rutland, Suzanne, 2008, ‘Postwar Jewish Migration and Sydney’s Cityscape’, Literature and Aesthetics, 18(2), p 152.
 Correspondence from Arthur T George and Co. Solicitors to Botany Municipal Council 25 June 1980, Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Correspondence from Kerz Dearn and Associates to Botany Municipal Council. 20 May 1982, Eastlakes Development, Bayside Libraries Local History Collection.
 Geographical Names Board File no. 1529.
 Suckling, Laura, ‘Crown site approval ‘tainted’, The Southern Courier, 6 May 2014, pp 12 & 13.
 Taylor, James, 2015 ‘Botany Bay Council loses court action against Crown Group $192 million Eastlakes Shopping Centre redevelopment’, The Daily Telegraph, 11 February, 2015.
 Caroline Butler-Bowdon and Charles Pickett, ‘Strasser, Sir Paul (1911–1989)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strasser-sir-paul-15741/text26929, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 23 May 2022.
 Hardman, Marion and Manning, Peter, 1975, Green Bans, Melbourne: Australian Conservation Foundation, np