Sydney loses father of urban environmentalism

Former trade union leader and Sydney of City councillor Jack Mundey has been remembered as the father of urban environmentalism who leaves behind a huge legacy.

Mr Mundey, who led Sydney’s green bans in the 1970s before being elected to Sydney Council in 1984, died on Sunday at the age of 90.

Mr Mundey moved from Queensland, where he was born, to play rugby league for Parramatta and later became NSW Branch Secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF), a position he held between 1968-75.

During this time he formed and led the green ban movement, a world-first form of environmental activism by construction workers which defended open spaces from development.

The movement came in response to the encroachment of office blocks, shopping precincts  and luxury apartments on green spaces and heritage buildings in Sydney at the time.

The movement saved many of Sydney’s historic sites from demolition. It prevented unfettered development in Wolloomooloo,  The Rocks and Glebe and prevented Centennial Park being being turned into a sports stadium.

Mr Mundey served at City of Sydney until 1987 where he was chairman of the planning Committee from May 1984.

In 1995 he was appointed chair of the NSW Historic Houses trust and he went on to lecture and publish widely on the urban environment.

He was also a member of the Communist Party, which credits him with redefining the development of Australia’s major cities, and an independent member of the residents action group.

Mr Mundey was a early champion of liveable urban spaces.

“Of course you’ve got to be concerned with money but you’ve got to go beyond that and consider the  way people live and where they live, their recreational facilities, the cultural facilities,” he told the ABC in a 1981 interview.

Tributes from friends and colleagues

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore served on City of Sydney with Mr Mundey in 1984.

“We worked hard to ensure our City was not over-run by state-led and poorly-executed overdevelopment, and were scorned as ‘terrace-renovating trendies’ and ‘bleeding heart lefties’,” she said on Twitter.

“That Council was sacked in 1987 as the government looked to ramp up development before the 1988 bicentenary, but Jack never stopped campaigning for our community.”


Jack Mundey was a leading voice in the fight to save Sydney’s Sirius building.


Cr Moore said Mr Mundey was a great defender of Sydney’s heritage and a true champion for Sydney who became a leading voice in the campaign to save the Sirius building.

Mr Mundey’s friend and former NSW MP Meredith Bergmann described him as the father of urban environmentalism.

“The green bans that were placed around Sydney saved The Rocks, Woolloomooloo, Centennial Park, Glebe and many historical buildings,” she told the ABC on Monday.

“The skyline of Sydney is a different place because of Jack Mundey. He left behind a huge legacy.”

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One thought on “Sydney loses father of urban environmentalism

  1. I met jack once at a planning event very impressive speaker and was part of my motivation to become an environmental lawyer vale

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