Gully Report No.8 – The Bell Report of 1993

An upland swamp in The Gully sustained by irregular rain but more critically by reliable underlying groundwater that permeates year round filtered through the sandy loam substrate atop impervious sandstone bedrock.  Photo by Editor years ago.


The Bell Report” dated June 1993 was the first professionally academic study and report (environmental and archaeological) into Katoomba Falls Creek Valley, which subsequently is referred to as ‘The Gully’ by former residents and their descendants, of whom we greatly respect.   

The Bell Report’s correct title is ‘Katoomba Falls Creek Valley Environmental Study‘ and was published in printed form as an A4 sized spiral binder of some 87 pages in length and in budget black and white.   

This landmark environmental study included the first Environmental Management Plan outline for the Valley/Gully based upon the findings of the detailed study.    The ground-based/evidence-based field study was undertaken over twelve weeks in 1992 by qualified and experienced environmental consultants F. & J. Bell & Associates Pty Ltd who was based in the Sydney suburb of Sutherland.  The principal consultant was the late Dr Fred Bell BSc MSc PhD MEIA (1932-2009).    [Ed: MEIA stood for Member of the Environment Institute of Australia, which was subsequently renamed to the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ).  More info: ^]

Dr Fred Bell sadly passed away in 2009.  More about Fred can be garnered by an obituary article written in The Sydney Morning Herald of that year – refer to our ‘Further Reading‘ appendix at the end of this article.

This first study into The Gully by Dr Fred Bell was commissioned by local Katoomba-based environmental activist group ‘The Friends of Katoomba Falls Creek Valley Inc.’ (‘The Friends’).  It was thanks to this local resident group of Katoomba successfully applying for a $10,000 NSW Government grant for this landmark environmental study to be undertaken.  Members of The Friends subsequently referred to this report affectionately just as ‘The Bell Report‘ after its lead author Dr Fred Bell.  Further details are explained on Page i of the Executive Summary.

Assisting Dr Fred Bell received considerable field and investigative research contribution in this study specific to the local Aboriginal archaeological connection to The Gully by anthropologist Dr Val Attenbrow BA (Hons), PhD, who compiled Section 14 in Part 2 of this study.  However, given the sensitive nature of that research which we hold we consider it prudent not to publish this or Part 2 of the study on this website. 

Dr Fred Bell was known to ‘The Friends’ founder and leader, the late Neil Stuart BSc. (1937-2016), both environmental science graduates from The University of Sydney during the 1960s, who perhaps knew each other prior. Neil lived on the edge of the valley/The Gully.

For the benefit of the local community in and around The Gully catchment, we herein reproduce only Part 1 of this report of this study in its 87 page entirety, section by section.  In the context of the many studies and reports into The Gully, this Bell Report was the eighth such plan/report.  We replicate it below on this website in the public domain under Creative Commons copyright license type ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial’  [CC BY-NC].  This means that anyone is free to download it and print it and use it for non-commercial purposes in the interests of the natural rehabilitation of The Gully in Katoomba. 

[SOURCE:  ^]


The Bell Report of 1993  (Part 1)


0.  Executive Summary, >


1. Introduction, >


2.Natural Environment, >


3.Cultural Environment, >


4.Land Use, >


5.Community Perceptions, Values and Aspirations, >


6.Special Aspects of the Environmental Management Plan, >


7.Actions for Restoration and Management of the Public Land, >


8.Actions for Management of Catchment outside Public Land, >


9.Environmental Management Programme, >


10.References, >




Upon this study (Part 1 and Part 2) being presented by Dr Fred Bell to The Friends of Katoomba Falls Creek Valley Inc. (The Friends) in June 1993, The Friends formally submitted the complete report to the General Manager of Blue Mountains City Council soon after. 

Council did absolutely nothing with it and just filed it.  Despite many years of The Friends seeking dialogue to act on the study’s recommendations and to establish a local community-based management consultative process with Council, Council shunned and ostracised The Friends continually over 28 years (1988-2016).

There have been some nineteen plans/reports into The Gully at the time of writing this article.  Very little has been done on the ground in The Gully over the decades by Council despite Council being the supposed custodian of all the public/community lands within the Gully. 


Further Reading:


[1]   ‘A sustained passion for survival, Fred Bell (1932-2009)‘, newspaper article published 16th October 2009 by Harriet Veitch with Bob Walshe in The Sydney Morning Herald, ^



‘Fred Bell wanted to save the world. He lectured in climatology and environmental science around Australia and in other countries, worked for environmental action groups and put his ideas into practice by building eco-friendly houses ahead of their time and growing and eating native plants before it was fashionable.

Frederick Charles Bell was born in Sydney on September 12, 1932, the first of three sons of Charles Bell and his wife Edna Taylor. Charles had been orphaned at eight and was made a ward of the state, the advantage being that he was given a good education and with that went on to be a successful businessman.

A life dedicated to saving the planet … Fred and Joan Bell with their seven grandchildren.


Fred’s academic ability was soon recognised. He went from Rockdale Public School to the Erskineville opportunity classes and won a bursary to Canterbury Boys High, then selective.

He was an enthusiastic Boy Scout and later became a scout leader. He was also a talented middle-distance runner and later ran in almost every City to Surf race.

After marrying his bushwalking companion, Joan Mayman, an accountant, in 1959, Bell studied science and mathematics at the University of Sydney. After taking his bachelor degree in 1962, he moved to the University of NSW to do a masters in civil engineering in 1965 and a PhD in the mathematical modelling of natural processes in 1974. He started lecturing at the University of NSW in 1970 and by 1972 was a senior lecturer in climatology, geomorphology, biogeography and environmental science.

Dr Bell pursued a wide range of research projects while he was teaching. He was a passionate teacher, bridging the gap between hydrology and climate and in later years championing the introduction of study units in environmental impact analysis. These were the first of their kind in Australia and were a mixture of legal, social and physical science, including the useful art of writing environmental impact statements.

He also, at various times, worked with the University of Newcastle, the Department of Works in Darwin, the CSIRO in Brisbane and Cairns, Florida State University, Colorado State University and the University of East Anglia.

His research contributed significantly to environmental causes such as gaining world heritage listing for North Queensland rainforests, preserving forest ecosystems in NSW and restoring water to the Snowy River and the Macquarie Marshes. His mathematical models for predicting local convective rainfall were successfully adapted by India and several developing countries.

The three family houses that he and Joan designed and built contained ”contraptions” often ahead of their time to help the environment. They all had such innovations as passive solar energy design, compost heaps, worm farms and tanks to recycle waste water, and were often out of character in their areas.

In 1972, Bell joined the management committee of the newly formed Total Environment Centre and remained a member for more than 20 years. There in the 1980s he worked on a study of which NSW forests should be preserved and worked with the centre’s wildlife in peril group to make the first national list of endangered species.

He was on call for the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre from its beginning in 1991 and was also a foundation member of the Community Environment Network on the Central Coast.

Bell stayed at the University of NSW until 1989 then retired to form his own business with Joan, F & J Bell and Associates, an environmental and horticultural consultancy firm. In later years, he focused more attention on climate change, using his expertise in climatology to explain the science of climate change to the public.

He loved cooking and eventually took over the household cooking and shopping. He was always experimenting with new combinations of foods (such as peanut butter, alfalfa sprout and salmon sandwiches) and was highly knowledgeable about bush tucker. Visitors were likely to be offered snacks of cheeky yam, pig face, lemon myrtle, exocarpus, lilli pilli and bunya nuts.

Bell told friends that 2007 was his ”Eureka year” because decades of research and thought had coalesced as a vision of a new applied science, which he called ”pronomics”. It was a revision of mainstream economics with the aim of creating ”ethical economics” or ”sustainable economics” to satisfy present human needs without harm to humans or other life. Bell believed that pronomics would make responsible decision-making possible and address serious global problems such as climate change with scientific predictive techniques.

Bell continued his work all his life and died suddenly, leaving behind extensive notes for books he had planned to write when he had time.

Fred Bell is survived by Joan, their children Heather, Greg and Fiona, seven grandchildren and his brothers Graeme and Rodney.’


[2]  The Gully Collection, (a library of information within this website about The Gully in Katoomba) > 


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