THE proponents of an Islamic cemetery at Marulan have pledged to submit a modified development application next month.
It comes one year after the original DA was lodged and amid growing community discontent.
The Marulan Action Group, formed last year, hosted a protest against the plan in Belmore Park on Sunday. Some 130 people turned up.
The group has long argued the application was inadequate and the proposal not in the public interest.
The Al Mabarrat Benevolent Society, based in Sydney, wants to build a 3500 plot cemetery and prayer hall on a 329-hectare property, just north of Marulan. It would be located near the junction of Highland Way and the Hume Highway.
The sheer size has generated controversy and several public meetings hosted by the group and Council.
Before Sunday’s gathering, flyers were distributed advertising the ‘No Mosque Rally.’
‘Stop non-local development in your local area,’ it stated.
The rally was dotted with protestors in red shirts stating ‘No mosque.’ Signs stated: ‘Why poison our water with Sydney’s dead?’ and ‘Our forfathers (sic) fought for peace, not mosques.’ A barbecue advertised a ‘non-hallal (sic) sausage sizzle.’
Action group chairman, Peter Callaghan said the opposition was not racist or anti-Islam but focused on genuine concerns.
He cited the length of time the DA was taking to assess and said the applicant was showing ‘disdain’ for Council in not supplying the outstanding information. Potential groundwater contamination from burials, traffic safety along Highland Way and the ‘lack of’ economic benefit for the area are among key concerns.
Opponents also fear expansion plans and that it will be ‘an exclusive’ facility. Mr Callaghan said he organised the rally to inform people of the plan, to get them involved and advertise the group’s position.
“We feel we haven’t been represented properly anywhere,” he said.
“…We feel the only way to get our message out is to take it to the streets.”
Members will also attend a council meeting on July 1 at which councillors will be updated on the DA.
Rally attendants came from Tallong, Marulan, Goulburn and Sydney.
Mr Callaghan said it was not a racist attack, as protestors included French, Dutch and Thai nationalities, among others.
“It would be disingenuous to suggest we’re not aware of world events such as that in Iraq,” he said.
“But we also have major concerns about the impact on the water supply, traffic management along Highlands Way and we’re very cognisant of the fact that even the consultant for the project says there will be no economic benefit for the community.”
“Let’s put political correctness in the bin. We know why we are here. We feel so threatened with the Islamic cemetery coming here. It’s the thin edge of the wedge.”Rachel Oates King
During a speech to the crowd, Mr Callaghan said Al Mabarrat was a registered charity and would not be paying rates on large tracts of land it had bought.
With no significant Moslem community in Marulan he saw no reason for the cemetery.
Rally attendants had been cautioned by organisers about using discriminatory language.
“Let’s put political correctness in the bin,” one speaker, Rachel Oates King of Greenwich Park urged. “We know why we are here. We feel so threatened with the Islamic cemetery coming here. It’s the thin edge of the wedge.”
Later, Mr Callaghan told the crowd he “was glad that people were not being cowered by political correctness.”
“We all know about the elephant in the room…We don’t want anything like that in Marulan.”
Others told the Post they genuinely feared for their safety on Highlands Way with more traffic destined for the already busy tourist route.
A woman said she was worried about the impact on wildlife and the endangered Tallong orchid.
But Goulburn man Ryan Grey told the Post that while the group’s Facebook page instructed people to talk about planning concerns, the rally disgusted him.
“Even listening to it, it is a bigoted, small minded mentality,” he said.
“It’s grossly distasteful and I’m offended that so many people turned up. It is not reflective of what people think.”