Mount Annan is one of the newer suburbs on Sydney's south-west urban fringe, the traditional lands of the Dharawal and Gundungurra people. It is located in the south-eastern part of the Camden local government area. In 2006 Mount Annan had a population of 8,314, a huge increase from 1996's population of 3,108. The demographic profile of Mount Annan is predominantly young families, with 35 per cent of the population under 18 years of age.
Mount Annan is the high point in the western part of the locality, 190 metres above sea level. It only appears on published maps after 1834. This point was part of Glenlee which was owned by William Howe, who built a fine Georgian house (1824) on the property. Extensive vistas from the house took in the Nepean River floodplain to the west and Mount Annan immediately to the north. The Howes (William and his wife Mary) came from Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, with its gently undulating hills, similar to the terrain of Glenlee, and were steeped in romantic folklore.
Glenlee was acquired by James Fitzpatrick in the 1850s, and his descendants ran it as a dairy farm until 1978, with associated cropping and grazing. Parts of the Glenlee estate were designated for housing development, while some was designated open space as a Scenic Protection Zone by the Macarthur Development Board (some of which was to make up part of the Mount Annan Botanic Garden).
Subdivision and development
The first land release for housing at Mount Annan was in the late 1980s and, following the State Planning Authority's Structure Plan (1973), Landcom became the owner and planner-developer of these estates. The main focus of this development was housing accessibility and affordability, therefore housing was low density, detached housing for first home buyers and low-income families. Public housing was scattered throughout the estate. Some families came from the local area and Campbelltown, while others moved from Menai and Sutherland. These were often single-income families who had large mortgages through Homefund, a state government initiative to assist low-income households to buy houses. The scheme was eventually abandoned as interest rates increased, the recession of the early 1990s took hold, and some Homefund participants fell into arrears and lost their homes.
Later land releases, such as Garden Gates, were aimed at second and third home buyers, and Landcom changed from providing subsidised land to becoming a profit-making government enterprise. Garden Gates was first released in 1995 and was a greenfield, infill site between the original Mount Annan land releases and Mount Annan Botanic Gardens. Restrictive covenants were attached to land sales to maintain a certain type of housing; there were small parks and the name Garden Gates was taken from the botanic gardens to give a certain panache. All aimed at creating community pride and identity. Sociologist Gabrielle Gwyther, who has studied this estate, describes the residents as middle-class families, Australian-born of Anglo-Christian background, with white collar or service jobs, in single cottages with large mortgages. She describes them as petit bourgeoisie (self-employed contractors and tradesmen) who believe that hard work, rather than going to university, is the way to success.
Other land releases have included Domain Gardens (2004), The Cascades (1999), Sunrise Estate (2004) and Heritage Heights (2005). Of these, the largest release has been The Cascades, with 506 lots developed by the Bradman Corporation.
Building a community
The population growth encouraged the establishment of new shopping facilities, which are based around the Mount Annan Marketplace. It opened in 2001 with 10 retail outlets, including a large supermarket, and in 2005 it was extended by 4000 square metres and 52 car parking spaces. Adjacent to this is the Mount Annan Shopping Village, which opened in 2002 and had 13 retail outlets by 2005. The shopping precinct also has four fast food outlets, a hotel, a discount supermarket outlet and a service station. In 2007 a further addition to the retail precinct was approved, consisting of 4600 square metres, 15 specialty shops and a 224-space car park, providing 187 jobs.
Other facilities that have appeared in response to the growth of the area have included the Mount Annan Leisure Centre, opened in 2001, which has a 10-lane 25-metre heated lap pool, leisure pool, hydrotherapy pool, spa, sauna, gymnasium and kiosk. It cost $9 million to build, has over 350,000 visitors a year, employs 80 people and is the home of the Mount Annan Swimming Club.
Mount Annan Public School was the first school to open, in 1993, with 160 pupils, and by 2003 had 850. The Mount Annan Christian Life Centre opened in 1989 on Narellan Road and in 1998 the Mount Annan Christian College opened: by 2001 it had 340 students. Elizabeth Macarthur High School (1997), located in Waterworth Drive, was the first high school to open in the locality, and is named after one of the founding women of the colony of New South Wales, the wife of John Macarthur of Camden Park. Mount Annan High School, the second high school in the locality, was opened in 2003 with 20 staff and 162 Year 7 students on six hectares of land. In 2007 it had 705 students.
Mount Annan Botanic Garden
The Mount Annan Botanic Garden is the highlight of the suburb. It is a native plant botanic garden and arboretum in an attractive garden and parkland setting, and is managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney wanted a native plant nursery from 1912 and officially acquired the site in 1984. The first plantings were made in 1985. It was opened by the Duke and Duchess of York in 1988 and was a New South Wales Government Bicentennial project. The site was part of the original Glenlee estate, a dairy farm until 1978. During the late 1970s and 1980s, the garden site was used as a riding school. It is Australia's biggest botanic garden and the most popular tourist attraction in south-western Sydney, attracting over 90,000 visitors a year. It has many themed native gardens, including stands of endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland. It covers 416 hectares, has over 50 paid staff and volunteers and is the nursery for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. The garden also features outdoor sculptures, walking tracks, lakes, picnic facilities, café and restaurant, garden shop and nursery. It provides many educational services and hosts many major events. The garden is a refuge for rare and endangered species and conducts seed collection and propagation, for example, of the Wollemi pine and the Camden white gum.
On the eastern side of the Mount Annan Botanic Gardens is a little piece of history, constructed in 1880. It is a water canal (aqueduct) which is partly made of sandstone blocks thought to be quarried from Mount Annan. When it was constructed, more than 1,000 men were employed on the project and the entire length of the canal was dotted with tented construction camps. The only mode of transport was by horse. It is part of the Upper Nepean Scheme which supplies water by gravity from the dams on upper Nepean River to Prospect Reservoir, along a course of 62 kilometres. Until Warragamba Dam was finished in 1960, this canal supplied most of Sydney's water.
'Camden Bibliography, a biography of a country town', Camden Historical Society website, http://www.camdenhistory.org.au, viewed 16 January 2009
Gabrielle Gwyther, 'Paradise Planned, Community Formation and the Master Planned Estate', PhD thesis, University of Western Sydney, 2004