Worldwide Concern for “Urban Protected Areas”

Our Royal Is One of World’s Leaders

The highest authority of all, IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature – has chosen 2014 to speak out forcefully for urgent action to protect “urban parks” now more than half the world’s population lives in rapidly expanding cities. This is an alarm call!

What they are. “Urban protected areas are protected areas situated in or at the edge of larger population centres.” (They do not include the relatively small conventional urban parks and sports fields.

They are distinctive in several ways:

  • Often, they attract large numbers of users.
  • Are threatened by urban sprawl, developers.
  • Can be affected by vandalism, littering.
  • Can be hit by fires, air/water pollution.

Why they matter

They matter for all the reason that any “protected area” is important (e.g. a retreat from urban “bricks and bitumen”, protection afforded to some threatened species, attracting of visitors whose spending helps adjacent businesses).

But they can also matter because:

  • Many urban people otherwise have little or no access to nature at lare.
  • Scientific evidence has shown that spending time with nature improves physical and mental health.
  • Some people will only help protect nature (conservation/environmentalism) if they have learned to care about the nature, however slight, where they live.
  • Conservation, whether local or national, depends heavily on urban voters, along with country ones, pressuring politicians.

Our Royal Shines Internationally!

The IUCN Declaration on “Urban Protected Areas” lists “Ten examples of urban protected areas” and tell the world about our Royal in these words:

Sydney, Australia, with 4.7 million people, has the Royal National Park (16,000 ha), heathland, woodland, forest, and wetland; a heavily visited site bordered by the Pacific Ocean, a bay, suburbs, and a transport corridor; managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of NSW.

Thus the Royal shines among the world’s Top Ten.

There is much more in the IUCN report; indeed, there are 12 “Challenges and opportunities especially relevant to urban protected areas”. For a description of the Urban Specialist Group and a full list of web pages related to it, go to: http://www.interenvironment.org/USG.html

Our Comment on the IUCN Report

While grateful to the IUCN for its appreciation of our RNP, we would, if consulted , have submitted our Five Distinctions of Australia’s First National Park:

  1. Earliest Park. Established 1979, less than a hundred years after foundation of Sydney. (“Royal” was added in 1956 after the visit in 1954 of young Queen Elizabeth.)
  2. First Park. This was the first park in the world to be designated “for the purpose of a national park”. (American parks of the 1870s, Yellowstone and Yosemite, were state parks, with “national” coming later.)
  3. Urban Park. Royal is the only substantial National Park that is wholly contained within a city (Sydney).
  4. Diverse Park. Royal offers an incredible variety of abundant flora, fauna, and landforms. So much to experience.
  5. Magnetic Park. Royal attracts more visitors each year – 4 million and rising – than any other significant Australia site, including Uluru, Kakadu, and the Great Barrier Reef. Its value to tourism is huge.

A Cause for Celebration! This is Our 4th Birthday!

Victory Ahead but still Years Ahead

Yes, it was in April 2010, that we launched the campaign for World Heritage Listing of Royal National Park by the UN’s UNESCO. We knew it would take some years to prepare a proper application and to garner the support of both State and Federal Governments. But in our naive enthusiasm, we did not know How Many Years.

We were cautioned by Alex Colley of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness that it had taken 15 years of campaigning to win WHL for the Blue Mountains. This was the legendary Alex Colley who has recently died at 104!

In a long letter to us, the Federal and State Environment Ministers, having pledged support for the campaign, point out that the Listing process could take until June 2018. Which will of course stretch our patience!

Love the Park, Use the Park! While we await the big decision, we will encourage use of the Royal. Already it attracts 4 million visitors a year. Now, to achieve more informed use, the marvellous Field Guide to Royal National Park is available. This gloriously illustrated 170-page book by the all-volunteer Linnean Society can be obtained (cheaply) by mail from PO Box 82, Kingsford 2032, for $14.95 plus $3 postage.

A Great Trip Around the Park. For several years, authoritative Les Bursill has run quarterly trips around the Park, visiting Aboriginal sites and much else. We highly recommend these trips. For details, ring Les, 4422 0768. A memorable day is guaranteed.

Amazing Discovery by Historians? A group of historian, including Judith Carrick who has written a history of RNP, has combined to explore early (1879) conditions in the Park. To their astonishment they have found a wealth of the earliest artefacts: the original survey pegs and many of the original fencing posts, not to mention military relics from frequent early military uses of the Park.

Hunting in National Parks “a Bad Idea”. We applaud an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 2014, which says that the NSW State Government’s recent decision to trial amateur shooting in 12 “remote” national parks is a bad idea, likely to lead to “a small minority” shooting dangerously. That appears already to have happened, with John Healey finding a bullet hole in his dining room window which has left him scared to get on the tractor he uses to work his 45 hectare Colo Heights property.

Great Step to Alerting Against Radiation. Early March has seen a remarkable move to alert public and governments for the first time to the dangers of rapidly increasing radiation. Lyn McLean of Sylvania, who recently questioned the building of a mobile phone tower 600 metres inside Royal National Park, has launched a freely available international publication “EMR and Health”, which will reach thousands of interested parties. You can access this impressive 12-page quarterly at www.emraustralia.com.au

What A Wonderful Park!

This is a Good News column, and there’s hardly room for all of it!

Two Ministers Act on Their Promise

We reported in November that when we took Federal Minister Greg Hunt and State Minister Robyn Parker to the Hacking River at Audley, they pledged to work together for our ‘commendable’ call for World Heritage Listing of Royal National Park.

Such Listing, competing with scores of other claims across the Australian continent, depends on making a powerful case and then pushing it through multiple conditions that are fraught with possible delays.

Minister Parker, in a long letter to us, explains why (1) our case for Royal can’t be placed on the required Tentative List before 31 January 2015, then (2) Government can nominate Royal by 31 January 2016, and then (3) UNESCO’s WHL Committee has a mandatory 18 months to say yes by 30 June 208.

It’s a long process, to which a “dedicated project officer” will be appointed. [If any questions, ring Mike Patrick of NPWS 9542 0623, or email mikepatrick@environment.nsw.gov.au]

Delight at Royal’s Field Guide!

“A quite brilliant book has appeared”, reported this column in February – the Linnean Society’s Field Guide to Royal National Park. Its 170 pages are wonderfully illustrated, including 300 clear-as-a-bell colour photos of flowers and plants.

The Teachers Federation President, Maurie Mulheron, has written in praise. Jim Heather, author of a book on Cronulla, says, “Send me six more – it’s a wonderful gift”. A copy to be sent to Canada has brought profuse congratulations.

Worth $50 commercially, it can be obtained by mail from the all-volunteer Linnaean Society, POI Box 82 Kingsford 2032, for $14.95 plus $3 postage.

Admiration for Judith Wright’s Birds!

She is Australia’s greatest woman poet, and her unforgettable “South of My Days” is probably taught in every school. Now, the National Library of Australia has published an 80 page Birds, Poems by Judith Wright.

Each of its 35 poems/birds has an accompanying colour photo or painting and the book is introduced sensitively by Judith’s daughter Meredith McKinnup. So much is quotable; for example “Wagtail”, a bird we’ve all thought delightful.

So elegant he is and neat
from round black head to slim black feet!
He sways and flirts upon the fence
his colour clean as innocence…
Sweet-pretty-creature – yes, but who
is the one he sings it to?
Not me – not you.
The furry moth, the gnat perhaps,
on which his scissor-beak snip-snaps.

Another great present for a friend!

A Welcome to Lovely Oatley Park!

Sydney should know Oatley Park along with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. But many don’t. So Oatley Fauna and Flora Conservation Society has produced three great brochures to tell the world.

Here are the park’s “Native Plants”, its “birds”, its “Walking Tracks”. Some 45 hectares, traversed by easy walks that reveal vistas of Georges River and Lime Kiln Bay, and diverse bird life, and ever-changing plant communities.

Look it up in a street guide: only a 15-minute walk from Oatley Railway Station, it has available parking and quiet spaces for picnicking. (Consult www.off-oatleypark.com)

New Year 2014 – and Hopes Are High!

Environment Leader Greets Our Call

Our first mail in 2014 has brought a card from the most famous name in Australian environmentalism – Bob Brown, applauding our campaign to have the United Nations grant World Heritage Listing to Royal National Park.

He salutes as “magnificent” the book we commissioned, The First National Park, a Natural for World Heritage, by Australia’s foremost authority on national parks, Dr Geoff Mosley.

Bob adds, “Whenever I fly to Sydney I get a left-hand window seat so that I can savour the great views of Royal National Park which make me wish that I was there!”

Defending the Tarkine. Bob had 19 years as a Senator and the Leader of the Greens Party. Since he “retired”, he is twice as busy, especially in defending the half-million hectares of the Tarkine Wilderness Area of north-west Tasmania against rapacious mining interests.

Tarkine has been called the world’s last wilderness (by CNN) and Bob is smitten with its spirituality: “If you go to the Tarkine, and spend a night listening to the owls calling, and you listen to the scurry of the native creatures, and if a rainstorm comes across… it’s a cause for rapture with this planet… and potent cause for us to want to fight for the Tarkine.”

Royal Campaign Needs a Hurry-up! Hurry-up is the message sent in the New Year to Federal Minister Greg Hunt and State Minister Robyn Parker.

The two environment ministers, on a visit to the Royal on 8 October, pledged full and enthusiastic support for the legally required placing of Royal on Australia’s Tentative World Heritage List, the necessary step before the approach to UN’s UNESCO.

This has to be done before the formal deadline of 31 January. So Sutherland Shire Environment Centre is striking a note of urgency to ensure the ministers won’t overlook the deadline, which would lose the campaign a whole year.

A Quite Brilliant Book Has Appeared! It’s called Field Guide to Royal National Park and it’s the book that every lover of the Royal has always wanted. Its recent appearance has not been prompted by our campaign for World Heritage Listing, but it will hugely reinforce that campaign.

Its author is the Linnean Society (editor Robert J. King) the prestigious body descended from Carl Linneas, the Swedish naturalist (1707-78) who began the scientific naming system for plants and animals that now has worldwide currency.

Features of the Guide:

  • 170 pages, perfectly readable in clear layman’s language.
  • Colourful clear illustration appears on most pages.
  • Plants; but also birds, reptiles, insects, and more.
  • The geology, soil types, sea-cliffs, shore platforms.
  • The estuaries, seagrasses, mangroves, saltmarshes.
  • Maps of walking tracks, roads, creeks, boundaries.
  • Coverage of Aboriginal habitation and heritage sites.
  • Absolutely brilliant photographs throughout.
  • Most spectacularly, over 300 clear-as-a-bell photos of flowers and plants.

This wonderful book would be priced at $50 if produced by a commercial publisher, but it can be obtained by mail from the all-volunteer Linnean Society, PO Box 82, Kingsford 2032, for $14.95 plus $3 postage.

Excited to be Invited!

From Drummoyne, a lover of Royal National Park writes: “I spent childhood years in the Shire and frequently rambled in the Park. And though marriage took me away, I regularly brought my four children back for ‘explorations’ of the Park. So I’m excited to be invited to the Launch of Dr Mosley’s book… Yes, I’ll certainly come!” (Elizabeth Hirschl)

A Very Special Book Launch

We printed a thousand copies of this 240-page book.

Already a copy has been sent to all members of the NSW Parliament.

A team is ready to post a copy to all members of the Federal Parliament and to other VIPs.

*You can attend this historic event: Tuesday 16 April at 6.30pm in the Multi-Purpose Centre, Flora Street, Sutherland. (A supper will follow.) Close 8.30 to 9.00pm.

Campaign Against Shooting Intensifies!

Question: Has there ever been a campaign against a NSW Premier to equal the current community condemnation of shooting in national parks?

The O’Farrell Shooting Policy has united Labor, Liberal, Green and Independent citizens in a shout of protest. Here are just a dozen of the most recent protests. Note: The shooting in 79 national parks begins from April 30th.

  1. In a long denunciation of the O’Farrell Policy, the Herald political editor Sean Nicholls accuses the Premier of a “gamble” by risking death or injury to a park visitor in order to gain the votes of a couple of Shooters Party MPs (SMH, 23-24.2.13)
  2. A Sawtell resident’s letter says, “[Premier] we remember the promises you made before the election about no hunting at all in national parks. How much, exactly, is your word worth?” (SMH, 27.2.13)
  3. Former Premier Nathan Rees told Parliament, “The Shooters and Fishers Party is leading the Government around by the nose.” (Sun-Herald, 24.2.13)
  4. Influential Herald cartoonist Moir depicts a rough gun-toting shooter behind a gagged Premier. (SMH, 27.2.13)
  5. The Public Service Association is considering directing its members (including Parks officers) not to enter any national park.
  6. The Premier has bowed to public pressure by forbidding hunters to use silencers on their guns. [Well, loud reports will warn visitors to clear out of the Park!]
  7. Fairfax media warns of a “major risk” that someone will be killed or seriously injured when the shooting goes ahead. (Sun-Herald, 24.2.13)
  8. Many bushwalking clubs say they will have to keep away from national parks when hunting begins.
  9. Though Royal is not itself one of the 79 Parks designated for shooting, fears are being expressed that a yahoo element will surely interpret the Premier’s sanction of hunting as “It’s OK to shoot anywhere”.
  10. A Rose Bay resident’s letter declares, “There have been four deaths in New Zealand” from shooting in national parks – so “it’s not a matter of if but when there will be human fatalities in NSW.” For feral pest control, “let professional, supervised shooters carry it out.” (Sun-Herald, 24.2.13)
  11. Another correspondent has said, “Last year in New Zealand a hunter Alexander McDonald was fatally shot through the head when his orange beanie was mistaken for the red skin of a deer.” (SMH, 2-3.3.13)
  12. “The Government knows it has a dud policy on its hands,” Opposition spokesman Luke Foley told Parliament, and he scorned attempts to involve police in “aggressive confrontations” between hunters and the public. (Sun-Herald, 24.2.13)

SHOOTING Could Bring Down Premier!

The Dire Warning. “Barry O’Farrell has been warned of a ‘major risk’ that bushwalkers and parks staff will be killed or seriously injured if the state government goes ahead with its plan to allow amateur hunters into national parks.” (Heath Aston, Political Editor, Sun-Herald, 23 Dec 2012).

The Premier Is Responsible. Against his government’s policy, Premier O’Farrell has decreed there shall be hunting in 79 of the state’s national parks. Thus he breaks earlier promises, e.g. his Environment Minister Robyn Parker had told Parliament in November 2011, “I repeat that the policy of the NSW government is clear: Hunting in national parks is not and will not be permitted”.

A Torrent of Protest. “Outrageous, appalling!” protested Brian Everingham, Chair of National Parks Association.

  • “A dirty deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party”, said Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann.
  • “The most sickening political development in 40 years of nature conservation”, said Keith Muir, Colong Foundation.
  • “Will inflict serious damage upon one of our great institutions”, said Bob Debus, former Labor Environment Minister.
  • “Shame, Barry, shame!”, shouted 400 demonstrators outside Parliament on 14 June 2012.
  • “How deceptive Barry O’Farrell is”, Opposition Leader John Robertson told an ALP conference in June.
  • “Confrontation is inevitable [with shooters]”, declared the reps of 54 bushwalking clubs.

And Risk Assessment Adds Warning. The 59-page Draft Risk Assessment of the Office of Environment and Heritage, 10 December 2012, lists parks workers, user groups and visitors as at risk from “projectiles causing death and serious injury” (Sun-Herald 23.12.2012).

Shooting Starts in March 2013. A Sydney Morning Herald Editorial, 28.12.2012, says Minister Robyn Parker “sneaked the news of the March shooting time… into a pre-Christmas news release”.

Facts relevant to this start-up include:

  • The 79 of NSW’s parks and reserves cover 50% of the parkland area.
  • No extra money or staff will monitor this huge area.
  • Amateur hunting, by leaving carcasses unburied, will increase feral populations of foxes, cats, pigs, dogs.
  • Irresponsible gun-owners – alcohol-fuelled? – will “get a message” it’s OK to shoot in any bushland.
  • Shooting can inflict cruel wounds on birds and animals that “escape”.
  • NPWS staff are planning action to alert the public to dangers they will face from March onward.

Comment from First National Park Movement

The news of State Government sanctioning of shooting in national parks comes at the worst possible time for our campaign to achieve World Heritage Listing of Royal National Park. Though the Royal is not one of the 79 parks designated for shooting, there is now justified fear of irresponsible shooting taking place in any bushland. We can only hope that State Parliament will agree unanimously to the formal request we will make next week to endorse the call for World Heritage Listing and send it on to Federal Parliament to, in turn, address the final decision-maker, the United Nations agency UNESCO.

R.D. (Bob) Walshe, OAM
Chair, First National Park

A Thousand Books in a Great Cause!

Plus Pictures of Park, Plants, Possums…

Excitement here! We are taking delivery of the thousand books that will underpin our submission for World Heritage Listing of Royal National Park.

It’s a big book, it’s full of powerful arguments, and its adorned by supporting colour pictures – a handful presented here.

We’ll get the book into the hands of everyone who can tell the Commonwealth Government of the importance of the cause. Then, we trust, the Government will announce its support and ask the UN’s UNESCO to grant World Heritage Listing.

A Leap Forward at the Start of 2012!

Excitement is building in our campaign to achieve World Heritage Listing of the “Royal Reserves” – that is, the trio of Royal National Park and its adjacent Heathcote National Park and Garawarra State Recreation Area.

The immediate stimulus comes from completion of the draft of our comprehensive Mosley Report, drafted by Dr Geoff Mosley, Australia’s leading authority on national parks.

We have at once circulated it to many individuals and groups for review and comment, and we’ve already received excellent responses, including suggestions for improvement.

Basic to the argument we must present to the Commonwealth Government (and through it to the United Nations agency UNESCO) will be our coverage of the cultural international values of the Royal Reserves, on top of the already well established features of the natural environment.

Cultural? That is, the changes to the three Reserves brought about since the 1860s and 1870s by impacts from public re-creation (from picnicking to fitness and health) and Park management. Such a study will throw light on the wider Australian national park movement; and that in turn will have significance for the worldwide national parks movement.

In tracing these cultural influences, three examples spring to mind.

First was of course the establishment of Royal in 1879 as the world’s first “national park”, thus termed, remarkably a national park wholly within a city (the addition of “Royal” did not come till 1955).

Second was the early concentration of park management on nature conservation, over other possible uses.

Third was the realisation that this first national park could not stand alone – so it has contributed to the push for national parks (and wilderness reserves) in every state.

In the three examples, the developments at RNP were representative of the best worldwide changes of attitude to the natural environment.

For the rest, our final Report will detail the outstanding values of our natural environment, its biogeodiversity and its beauty/aesthetics. By the biogeoheritage we mean the Park’s incredibly numerous life-forms (species), and its many soils and rocks, and the host of interactions among them – considerations that link us to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and the megadiversity of the whole Sydney Basin.

Dr Mosley has supplied a list of management recommendations aimed at achieving better conservation of the world heritage values of the Royal Reserves, and at maintaining their integrity as required by UNESCO. Our spokesperson Bob Crombie has welcomed the suggestions: “We will discuss them in future articles”, he says.

Bob Walshe, Chairman, First National Park, ph 9528 0444

More on the Widening Campaign for Royal’s Listing

Great interest was aroused when this column announced the reserving in 1824 of the Bundanoon Gullies in the Southern Highlands in recognition of their immense natural beauty and recreational value. In 1824!

Hey, that was much less than half a century since the Colony of New South Wales was set up by Governor Phillip’s First Fleet – proof, surely, that preservation of wilderness is dear to the human heart. There’s evidence of it from ancient Greece, and from the feudal Middle Ages when barons and kings reserved tracts of forest, forbidding the peasants to enter but themselves hunting on horseback.

Yes, there were “preservationists” among the early colonists. But before them, the Aborigines were committed protectors of the green environment. Indeed the Diarists of the First Fleet tell that Aborigines gathered in anger when Phillip’s sailors began chopping down Kurnell’s trees for firewood: they muttered in protest and “made rude gestures” – here was the very first green protest of the modern era! The bush was sacred to them; it owned them; whereas Phillip installed private ownership of the bushland and shores that they had traversed for thousands of years.

UNESCO’S 35th Heritage Meeting

In June, UNESCO has scheduled its 35th meeting to judge 42 worldwide nominations for Earth’s most significant cultural sites. Already, the World Heritage List covers “more than 900 castles, walled towns, derelict ironworks, ravines, bays and rainforests”.

Perhaps our nomination of Royal National Park will be on the agenda of the 36th meeting.

Australia’s “geoheritage” needs attention

Our First National Park executive was pleased to be invited to a July national meeting of the Geological Society at Sydney University. What a keen bunch! Geology has a way of inspiring dedication.

They’d come together from the states to achieve “a national framework” which would have lobbying power with Governments to promote “an inventory-based assessment of heritage sites” – of Australia’s “geoheritage”. Our spokesperson Bob Crombie was received warmly when he appealed for reports on the rocks and soils of our famous Park – good things will eventuate!

Gondwanan heritage in Royal

All the attendees spoke glowingly of Dr Mary White’s The Greening of Gondwana (Reed), the large format, brilliantly illustrated book that tells the 400 million year story of how life, which appeared first in the oceans, struggled onto the barren land and slowly evolved to give us the varied flora that delights us today.

Gondwana and Mary’s later Time In Our Hands (i.e. rocks) are the solid bases of today’s geology and floral heritage.

Mary’s huge contribution

Having written seven big internationally-selling books, Mary wanted to help preserve wilderness within reach of Sydney. A long search led her to the three “Brothers” mountains back of Laurieton.

She bought nearly a hundred hectares on Middle Brother Mountain (only 5km off Pacific Highway). There she established Falls Forest Retreat, good for a trip or holiday or for school or tertiary seminars. Or comfortable accommodation from which to access this wonderland of unspoiled rainforest, bushwalks, waterfalls, a flowing river, and kangaroos, wallabies and birdlife galore. She has covenanted all this to save it when she departs. Ring 6556 5000

The Campaign for Royal’s Recognition Keeps Widening

We are surprised! Even we who are in executive position in the campaign for World Heritage Listing of Royal National Park keep being surprised – at times astonished – as research into early NSW’s history reveals very early moves to preserve wilderness areas in the colony founded in 1770.

Unexpected enlightenment! It prefigures the modern environmental movement which is usually dated from the late 1960s. For instance, in 1824, half a century before our National Park was proclaimed (in 1879), the Bundanoon Gullies in the Southern Highlands were reserved in recognition of their immense natural beauty and recreational value.

Melbourne and Canberra Take an Interest

We were pleased in early June to be asked by Melbourne’s Age and the Canberra Times to receive both a journalist and a photographer to visit Royal National Park in order to do a story on the new Greens Senate MP Lee Rhiannon, who will transfer to Canberra in July after a decade as Greens leader in the NSW Parliament.

Lee, while photos were taken of the Hacking River flowing through the Park, pledged full support in the National Parliament for our Listing objectives. She, a botanist by profession, expressed keen interest in our view that success for Royal should lead to its extension to many areas of the Sydney Basin (e.g. Kuring-Gai, Dharawal, Dharug, Woronora Plateau, Yengo, and more).

Our spokesperson, Bob Crombie, declared: “The Sydney Basin has been absurdly fragmented by sporadic urban development. We must strive for its healing – its integration of sorts – by at least securing effective wildlife corridors between surviving green areas.”

Great News on Dharawal

As if in confirmation of this healing view, a fortnight later, the Leader newspaper (16.6.2011) reported a visit by new Environment Minister Roybn Parker, who committed herself “passionately” to a “Dharawal National Park” in the near future and also to community consultation which could extend this Park to worthy contiguous areas.

Longtime secretary of the Georges River Environment Alliance Sharyn Cullis, applauded the minister’s promise and saw this new Park as linking Royal to the Blue Mountains National Park.

Meanwhile Let’s Enjoy Our National Park

In May, Sydney’s Sun-Herald (29.5.2011) called on Sydneysiders to “get out…” cross Port Hacking on the Cronulla to Bundeena ferry and thence choose bushwalks along the coastal track for “some of the most incredible cliff-top views you will ever see… start with the walk to Marley Beach, have a picnic and walk back. The round trip takes about three hours.”