Why Is Wildlife Still Disappearing?

Thoughtful Australians are asking: Why are we still losing wildlife despite having more national parks and other reserves [“parks”] than ever before?

Research at the National University suggests that a major reason is that the parks are in the wrong places. Wrong? How?

Parks in Residual Areas

Too many parks are in residual areas – that is, in areas deemed unlikely to be profitable for human business of farming, logging, mining.

So wildlife is driven to forage on land that is relatively poor in nutrients and in nesting places. Similarly, marine parks are being opened to fishing, with consequent loss of fish-diversity.

Cities rapidly expand

Cities and large towns are expanding in every country, putting pressure on nearby countryside and its dependent wildlife. By 2030, two-thirds of Earth’s people will live in cities – with Australia one of the most urbanised of all.

In just three and a half decades the world’s cities will swell by 2.5 billion people!

As alarm at this prospect spreads, some people are calling for “re-wilding” measures to preserve and enhance natural habitat; others for “bewildering”, a broader concept, which means making provision for combined people’s and wildlife’s well-being.

“Re-wild” or “Bewilder”

As Bob Crombie explains, bewildering is “planting appropriate vegetation, removing rubbish, obstacles and weeds, and creating and enhancing habitat wherever we can, thus facilitating the process of allowing other species to live with us in our backyards, suburbs, cities, industrial areas and rural areas, and creating healthy surrounds for people.

We need to preserve old trees, for they have natural hollows that provide homes for many birds and animals. (It can take a tree 120-200 years to create hollows suitable for wildlife.) About 350 species use hollows for roosting or nesting.

A kind of religious faith

Bob Crombie has been a park ranger for many years; later, a TAFE lecturer in environmental management. He is a leader of the successful campaign for World Heritage Listing by UNESCO of Royal National Park. He recently observed:

“Royal National Park was a big part of my childhood and its wildness is a voice that never stops whispering. Wildness enters your pores by osmosis, and once it’s under your skin, good luck forgetting. The wild haunts the imagination, calling you back to places of vast sky and ever changing light, where solitude hunts for you and the edges of the world get ragged. These empty spaces are mirrors; they reflect back everything of yourself. They are teachers too, of a thousand lessons beyond anything our hands have made. Out there, time stops walking and takes on different hues, a bewildering experience.

“Royal National Park is recognised by the IUCN as a great treasure, one of the world’s great urban national parks entirely within and part of the great cities of Sydney and Wollongong. How fortunate we are.

“Nasho filled my being with the joy and mystery of living; it gave me reverence for all life and helped me to create a kinship with it where there is a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all. It was a great place to touch the Earth and feel the Sun and Moon. Nasho was a great library and its books were the flowers, the trees, the rocks and streams that spoke in quiet voices whenever I had the presence to listen. I truly learned to do what only the student of Nature learns and that is to wonder. No need to rail at the storms, wind, rain, cold, ticks and leeches. It was all one.”


What sort of a National Park do we want?

Nature's revenge

by Gary Schoer, Secretary, Southern Sydney Branch of National Parks Association of NSW

My wife, Bronlyn, suggested to me the other day that we, perhaps still hanker after a Royal National Park we might have enjoyed 40 years ago, and with increasing demands on it from a growing city we might have to adjust our vision somewhat.

We now live in an era when forces with different values have enunciated that more of our tracks should be dedicated to more active pursuits such as mountain  bike riding; that the great Cliffline of the Coastal track should be protected from inappropriate risk-taking activity by erecting more fences; and where some of our precious bushland might be sacrificed for yet more parking  as cars crowd the National Park’s main roads to counter full carparks adjoining natural magnets  like Wattamolla. We are a tourist icon despite not having the recognition factor of the Three Sisters. Social media, changes to the National Parks Act to include tourism as a core function of the National Parks Estate and demands for increased tourism to be a government-endorsed contributor to the economy have helped to erode those intuitive values that our members were fighting for 40 or 50 years ago. Royal National Park is seen through different lenses. What is the counter to these more conservative forces within both our government and its on-ground managers? Education directed at our decision makers is one  such approach.

Take the current debates about mountain bikes in Royal National Park. National Parks association members over ten years ago participated in a sort of democratic working party that came up with the idea of trialling a few single-track routes behind Loftus. A full, public evaluation of these tracks never took place. Instead the biking fraternity was basically asked what it wanted and where prior to the issue going before the general publis as an “Issues paper” leading up to a revised plan of management. This generous nod to a single interest group followed years of a growing use of  tracks not on the current plan of management and forging of routes where no bike should ever go, including one track where a metal sign advising that biking was not allowed due to endangered plants by the trackside…long since vandalised and replaced with a Mountain biking sticker where only the pole remains. Tracks have been claimed with signs screwed into trees and emblazoned on rocks …christened by the new caring user-group with names such as “Nature’s Revenge”.

We sent the evidence to management personnel, and now after  a lot of education about what is really happening on these public lands, there are signs, at least, of some de-branding of illegal track claims. Will we see closure? Call it lobbying, public embarrassing or whatever suits, but I like to think that, once educated about the scale of what we see as abuse of conciliatory “trials”, decision makers have no choice but to act. NGOs have been forced in the past to legally challenge unjustifiable “adaptive management practices” that are an excuse for pressures often seen as insurmountable. We don’t see it that way. Sticking to the core values of our National Parks estate is something that can’t be compromised, as we are forced to educate others about what is really happening on our abused natural lands.

Gary at Eagle Rock

At the next meeting of NPA and Sutherland Shire Environment Centre representatives  with Royal National management, we will be enunciating how education of all walkers near the spectacular clifflines of Royal National park does not have to extend to putting barriers at scenic magnets along the way. The so-called “Wedding Cake Rock” near Marley has attracted one person so close to the edge that he risked far too much and ended up falling to his death. Could he have been saved by a barrier? Might he have considered repeated signs on the track as to the dangers of cliff edges, any less than an atual “barrier”. The ultimate extension of engineered solutions to such tragedies might be near 20 km of fencelines along arguably one of the most spactacular coastal walks in the world. We will be ununciating the collective wisdom of NPA executive gleaned from over 100 collective years of walking this route to advocate an alternative to a heavy handed approach. Regrettably, management is sometimes bound by recommendations of coroners, but is a heavy-ended approach going to be any better than alternatives sometimes not fully explored. We wish to be an alternative, educated voice in decision-making about how to manage our public lands.

I can’t remember how many years NPA has been advocating a shuttle bus service to places like Wattamolla. I DID manage to get a car park at Wattamolla one sunny day a few weeks back to accompany some overseas visitors to eagle Rock, 3 km away. I was shocked to see the number of cars parked on the main route through Royal National Park when visitors found the car park full…a three km walk was required to reach Wattamolla. The unofficial car park on Bertram Stevens Drive was both an eye sore and potential traffic hazard. And NPWS was not able to collect car parking fee. So, will the discussion paper on Wattamolla suggest that more bushland will be cleared to accommodate more paying customers. Or will genuine, less energy-intensive alternatives be suggested alongside other solutions to elicit a genuine public conversation? Royal National park Management will be in no doubt about our expectations after an educative and respectful conversation with them.

It is all to easy to roll with the punches when we see compromises being made in how our public lands are managed. But groups like National Parks Association and the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre will continue to suggest that the Emperor has no clothes when we see compliant behaviours favouring a new natural order of things. All of us who wonder about what we are seeing happening in our National Parks could do a lot worse than challenge the status quo in informed, educative ways that reflect values much deeper than those which have slowly but surely allowed more soil to be lost, more cars to dominate, and engineered blots on the landscapes erected to “look after” our well-being.

I shall be informing Bronlyn that MY values have not changed compared to 50 years ago. The natural world needs champions more than ever.


Tribute from America for our NATIONAL PARK – the first ‘NATIONAL’ ever!

It’s from Lance Richardson, a New York-based writer who’s currently working on a book about Wolves and Wilderness. He’s Australian-born and knows our Royal National Park. In a long article (SMH, 25.4.15) he says, “I try to imagine Australia without the national parks. This takes quite an effort, because there are more than 500 of them.” [More likely, over 700 parks and wilderness areas. BW]

Richardson relevantly quotes the father of the American environmental movement, John Muir (1830-1914), who said that as the American frontier began to vanish, “Thousands of tired nerve-shaken, over-civilised people began to realise that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

Here are a few of Richardson’s tributes:

  • “Anybody who has ever walked the 26-kilometre coast track from Bundeena to Otford knows this is one of Sydney’s best treasures, a sublime stretch of sandstone crags and lonely surf-caressed beaches.”
  • Without the Parks, “we would lose: places to walk, to picnic, to fish, to ride bicycles, and horses; places to spend time with family and practise camping skills; places to be alone; places for native flora and fauna to flourish in peace.
  • “Wilderness is part of [Australians] national identity, the ‘bush’ and the ‘outback’ landscapes so typified by wilderness, continue to hold a central place in Australians’ culture” – they love national parks and wilderness areas because they need them, as a photo album reminds us of how we have evolved.

An Australian Perspective

The Australian ecologist Bob Crombie suggests we write to Lance Richardson, appreciating his article while at the same time differing at a couple of points.

“Lance, our National Park was established completely independently. We didn’t ‘pilfer’ the idea form the establishment of America’s Yellowstone Public Park, May 1872, an action intended only to bring that park under federal jurisdiction. Australians are proud of the fact that our National Park was named as such in 1879. (‘Royal’ was added in 1955, following Queen Elizabeth’s visit.)

“And our 1879 ‘National Park’ was the first protected area in the world to be set aside ‘for the purpose of a national park’, a point agreed to by Yellowstone Library and Museum when Yellowstone celebrated its centenary in 1972. Thus we are entitled to say, our National Park was A GREAT WORLD FIRST! We like to summarise this story as:

Five distinctions of the first National Park:

  1. Earliest. Established 1879, less than 100 years after foundation of Sydney. (“Royal” added in 1955 after visit in 1954 of young Queen Elizabeth.)
  2. First. 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, “national” coming later.)
  3. Urban. Royal is the only substantial National Park in the world that is wholly contained within a city (Sydney).
  4. Diverse. Royal offers an incredible variety of abundant flora, fauna, landforms.
  5. Attractive. Royal attracts more visitors each year – 4 million and rising – than any other site, including Uluru, Kakadu, and the Great Barrier Reef.

A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

The holding of the Sixth World Parks Congress in Sydney from 12-19 November presented First National Park with a once in a life time opportunity to put the case for World Heritage listing of the Royal Reserves to a huge international conservation audience. Of the total 5,600 delegates 3,400 were from overseas and from 168 countries in the World.

The particular significance of the World Heritage quest of the Royal reserves to the Congress was that Royal National Park (formerly ‘National Park’) was the very first place in the world to be reserved for the new land protection purpose of ‘national park’. It establishment in 1879 was in no way connected with or inspired by the reservation of Yellowstone Public Park in 1872 where the name of ‘National Park’ was given to it to make it clear to all that it was under federal jurisdiction.

Our aim at the Congress was to interest the delegates, including those from Australia, in learning more about the history of the area and its natural attributes and, of course about its significance to what is arguably the most important conservation innovation in human history –  the world-wide national parks movement.  We used three main ways of attracting the interest of the delegates and providing them with information. First, our stall at Audley was visited by many of the 90 delegates who took part in a Royal National Park excursion on Sunday 16 November.

On that same day we also had a stall at Olympic Park at an event called Planetfest.

The third method was the presentation at the Congress the following day of an E-Poster entitled ‘Filling two big gaps in the World Heritage List: Australia’s role’. In addition to putting the case for listing of the Royal Reserves this paperless presentation also makes the case for the filling of an equally important World Heritage gap – Antarctica. You can access this poster here. (Click “Search for a poster”, then use the presenter name “Mosley”.)

Tools for the spreading of our information including several pamphlets, our book The First National Park A Natural for World Heritage, and specially prepared T.shirts emblazoned with ‘Naturals for World Heritage Royal National Park Heathcote National Park and Garawarra State Conservation Area’.

If you have read this post and you or a friend would like more information please contact us on 9528 0444 or by email.


Some Supporting Organisations and Eminent Individuals

NSW State Government and Opposition parties
Sutherland Shire Council – unanimous support
Wollongong Council – unanimous support

Australian Conservation Foundation
Bob Brown Foundation
Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd
Conservation Council of South Australia
Conservation Council of Western Australia
Foundation for National Parks and WIldlife
Geological Society of Australia
Linnean Society of NSW
National Trust
Nature Conservation Council
National Parks Association of New South Wales (+ Sydney and Southern branches)
Royal Botanic Gardens and National Herbarium
Royal Zoological Society
Tourism and Transport Forum
Total Environment Centre
Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia Ltd
World Wildlife Fund Australia Ltd

The Right Hon. Bob Carr – former Premier of NSW
The Right Hon. Malcolm Fraser AC – former Prime Minister of Australia
The Hon Mike Baird, MP – Treasurer, Minister for Industrial Relations and Premier of NSW
Jack Mundey


World Significant Event comes to Sydney – and to the Royal! And to Sutherland 12 October!

Truly, a stroke of good fortune!

IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, will hold its next, once-in-a-decade Congress in Australia in November. In fact in Sydney.

That’s exciting! And now there’s news that the NSW Government, joined by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, has booked the Pensioners Centre in Sutherland to present “The World Heritage Values of Royal National Park”. On 12 October between 2.30pm-4.00pm.

Not to be missed! A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Shire residents.

Our Local Efforts Are Now Augmented

For nearly five years, Shire people have campaigned for World Heritage Listing of the Royal. Our First National Park movement has researched the Park’s values and sought publicity and friends. We have especially promoted “Five Distinctions of Australia’s First National Park”:

  1. Earliest Park. Established 1879, less than 100 years after foundation of Sydney. (“Royal” added in 1955 after 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 in the world 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 Australian site, including Uluru, Kakadu, and the Great Barrier Reef. Its value to tourism is huge.

We are proud to have helped Sutherland Shire Environment Centre to publish the magnificent 240-page book by Dr Geoff Mosley, The first National Park, A Natural for World Heritage.  It will be on display on 12 October, along with the Linnean Society’s Field Guide to Royal National Park.

* ‘Correction: Please note with regard to the item of 12th October on the website concerning Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks this should  have read “Yosemite became a public park under the control of the State of California in 1864 and a national park under federal control later.  Yellowstone became a public park under federal control and with the name ‘Yellowstone National Park’ in 1872.


Which was the world’s First National Park?

When people try to find the answer to the question of ‘which was the world’s first national park?’ the obvious approach is to compare the dates of their establishment. Hence we have Yellowstone National Park established in 1872 and Royal (as ‘National Park’) in 1879.

The fact is though that in these two instances ‘national park’ was used to mean two different things as follows:

1) In the case of Yellowstone the term was used to mean that unlike the earlier park at Yosemite, which was granted by the US Congress to the State of California in 1864 it was to be a park under federal jurisdiction (there were no States at Yellowstone to grant the land to and two of the territories in which the land was located were vying for its control). Similarly there was no general legislation under which it could have been established, hence the special Act of Congress under which it was set aside;

2) In the case of what is now Royal National Park the term ‘national park’ was used to indicate a new type of land use. It was set aside under general New South Wales legislation (The Crown Lands Alienation Act, 1861) providing for the establishment of reserves on public land;

3) So, whereas the land in Yellowstone National Park had been set aside in 1872 as “a public park or pleasuring ground”, the land at National Park/Royal National Park was set aside in 1879 “for the purpose of a national park”. Both parks were given a name that included the words ‘National Park’.

So, the more accurate answer to the question we have posed is that both Yellowstone and Royal were first in different ways. At Yellowstone ‘National Park’ was used to indicate federal control and at Royal ‘national park’ was used to indicate a new form of land use on public lands. It is interesting to note that this difference was understood by Yellowstone in 1972 when it celebrated its centenary. In the centenary publication Yellowstone a Century of the Wilderness Idea the book makes the point that the first time the words national park were used in the land use sense described above was at Royal National Park. As the national park systems spread out across the US, Australia and the world both Yellowstone and Royal played an inspirational role and it is regrettable, that, applying the US concept of a national park as one requiring federal control (or control by the highest authority in the nation), the importance of the Australian innovation and subsequent record of achievement has sometimes been not properly understood.

We hope that has answered your curiosity about this matter but if you would like to delve further into the history of the establishment of these two important parks you can find more in The First National Park A Natural for World Heritage published by the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre in 2012 www.ssec.org.au


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)

Promotional pamphlet for World Heritage Listing of the Royal Reserves

The White Pointer, Wattamolla

World Heritage Listing for

Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park and

Garawarra State Conservation Area.

A campaign by First National Park supported by the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre.

First National Park supported by the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre is campaigning for the world heritage listing of Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park and Garawarra State Conservation Area.

These three magnificent reserves, the Royal Reserves, are contained with the Cataract subregion of the Sydney Basin Bioregion (SBBR), which is itself of world heritage significance on a par with the South West of Western Australia and the Cape Floral Region and Namakwaland of South Africa. The most compelling attraction of the three reserves Royal, Heathcote and Garawarra is their outstanding biogeodiversity developed within the landscapes created by the geology of the Hawkesbury Sandstones, Narrabeen and Wianamatta rocks and Quaternary Alluviums, a true hotspot in the SBBR and arguably its most outstanding exemplar.

Our view is that the SBBR should also be nominated for world heritage listing allowing for many reserved areas such as Dharawal, the Greater Blue Mountains, Yengo, Marra Marra, Maroota, and Ku-ring-gai Chase to be listed as well, as outstanding reserved samples of the SBBR. The Greater Blue Mountains (GBMWHA) already has listings for world heritage, however, these need expanding to incorporate the outstanding features of the ecology of the SBBR. Once this is achieved, then the other reserves in the Sydney Basin can put forward their case for listing as additional reserved samples. The Royal Reserves would certainly apply for world heritage listing on this basis. However, this will take some time and is dependant upon the additional listings for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

We believe that the Royal Reserves have a stand alone case to be considered for world heritage listing which we will make in our report to the NSW government. The best prospects for the Royal Reserves as a stand alone WH nomination appear to be with regard to selection criterion (vi) contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance; and as an associative cultural landscape.

Please support our nomination for world heritage listing by loving and caring for these reserves and actively protecting them against all destructive influences.

Unique and significant features of Royal National Park, Heathcote National Park and Garawarra State Recreation Area

The following is the basis of our report to the NSW Government recommending the Royal reserves for WHL.

  • Royal is one of the first national parks in the world either first, second, third or fourth with Yellowstone, Yosemite and Mackinac depending up the criteria chosen. Royal was the first reserve dedicated as a national park.
  • Beginnings of the conservation movement in Australia and highly significant in the development of the conservation and national park movements in the world.
  • Conserves excellent samples of our early heritage values, e.g. Audley boatshed, Audley gardens and picnic grounds, Audley shelter sheds and other buildings, the bus-stop tree, shacks and YHA hostel, Scientist’s Cabin precinct including the cleared area, the saw pits and the boiler, parts of Forest Island walk; Lady Carrington Drive, Jersey Springs
  • Royal and Heathcote were very important in the development of the wilderness concept in Australia and the world.
  • Part of Sydney and has the capacity to lead the world movement to integrate wildlife with urban, industrial and rural areas.
  • Outstanding opportunities for healthy re-creation in natural surrounds
  • Outstanding opportunities to provide resources for environmental education
  • Rich Aboriginal heritage of the Dharawal People.

The following information will support our claim:

  • Location for many scientific types/reference species.
  • Outstanding examples and great diversity of scleromorphy.
  • Ecodiversity – great and varied assemblage of ecosystems across the landscape, including a number of rare communities, on Hawkesbury Sandstones, Narrabeen Series, and Wianamatta Series rocks and Quaternary alluviums. This stems from its geographic location and very diverse range of physiographic, geologic, edaphic, climatic, fire, ecotonal and boundary transitions, and human influences coupled with the unique evolutionary and biogeographic history of Australia. This has resulted in a diversity of flora and fauna, which is amongst the worlds richest (notably plants, frogs, reptiles birds, and butterflies and molluscs). It ranks on a par with the South Western Australian region, and the Cape Floral Region, and Namakwaland of South Africa especially when considering it as a representative sample of the Sydney Basin Bioregion. Wonderful rare and significant upland swamps.
  • The relict clifftop dunes between Jibbon and Burning Palms. These are amongst the most extensive and best preserved examples in the state of aeolian coastal dunes formed during the Holocene sea level changes (Pye and Benson, 1984). These may have additional complexity due to the modern aeolian deposition (Howard, 1981).They occur at Bundeena and Jibbon and on to Marley, Wattamolla south headland, Curracurang, Garie Headland, Garie, Little Garie, North and South Era and Burning Palms.
  • Many unique examples of co-evolutionary processes, e.g. various interesting and unique pollination processes such as Chiloglottis orchids and their pollinating wasps, various other orchids and their pollinators, flowers and honeyeaters, banksias and their pollinators such as bush rats, pygmy possums, and birds, and jewel beetles as pollinators; concerted flowering and availability for pollinators; bird, wasp, beetle, fly, moth, butterfly, bat, possums and bush rats pollinated flowers; mycorrhyzal associations; trigger plants; plant defense mechanisms, e.g. glands on wattles and their ant defenders; seed dispersal mechanisms using special animal vectors, e.g. ants and elaiosomes, sticky fruits of Pisonia; wattles, etc.
  • Many unique, unusual, outstanding examples of adaptations of organisms to their environment
  • Great and significant geodiversity especially the coastal weathering of the Hawkesbury Sandstones and the geologic features of the Woronora Plateau. The sea caves between Curracurang and Curracurong are excellent and well-preserved samples of marine weathering along joints and dykes.
  • Over 1300 plant species including a number of rare species, a very large number for a temperate area and one of the highest temperate area diversities in the world
  • Gigantic lignotubers of bloodwood Eucalyptus gummifera and yellow-topped mallee ash Eucalyptus leuhmanniana with a single plant often covering quite large areas
  • One of the most diverse places in Australia for bird diversity more so when coupled with Sutherland Shire, which has a greater diversity than the world renowned Kakadu National Park, notably perching birds (Passiformes) especially honeyeaters (Meliphagidae).
  • The Jibbon lagoons are an important place for paleaobotanic pollen studies
  • Additional to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area
  • A representative sample of the Sydney Basin, which we believe is worthy of World Heritage Listing as well – coastal aspect. (Subdivide the Cataract subregion into Royal subregion containing all the land north of Stanwell Tops and Cataract subregion to contain the reminder.)
  • Outstanding and highly diverse scenery

Eagle Rock; Garie Headland; Wattamolla Lagoon; Curracurrang inlet and pool; coastal cliffs beaches and lagoons; estuaries of Port Hacking, Cabbage Tree Basin, and South West Arm; heathlands, woodlands, forests and rainforests; outstandingly beautiful rock outcrops especially along the coast, Flat Rock and the Moss Gardens; The Palm Jungle; Werrong; Tounoom Brook, falls and valley; Bola Creek; Uloola and National Falls; Uloola Creek cascades; Crystal Pools; Figure Eight Pool, Walker’s Garden; Robertson’s Roundabout tracks; Kangaroo Creek.


Report to the Director DEP on Helensburgh fro discussion at Urban Planning and Development Committee Meeting 1985



Report to:            The Director,

Department. of Environment and Planning

For:                        Discussion at Urban Planning Development Committee Meeting, February


Impact of Proposed Urban Development of Helensburgh and its Surrounds upon Nature Conservation Values in the area.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

9 January 1984

Prepared by Acting Chief Ranger

Bob Crombie


A quick note about this report.

This report was prepared as a result of a telephone request from Percy Wyles of the Department of Environment and Planning to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Acting Chief Ranger Bob Crombie on, according to the date on the report, 9th January 1984 to supply information about the proposed urban development of Helensburgh that could be used in the planning process and presented at an Urban Planning Development Committee meeting to be held in Wollongong and scheduled for early February 1985. Bob Crombie had less than 4 days to prepare the report and it was a presented in person on the deadline hour in Wollongong. There was not time to type the material and it was presented as a cut and past affair containing typed segments borrowed from the report, “IMPACT OF HELENSBURGH, OTFORD AND STANWELL TOPS ON THEIR SURROUNDING NATURAL ENVIRONMENT”, Bob Crombie, 30th March 1985, FILE M3/1, to the Dept of Environment and Planning for the study and comparison of urban development proposals for Helensburgh and West Menai, interconnected with additional handwritten segments, and all pasted sequentially on to foolscap sheets to make this report.

This typed digital report was prepared by Bob Crombie on 14th JULY 2010 from a photocopy of the original cut and paste report.

There is an error with the dates in these matters most likely on the 1984 dates document, which most likely should read ‘for discussion at the Urban Planning, development Committee meeting, February 1985; National Parks and Wildlife Service 9 January 1985; and “Prepared by Acting Chief Ranger Bob Crombie 9.1.85. This deduction was made on the basis of the confirmed date on the NPWS report “Impact of Helensburgh, Otford and Stanwell Tops on their Surrounding Natural Environment, 30th March 1984”. See the photocopy of the front page of the report on the next page.

This digital copy was made to ensure that copies of this valuable and historic document are available and can be generally distributed. The information it contains is still very relevant today.

Bob Crombie

14th July 2010

Photocopy of a photocopy of the front page of the original report.

TABLE OF CONTENTS            page number

(Note that the pagination refers to the page number in this document and not to that in the original report.)

Map Index            4

Synopsis            5

Recommendations            6

The Report            7

1.            Introduction            7

2.            The Study Area            7

2.1            Water Catchment            7

3.            Royal National Park            8

3.1            Conservation values of Royal National Park            8

3.2            Historical Perspectives and implications            9

4.            Significant Land-Use changes in the study area affecting

Nature Conservation            11

4.1            Historic and established changes            11

4.2            Recent Land-Use changes            12

4.3            Proposed land-Use changes            12

5.            Impact of Land-Use changes on Royal National Park            12

5.2            Isolation of Royal National Park            13

5.3            Effective population number            14

5.4            Wildlife corridors            15

6.            Water pollution in Royal National Park            16

6.1            The Hacking River and its tributaries            16

6.2            Urban runoff            17

6.3.            Sewer overflows            18

6.4            Animal drinking and living water            18

6.5            Accidents, negligence, etc., polluting waters            19

6.6            Involvement of NPWS in water quality control

activities            19

7.            Erosion and sedimentation            22

8.            Increased predation upon fauna by urban pets            22

9.            Fauna road kills            23

10.            Rare and endangered wildlife            23

11.            Increased recreational demand upon Royal National Park            23

12.            Dumping of rubbish            23

13.            Fire            23

14.            Unwelcome and unauthorized access to Royal National Park            24

15.            Environmental protection around Helensburgh            24

Four maps were attached at the end of this report. (NB The maps are not yet available.)

Map Index

All maps are attached at the end of this report.

Map 1

Hacking River Catchment

Map 2

-       Urban development areas acceptable to the Service (interim planning)

-       No urban development areas

Map 3

Distribution of major vegetation units in Royal National Park and southern wildlife corridors.

Map 4

Wildlife corridors connecting Royal National Park with Heathcote National Park, Woronora River Water Catchment Area and the Illawarra Escarpment.


Royal National Park and naturals lands of high conservational value lie within close proximity to or within lands proposed for rezoning and urban development around Helensburgh. The Service is concerned with many aspects of the proposed rezoning and urban development.

  1. The location of the proposed urban development;
  2. Destruction of land of high conservation value;
  3. Destruction of wildlife corridors contributing to the isolation of Royal National Park with its concomitant effects (e.g. local extinction of many species of wildlife).
  4. Destruction uncommon, rare and endangered wildlife species;
  5. Increased fire frequency to adjacent natural lands with its concomitant effects on wildlife;
  6. Protection of new urban developments adjacent to naturally vegetated lands from fire and the probable requirement of the N.P.W.S. to carry out increased fire [protection activities;
  7. Increased public visitation to Royal National Park to –

(a) areas already operating at capacity or beyond; and

(b) to an area of the park which is neither physically nor environmentally

suitable for such visitation;

  1. Intrusion into the park of domestic dogs and cats hunting fauna;
  2. Unwelcome and unauthorized access to Royal National Park by horse riders, motor cyclists, and four-wheel drive vehicle operators;

10.  The effects of urban runoff, sewer overflows and other water pollutions problems affecting the Hacking River and its tributaries;

11.  waste disposal problems;

12.  Erosion and sedimentation control during construction;

13.  View shed interference.


  1. A local environmental plan for the Helensburgh area should be prepared.
  2. Approval for all further urban development plans for Helensburgh area should npt be given until they have been submitted, considered properly and incorporated into a local environmental plan.
  3. Special attention should be given to the design of all new subdivision so that the principles of urban erosion and stormwater management are incorporated so as to minimize the environmental impact of urban runoff.
  4. Protection zoning measures should be applied to the lands marked as wildlife corridors on map 4.
  5. Further urban development, if it is determined as necessary, should be confined to area marked out in yellow on map 2.
  6. A special waste disposal strategy be developed for the Helensburgh area involving the removal of waste from the Hacking River Catchment.

Impact of the Proposed Urban Development

of Helensburgh and its Surrounds upon

Nature Conservation Values in the area.


1.            Introduction

1.1            It has come to the attention of the Service that large areas of land around the town of Helensburgh have been proposed for urban development.

It is of the opinion of the Service that this development if carried out without due consideration of the environment, would have a considerable detrimental impact upon important nature conservation values in the area and upon the Royal National Park, a nationally important, established land use.

1.2            Many factors need to be considered in the planning for this project so that the impact upon the important natural values of the area can be minimized. This calculus should be a basic part of the process underlying all policy decisions upon developments in the area.

1.3            To assist this planning, the Service has prepared this report.

2.            The Study Area

The area reported upon includes Otford, Stanwell Tops, Blue Gum Forest, Helensburgh, Helensburgh West, Lilyvale, Garrawarra Hospital and the lands surrounding these developments including Royal National Park.

2.11            Water Catchments

The study area is almost wholly contained within the upper catchment area of the Hacking River. A small area on the western edge drains into the M.W.S.D.B. Woronora Catchment Area, in the south into Hargraves Creek and into the sea at Stanwell Park and small portions drain into the sea in the east. (see map 1 Hacking River Catchment)

Major tributaries receiving runoff from developed lands include:

a)            The Hacking River itself

b)      Gill’s Creek

c)      Gardiner’s Gully

d)      Camp Gully Creek

e)      Garbage Tip Creek (drains the garbage tip and sanitary depot)

f)      Wilson’s Creek

g)      Cawley’s Creek

All of these creeks drain into the Hacking River, which then flows north through Royal National Park and out into Port Hacking in Sutherland Shire.

3.            Royal National Park

Royal national Park is immediately downstream of the area proposed for urban development and would receive its runoff water and wastes.

3.1            Conservation Values of Royal National Park

3.1.1            Royal National park is part of a statewide and National system of parks and reserves set aside to conserve outstanding scenery or natural features in an area.

3.1.2            These parks and reserves also:

  • Conserve viable populations of wildlife of an area
  • Conserve representative samples of a complete range of the state’s natural environments
  • Protect and preserve aboriginal sires and objects
  • Protect and preserve areas that are the sites of buildings, objects, monuments of events or national significance
  • Provide for the promotion of public awareness, understanding and appreciation of wildlife, National Parks and Culture conservation, and the importance of these to the overall qualities of people’s environment.
  • Proved for regulated appropriate use and enjoyment by the public consistent with the nature conservation objectives for the area.

Royal National Park itself conserves:

  • Representative samples of Hawkesbury Sandstone landforms, geology and soils
  • Representative samples of Narrabeen series landforms, geology and soils
  • Some samples of Wianamatta series of landforms, geology and soils
  • Representative samples of Hawkesbury Sandstone vegetal alliances and their associated animal life including:
  • A very complex mosaic of floristic assemblages on a scale from large to small with the assemblages frequently intergrading.

This is the reflection of the very varied assemblages of soil features (depth, structure, nutrition, etc.), drainage patterns, climatic patterns, salt spray accession, plateau dissection, altitude, aspect, fire histories and geographic location (on a biogeographic ecotone between a northern warm – temperate biota and a southern cool – temperate biota respectively with sub-tropical influences).

Communities include a variety of heathlands, woodlands, open forests and closed forests.

  • An excellent sample of the vegetation of the area now covered by the metropolis of Sydney.
  • Excellent samples of mallee heathland
  • Representative samples of Narrabeen series rock vegetal alliances and their associated animal life.

Communities include a variety of woodlands, open forests and closed forests.

The open forests are rich in arboreal mammals and contain excellent stands of very tall trees.

The closed forests (rainforests) are rich floristically and are a varied assemblage with considerable intergradations at the sub-alliance and alliance level. They are part of a spectrum of rainforests along the Illawarra Escarpment and Hacking River along many environmental gradients producing a complex and diverse array of forests of great scientific and ecological significance.

They represent the northern most limit and lowest altitude of these forests and they overlap between a northern warm temperate biota and a southern cool temperate biota with sub-tropical influences. This unique geographic and biological location produces many unique and important features in the rainforests in this area.

  • A rich variety of rare or endangered plants and animals
  • A biologically outstanding, varied and complex array of wildlife (described above) important ecologically, scientifically and educationally and for appropriate recreation.

This aspect is becoming increasingly important especially considering the immediate proximity of the park to major study centres in Sydney and Wollongong and the large populations in these cities.

It contains original references for wildlife for scientific study.

  • Lands recognized as having truly national significance as a series of recreational complexes in a natural or national park setting. In particular the Hacking River, creeks, inlets and coastal foreshores are of immense value for recreation.
  • Very large numbers of people use the park
  • The Hacking River as a wild river.
  • Aboriginal sites and relics of the Dharawal Tribe
  • Important historic and cultural relics and traditions.
  • A large tract of natural land exceedingly well placed in close proximity to and separating the large population centres of Sydney and Wollongong. This provides unique and very important scientific, recreational, educational and cultural opportunities for many people.
  • Important contributions to the economy and tourism in the Sutherland Shire.
  • The first national park in Australia and the second in the world.

As such, it holds a unique and important place in Australia’s history.

3.2            Historical perspectives and implications

3.2.1            Royal National Park was dedicated as the National Park in 1879as the first National Park in Australia and the second in the world. The park reserved a large, unalienated tract of natural land rich in natural resources and natural features very suitable for the preservation of nature “to show perpetually what Australian vegetation is capable of”, “as a place for recreation and enjoyment”, and as “lungs of Sydney” to purify its air and provide a place of healthful retreat for Sydneysiders.

3.2.2            At this time, the National Park was part of a vast tract of land continuous with the Illawarra Escarpment and coastal lowlands to the south, with the Water Board and Army Lands to the south and west and with large tracts of natural freehold and crown land to the north west.

3.2.3            This continuity ensured the survival of the wildlife n the park.

3.2.4            In 1934, the Garawarra Range was secured as a reserve for public recreation. This was added to the park in 1967.

3.2.5            Between 1970 and 1973 the National Parks and Wildlife Service investigated lands around Helensburgh and Otford and recommended acquisition and addition of these lands to Royal national Park. The areas recommended included the lands east of Helensburgh encompassing Herbert’s Creek, Gardiners Creek, Cedar Creek, Stuart’s Gully, and the lands north of Camp Gully Creek.

3.2.6            The process of acquisition was begun for these lands, however, an unfortunate clerical error resulting from the promotion and transfer of the staff member handling these matters, resulted in this process being sent into the files and consequently no further action was taken. The error was not discovered until 1982. Until this time, the management of the South Metropolitan District of the National Parks and Wildlife Service had been resting easy on this matter in the false belief that much of the land was secured for the Service and only awaiting release from objections raised by mining interests before it would be acquired and added to the park. The falsity of these beliefs and the error from which they resulted was not discovered until 1982.

3.2.7            Since 1982, the South Metropolitan District of the Service has initiated to “Natural Area Investigations” around Helensburgh. The first covering lands east and north of Helensburgh has been completed, however, its recommendations are not yet finalized. The second investigation covering the lands west and north west of Helensburgh is still in its early stages.

As a major part of these investigations, the District commissioned a study, “Vegetation of the Upper Hacking River Catchment”, which has been completed.

3.2.8            Over the years since its inception, and increasingly more so recently, considerable change in the land use of the lands neighbouring Royal National Park has occurred. There has been an increasingly number of urban, industrial and rural developments many of which have had a significant effect upon the park and its use.

3.2.9            Many established land uses in the area neighbouring the park require study and control as it is now recognized that they have had slow and steady accumulative impacts which have only recently become apparent. Further study will undoubtedly reveal the true extent of this problem.

3.2.10            Since 1975, State, Regional and Local Government planning requirements have changed considerably. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 has made it mandatory for the Service to fully appraise the potential impacts caused by its own projects. The Service will continue to appraise potential environmental impacts of proposals initiated by other authorities and persons which impact upon the Service’s responsibilities.

3.2.11            Royal national park has a Plan of Management which was adopted by the Minister in 1975. However, many important management issues that were not foreseen in 1975 now need specific planning and many others require much more detailed provisions than the 1975 Plan contained.

3.2.12            The appearance of these new issues has necessitated a review of the 1975 plan and the concomitant preparation of a new (draft) Plan of Management. This process of review of the Plan of Management will be an important task of the Park managers and it will be done at intervals of from 5 to 10 years. The review of the 1975 Plan and preparation of the new (draft) Plan is going on now.


4.1            Historic and established changes

4.1.1            Firewood cutting and logging of all lands in the Hacking River valley and tributary valleys south of Bola Creek with emphasis upon tall open forests and rainforests.

4.1.2            Firewood cutting and logging of all lands along the Woronora Ridge from Waterfall to Sutherland.

4.1.3            Establishment of Javan rusa deer populations over the entire study area.

4.1.4            Considerable alteration to all aspects of the fire regime over most of the area.

4.1.5            Fires burning rainforests and tall open forests following the aftermath of logging.

4.1.6            Introduction of exotic plants particularly lantana and Crofton weed.

4.1.7            Introduction of exotic animals particularly dogs, cats, foxes, pigs and deer.

4.1.8            Disease(s) affecting many marsupials in early 1900’s and dramatically reducing population levels of many species.

4.1.9            Construction of the Prince’s Highway.

4.1.10            Construction of the Illawarra Railway Line.

4.1.11            Urban and rural development of Otford, Stanwell Tops, Helensburgh, Waterfall, Heathcote, Engadine, Loftus and Sutherland.

4.1.12            Sydney urban rail link to Otford established.

4.1.13            Coal mining at Helensburgh – Metropolitan Colliery.

4.1.14            Coal waste disposal in Camp Gully Creek.

4.1.15            Helensburgh Garbage Tip and Sanitary Depot established.

4.1.16            Garrawarra Hospital established.

4.1.17            Strip mining for laterite on Woronora Ridge.

4.1.18            Sand and stone mining.

4.1.19            Mushroom farming.

4.1.20            Minor industrial development of Helensburgh, Heathcote, Engadine and Loftus.

4.1.21            Road and track construction throughout the area.

4.1.22            Establishment of various servicing easements and constructions.

4.1.23 Establishment of Flora Reserve on Camp Gully Creek.

4.2            Recent land-Use Changes

4.2.1            Upgrading and widening of the Prince’s Hwy.

4.2.1            In crease in traffic on the Prince’s Hwy.

4.2.3            Construction of the F5 Freeway from Waterfall to Wollongong.

4.2.4            Upgrading, widening and electrification of the Illawarra Railway Line with increased rail traffic.

4.2.5            Further urban and rural development.

4.2.6            Connection of sewer to Helensburgh from Waterfall.

4.2.7            Increase in the number of service easements and constructions.

4.2.8            Establishment of horse riding activities around Helensburgh and Otford.

4.2.9            Establishment of Kelly’s Falls Reserve.

4.2.10            Increased trail bike and 4WD vehicle activities on roads and tracks around Helensburgh.

4.2.11            Small acre farm development between Helensburgh and Otford.

4.2.12            Classification of the Waters of the Hacking River and its tributaries as Class “P”, Protected Waters, (Clean Waters Act).

4.2.13            Mapping of Protected Lands around Helensburgh (Soil Conservation Service).

4.2.14            Establishment of large horse-riding, horse holding companies with many horse-riding trips carried out through the bushland and illegally in Royal National Park.

4.2.15            Purchase of lands around Helensburgh by the Department of Environment and Planning for County Open Space.

4.3            Proposed Land-Use Changes

4.3.1            Increase in the size of the urban area of Helensburgh with a projected four-fold increase in population.

4.3.2            Further ‘rural’ development around Helensburgh.

4.3.3            Upgrading of water supply to the Helensburgh area.

4.3.4            Increased industrial development of Helensburgh.

4.3.5            Large scale urban development of Helensburgh area.

4.3.6            Proposal for development of Stuart’s Gully as a coal waste dump or alternatively the Garrawarra Hospital gravel pits.

4.3.7            Development of Helensburgh as the terminal station on the Sydney Urban rail Illawarra Line (imminent).

4.3.8            Increased recreational demand on Royal National Park.

5            Impact of Land-Use Changes on Royal National Park

5.1.1            The impact of the land-use changes surrounding Royal National Park has been consistently degrading to the natural environment and the environmental amenity of large areas of the park. Some changes have had a directly obvious effect upon the park, for example, the SRA electrification activities on the Illawarra Railway Line have contributed large loads of sediment to the Hacking River and its tributaries and caused great turbidity for often weeks at a time.

5.1.2            These sediment beds have been “fertilized” by nutrients from many sources e.g. Garrawarra Hospital, Otford, Mushroom farms, Helensburgh garbage tip/sanitary depot, and grown  massive weed infestations.

5.1.3            However, the impact of some of the changes are not immediately obvious and impose long term threats to many environmental values, with, in this respect, the most important change being the increasing isolation of Royal National Park

5.2            Isolation of Royal National Park

5.2.1            Royal National Park is becoming increasingly isolated from surrounding natural lands with which it previously had a continuous connection of natural vegetation.

5.2.2            Urban development, railway construction and upgrading, highway and freeway constructions, increased traffic on the transport services, rural and semi-rural developments with their tree clearances, construction of many roads and trails, construction of cleared service easements, and many other developments act as impermeable barriers to wildlife movement and have already isolated Royal National Park from the surrounding lands except for a few corridors of varying degrees of quality which are available fro movement of wildlife to and from the Park.

5.2.3            Royal National Park is approximately 15000 hectares in size and is a goodly sized reserve of natural land. However, a look at Map 3 (attached) will show that this 15000 hectares is not a continuous unit but is rather divided broadly into four major conservation units these being (A) a primarily woodland/low open forest unit, (B) a primarily heathland/low woodland unit, (C) a tall open forest/rainforests unit, and (D) a unit of vegetation influenced greatly by its littoral exposure, respectively with their associated animal life.

5.2.4            Consequently the effective conservation size of Royal National Park is largely dependant upon the size of these units rather than on the 15000 hectares as a whole.

5.2.5            The area of each of these compartments is such that it is entirely feasible for any one or more units to be catastrophically affected by fire, disease, drought, insect attack or other circumstances or combination of circumstances with disastrous results for the wildlife in them.

5.2.6            Many catastrophes are of natural occurrence and historically natural environments recover from catastrophes by recolonisation from small unaffected refuges if present and by migration of species back into the affected area from adjacent unaffected lands.

5.2.7            However, Royal National Park is being increasingly deprived of this natural environmental safeguard as a result of its increasing isolation by developments around its perimeter.

5.2.8            Units A and B have recently suffered catastrophic burning which, over a number of years, has affected up to three quarters of their area.

5.2.9            Unit C is the area under most threat as it is the smallest unit. It presently is continuous with forests outside of Royal National Park east of Helensburgh but these forests are proposed for urban and rural development and for mining purposes. The Service is presently investigating these lands as a matter of urgency for acquisition and addition to Royal National Park.

5.2.10            The integrity of Unit C has also been seriously compromised by logging and the intrusion of deer affecting recovery.

5.2.11            Therefore, throughout these lands to-day, the areas occupied by many natural habitats and the distributional areas of many species, are undergoing two types of changes:

(i)   Firstly, the total area occupied by natural habitats and by species adversely affected by humans is shrinking at the expense of human-made habitats and by species benefited by people;

(ii)   Secondly, formerly continuous natural habitats and distributional ranges of human-intolerant species are being fragmented into disjunctive populations.

These processes have important consequences for the future of natural habitats and human-intolerant species n the area.

5.2.12            The implications are:-

(i)   The number of species that the area will serve is likely to be an increasing function of the reserve’s area, in this respect, the areas of the conservation units and their integrity;

(ii)   The rate at which species go extinct in the area is likely to be a decreasing function of the reserve’s area or conservation units’ areas and their integrity;

(iii)   The relation between reserved habitat area and probability of a species survival is characteristically different for each species;

(iv)   Explicit suggestions can be made for optimal design and location of human development to minimize the impact of these intrusions upon habitats and species.

5.3            Effective Population Size

5.3.1   The effective population number must be taken into account and this is the minimum population size to which a species can fall if it is going to recover and recolonise an area and that will retain the original genetic diversity of the species, or a large fraction of it, in perpetuity and provide the genetic means fro continued evolution. It must take into account natural and human-induced fluctuation and be large enough to withstand the vicissitudes of fire, drought, disease, increased predation (dog, cat, fox, insect, deer, etc.), human collection, etc., or a combination of these. It is the lowest number that a population can fall to under these circumstances if the species is to survive.

5.3.2   Many species in Royal National Park have already suffered local extinction.  Grey kangaroo, wallaroo, potaroo, eastern quoll, tiger quoll, koala, rock wallaby, platypus and brown phascogale are some examples.

5.3.3   Many other species are threatened with local extinction. For example, pademelons, red-necked wallabies, pygmy possum, squirrel glider, greater glider, yellow bellied glider, mountain possum, coucal pheasant, emu wren, broad-headed snake, white beech, certain jewel beetles, and some orchids.

5.3.4   Many of the aforementioned locally extinct and threatened species are largely dependant upon the tall open forests and rainforests of conservation Unit C for their existence.

5.3.5   There is most likely reserved in Royal National Park, insufficient area of tall open forest and rainforest to maintain effective population numbers of some species particularly of the larger mammals. Even when the tract of County Open Space land north and east of Helensburgh is taken into account as it is effectively reserved land, a big question still exists. What is the minimum habitat size for the various species in Royal National Park necessary to maintain an effective population number? Already large proportions of whole conservation units have been affected by catastrophe with the fortunate opportunity for these areas to be recolonised from mildly affected or unaffected areas, but these opportunities are being foreclosed.

5.3.6   Over 50% of the rainforest and tall open forest in the Hacking River catchment is outside Royal National Park and subject to the threat of land clearances and various developments. If the integrity of these habitats and their continuity with Unit C of Royal National Park were lost, it can be reasonably predicted that many species dependant on these habitats in Royal National Park would be threatened with local extinction and this includes the plants as well as the animals.

5.3.7   Despite the very serious nature of this threat to Unit C, the same argument and logic applies also to the other units A, B, and D and consequently the same threat.

5.4            Wildlife Corridors

5.4.1   To safeguard the natural values of Royal National Park, wildlife corridors must be established between it and the neighbouring natural land units to mitigate against the isolation of wildlife in the Park and the fragmentation of the land into small natural units by allowing for the movement of species between the land units.

5.4.2   The official recognition and reservation of these corridors would be a very positive and constructive step towards protecting the valuable natural conservation values in the area against the effects of catastrophe, isolation and just as important but more insidious, the effects of slow, small accumulative impacts.

5.4.3   See Map 4, Wildlife Corridors around Helensburgh.

5.4.4   Royal National Park requires some form of recognized and preferably reserved continuity of natural lands with the M.W.S.D.B. catchment to the west and southwest to safeguard Units A and B.

5.4.5   Royal National Park requires some form of recognized and preferably reserved continuity of natural lands with the lands east of Helensburgh and the Illawarra Escarpment to safeguard Unit C.

5.5.6   The Service has determined that these same lands it has recognized as important Wildlife Corridors have enough intrinsic natural conservation value to be worthy of consideration for addition to Royal National Park in their own right.

6   Water Pollution in Royal National Park

6.1   The Hacking River and its tributaries.

6.1.1            The Hacking River is the major river system in Royal National Park. It, and its tributaries, receive drainage from many urban and rural developments around the perimeter of Royal national park and upstream of the park. Much of the upper catchment of the river is outside of the Park.

6.1.2            Accessibility to the Hacking River is good and swimming in its waters is, or rather was until recently, a popular activity. Boating in the backed up waters of Audley Weir is a very popular leisure activity. Picnicking along its banks at picnic areas along Lady Carrington Drive and Lady Wakehurst Drive are very popular activities and yet the river still maintains a tranquil, natural atmosphere. In a great many ways the creeks and Hacking River permeate the aesthetic, leisure and recreational potential of the Park.

6.1.3            The waters of the Hacking River catchment provide the drinking water and life support medium for many animals in the park.

6.1.4            The Hacking River and its tributaries are bounded for much of their length by communities very sensitive to environmental disturbance such as rainforests and tall open forests.

6.1.5            The Hacking River and its tributary streams are highly variable in flow and for periods may be stagnant, or slowly flowing, or flooding.

6.1.6            The waters of the Hacking River and its tributaries are classified Class “P” Protected Waters, according to the Clean Waters Act.

6.1.7            The Hacking River is being forced to receive wastes in increasing quantities from many land use changes within its catchment and these wastes are having a considerable detrimental effect upon the water quality for animal drinking, human contact, leisure and recreational use, and aesthetic appreciation. The river has very little assimilative capacity to absorb these wastes and they are released into it without any concern about the possible effects of these wastes on the environment. These wastes have seriously disrupted the Park management systems and involved them in time and money consuming control activities.

6.1.8            Large volumes of liquid wastes are an inevitable consequence of human settlement. The proper disposal of these wastes is a complex and costly exercise. If the upper catchment of the Hacking River is allowed to be developed further for rural and urban purposes, an increasingly large, up to massive discharge of liquids bearing wastes to the water environment must occur. There can be no possible expectation that wastes can be eliminated or that accidental, negligent or criminal acts will not occur, and that environmental damage will be avoided: the river and its tributaries must be degraded more as a consequence throwing an enormous on-going burden of cost (in weed control, river cleaning, wildlife management, etc.) onto the State and resulting in the degradation of a valuable community resource.

6.1.9            The present state of affairs has been allowed to develop without any say in the matter from those who suffer the most, the general public and the Royal National Park managers. It is only over the last two and a half years that the voice of these peoples has been raised and considered on these issues.

6.1.10            If “Helensburgh” develops further, who is going to determine an “acceptable” degree of water quality and ensure that it is gained by proper planning, construction and control, and who is going to share the associated costs of these necessary protective measures?

6.2            Urban runoff

6.2.1            The Hacking River and certain tributaries can expect massive increases in volume of ran water and associated waste discharge directed there from all sealed and street surfaces by gutters and street drains and from house and other roofs by pipes and man-made storm water drains. Although in proportion to the water volume the waste quantity may be small, it can nad does have major detrimental impacts on the quality and amenity of the receiving waters out of all proportion to the relative quantity of this waste matter and this impact is generally accumulative. Little is known about these flows and even less action is taken in modern Sydney developments with few exceptions, to control them. By their nature – being derived from rainfall across an area – they are extremely difficult to manage. Acquiring a special waste load through the sewering of man-made wastes from developed surfaces, the volumes and directions of flow depend on the basic factors of city layout design, road and building materials and human activity: they tie massive liquid waste flows intimately into town planning and development. What such controls will be planned in any of the new developments being prepared for action now and likely to increase the population of Helensburgh at least fourfold and expand the developed urban araea? Their lack of control will only vitiate other expensive management and control provisions and contribute to the degradation of many natural values.

6.2.2            Control of urban runoff and the nutritional aspect of waste disposal with respect to plant life are two very significant matters needed to be considered for this urban development immediately upstream of Royal National Park. These matters have not so far been controlled in Sydney, yet they would pose a considerable threat to the environmental qualities of a national natural resource.

6.2.3            Sydney’s approach to the management of urban runoff and nutrition treatment is based essentially upon the philosophy of disposal using waterways as a sink. This philosophy should not be accepted in this development.

6.2.4            Information is available upon urban erosion control and subdivision design which if used can minimize the impact of urban runoff.

6.2.5            Thorough consideration and adoption of the principles of urban erosion control and subdivision design to ‘minimize’ the environmental impacts would be better implemented through a local environmental plan.

6.3            Sewer Overflows

6.3.1            It is to be expected, too, that urban development in the upper catchment area will also enhance stormwater intrusion of sewer mains with added disruptions of the management and rising incidence of sewer overflows.

6.3.2            The variability of the rainfall has another important bearing on sewer overflows. The rainfall over the upper catchment is highly variable and it suffers from frequent brief periods of relatively heavy rain on a small number of days. These heavy ran periods will almost certainly contribute to regular overflowing of the sewers.

6.3.3            It is interesting to note that when the sewer line from Helensburgh to Waterfall was constructed, the National Parks and Wildlife Services was given no say in the planning of the route of the line And the location odf servicing points and sewer overflows, yet it was and will continue to be the Service which has and will bear the brunt of managing the problems associated with this lack of liaison and poor planning.

6.3.4            Sewer overflows particularly have been very poorly located with respect to environmental values and will significantly degrade the environment downslope of their location. Some have been located on natural ridge tops far from any natural water course to dilute and carry away waste.

6.3.5            The combined impact of the urban runoff and sewer overflow will be the constant accumulative degradation of the receiving lands and waters affecting amenity, human and animal health and many natural values.

6.4            Animal drinking and living water

6.4.1            It is generally forgotten that many animals must drink or live in the water in these creeks and that animals are just as prone to the effects of toxins and pathogens as people. We can certainly expect animal populations which drink or live in these waters to suffer periodic episodes of death and debility from poisoning or enteric illness in proportion to the amount of waste entering the waters. Turbidity is just as important in this respect for aquatic organisms as is toxins.

6.5            Accidents, Negligence, etc., polluting water

6.5.1            The chances of cataclysmic accidents occurring must also increase and these have been disastrous to animals downstream. All platypi and water rats (Hydronomys chrysogaster) were killed in Wilson’s Creek and the Hacking River in the mid 1970s as a result of a sulphuric acid spill on the Prince’s Hwy in the headwaters of Wilson’s Creek. Since then, no platypi have been seen anywhere in the Hacking River catchment. What impact this acid spill had on other forms of life is not documented or known.

6.5.2            As recently as December 1984, an accident occurred on the newly constructed Helensburgh to Waterfall Sewer Line resulting in release of sewage and fluorescin dye into Wilson’s Creek, a tributary of the Hacking River. It was reported to the N/P.W.S. that many crayfish and water creatures for 1½ kilometres downstream died as a result of this accident and NO SWIMMING – POLLUTED WATER signs stood for a long time at the Wilson’s Creek dam, a popular swimming hole.

6.5.3            In the late 1970s a phenyl spill occurred on the Prince’s Hwy on the north arm of Cawley’s Creek resulting in the death of many organisms. Dead eels were found as far away as Audley.

6.6            Involvement of the N.P.W.S. in costly and Time-Consuming Quality Control Activities

6.6.1            In March of 1983, the national Parks and Wildlife Service was in the process of preparing a declaration concerning the possible health hazard to people from the waters of the Hacking River if they came into contact with or drank these waters. Fortunately, the records rains and floods in the catchment area flushed the river out and lessened this threat. The major contributing factors to the problem were at the time, raw sewage and garbage tip leachate from Helensburgh tip and Sanitary Depot and raw sewage from Garawarra Hospital where in both instances, treatment processes had broken down and large quantities of raw liquid waste were released in nearby creeks. It took over 18 months for the Helensburgh Sanitary Depot problems to be repaired despite great pressure from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the garbage tip leachate problems are still being “worked on”. The S.P.C.C. has been negotiating with the Health Department for three years to repair the sewage treatment plant aat Garawarra Hospital and the National Parks and Wildlife Service is still waiting for a progress report on these negotiations.

6.2.2            These aforementioned pollution problems have had a considerably detrimental and permanent impact upon the Hacking. Their impact was greatly exacerbated by other phenomena affecting the river at the same time, these being a record drought where the Hacking River stopped flowing on three occasions with, at these times, the only liquid entering the river being the wastes from the Helensburgh Tip and Sanitary Depot, Garawarra Hospital Sewage Treatment Plant, Metropolitan Colliery Waste Water Treatment Plant and Otford Valley Mushroom Farm. At the same time, the S.R.A. Illawarra Railway Line Electrification activities and the M.W.S.D.B.  Helensburgh to Waterfall Sewage works were contributing massive sediment loads to the creeks and river, which silted up dramatically in places. In both these instances the National Parks and Wildlife Service had to battle for lengthy periods to gain control of theses problems and eventually the S.R.S. and the M.W.S.D.B had to emply Soil Conservation Officers to prepare erosion control plans and direct restoration and control works. Neither Reviews of Environmental Factors nor Environmental Impact Studies were carried out on these major engineering earthworks projects before they wer approved and no environmental safeguards were installed to protect against erosion and sedimentation until they were directed to.

6.6.3            However, the Hacking River and many of its tributaries have been irreparably damaged as a result of this coincidental set of circumstances. Photographs of the Hacking River at Red Cedar Flat in Royal National Park in 1979 show a flowing clear stream over rapids and a mix of coal wash and sand banks. People were happily swimming in the river. The banks were open and clear. Photographs of the same location in the 1981/82 show the whole river bed to be a weed choked swamp with no water channel ar all and the banks covered with a profuse growth of weeds. The bed of the river was a stinking, putrid mud.

6.6.4            A monitor of the weeds since then has shown them to be spreading downstream at a rate of 4 kilometres per year. The inevitability is that they will infect the whole length of the Hacking River and even the shores of the Hacking Inlet. These infestations will become the foci for the weeds to spread into the bushland surrounding. Coincidentally, the Hacking River traverses the Park through the natural communities least able to resist this threat, the tall open forests and the rainforests.

6.6.5            The coal waste dump in Camp Gulley Creek for Metropolitan Colliery has regularly polluted the Hacking River with sediments anad suspended particles. Black and grey sediments are spread the length of the river to Gray’s Point from its confluence with Camp Gulley Creek. Many minor collapses of the coal dump walls have occurred blackening the bed and water of the river for days on end. In the early 1970s a major collapse of one wall occurred and 10 000 cu m of coal waste was dumped into Camp Gully Creek to find its way into the Hacking River. The odl walls of the dump have still to be stabilized properly and the Metropolitan Colliery is preparing plans for this now. However, in time, the coal dump must continue to erode and suffer periodic slumps of varying proportions. The walls are so steep that this will occur purely as a result of natural processes.

6.6.6            Recently, Metropolitan Colliery has constructed a 3½ million dollar waste treatment plant to treat all the waters from their works (toilets, showers, cleaning yards, store depots, trucks, etc.) These have been a regular source of pollution. The treatment plant has reduced this pollution considerably but it has not removed nutrients from the waste, which are one of the most troublesome pollutants fro receiving waters.

6.6.7            Metropolitan Colliery has proposed the development of Stuart’s Gully south of Camp Gully Creek as the next site for a coal waste dump. Again, in the long term, such a dump must inevitably contribute black coal waste to the Hacking River.

6.6.8            The proposed dump is located in a most critical position in the middle of the wildlife corridor between Royal National park and the forests east of Helensburgh and the Illawarra Escarpment. The use of this gully would seriously disrupt the potential for movement of species to and fro in this area and significantly contribute to the isolation of Royal National Park.

6.6.9            One can reasonably predict that a result of further urban development of the upper catchment will be increased frequency and intensity of flooding downstream with their concomitant effects. The Audley Weir will be blocked on more occasions.

6.6.10            This litany of events gives the Service very real cause fro concern about not only the presence and degree of extra urban development within the catchment of the Hacking River but also about the construction of such developments, the controls and regulations placed upon them and the supervision and enforcement of these controls and regulations.

6.6.11            Even a perfunctory examination of the events will reveal that the Service spent most of its time and money fighting with other government departments in its efforts to carry out its mandate and protect valuable public resources from degradation by often illegal or at least highly questionable processes.

6.6.12            Waste disposal problems will also contribute to the degradation of the water quality. A proper waste disposal system will need to be developed particularly if extra garbage tips are proposed to be sited within the Hacking River Catchment. Already Wollongong Council is considering alternatives for its waste disposal strategy for the Helensburgh Area including proposals to site new garbage tips within the catchment.

6.6.13            The Service as the manager of the large area of land receiving water borne waste has a clear responsibility to protect its estate. How much will it be asked to bare by way of ongoing economic costs and environmental degradation from other people’s stormwater management?

7            Erosion and Sedimentation

7.1            A land capability study of the Helensburgh area would reveal the erosion potential to be variable between moderate and severe. This information coupled with the experience gained from other major earthworks in the area (S.R.A. Illawarra Railway Line Electrification, M.W.S.D.B. Sewer Line Helensburgh to Waterfall) would indicate that the threat of severe erosion episodes occurring during any earthworks in the area would be very real and unpredictable possibilities.

7.2            Very stringent erosion and sedimentation control measures would be necessary and strict supervision to enforce the application of these measures

7.3            A much higher sediment load and turbidity can be expected to occur after each rainfall episode and these will increase in proportion to the amount of development in the catchment.

7.4            A great increase in the runoff will occur resulting in more frequent and mre intense floods occurring. This will result in more scouring of the banks of the river all the way to Gray’s Point.

Already the combination of large sediment loads in the river affecting the flood levels have caused large scale erosion of alluvial banks covered by tall wet sclerophyll forest and rainforest on the Forest Island.

This scouring and disturbance which will result from this factor provides extra habitat for weed invasion especially fro lantana, privet and cassia.

8            Increased Predation Upon Fauna by Urban Pets

8.1            Another direct impact upon Royal National Park and surrounding bushland would result from increased predation upon fauna by domestic dogs and cats roaming from the new houses. Domestic dogs regularly hunt in Royal National Park, either singularly, in small groups, and sometimes in large packs. They travel large distances on these forays. Many dogs from Sutherland have been caught at Garie Beach and Era, a distance of 25 kilometres from their houses. Their habit is to chase anything that moves and they have even, although rarely, menaced and attacked people in the Park. The Service believes this increased predation may make a significant contribution to the reduction in population numbers of large mammals (e.g. wallabies and pademelons).

8.2            Domestic cats also make hunting forays into the Park from surrounding suburbs and may travel up to 6 kilometres into the Park in a night and return. Pygmy possums, classified as Endangered Fauna, are a prey species of the cat and many specimens have been deposited for show on floors and doorsteps around Heathcote put there by the household cat. Birds particularly are preyed upon.

9            Fauna Road Kills

9.1            Traffic through the Park would be expected to increase as a result of the urban development upon the Park’s doorstep. An increase in the number of animal road accidents and deaths would be expected as a result. For example, in May 1982, 15 swamp wallabies, 7 possums, 3 bandicoots, 3 cats, 3 foxes, 35 birds (including lyre birds, kookaburras, owls, wattlebirds), 4 snakes, 5 blue-tongues, 1 wombat, 5 deer, 3 rats and 7 other lizards were reported as killed on the roads in the Park and this record is not a complete record for that month. The proportion would be different for each month as the different animals begin their various movements.

10            Rare and Endangered Wildlife

10.1            A survey “vegetation of the Upper Hacking River Catchment” has revealed the locations of 9 rare plant species and 12 uncommon plant species on unreserved lands.

10.2            Rare animals are known to occur in the area. The results of a fauna survey of the area are not yet available.

10.3            Relict communities of high scientific interest occur in the area.

11            Increased Recreational Demand upon Royal National Park

11.1            An increase in population around Helensburgh would lead to increased visitation to Royal National Park for recreational purposes.

11.2            The recreational facilities in many parts of the Park are operating at capacity or overload now.

11.3            There is little opportunity for the Park managers to provide and service extra recreational facilities or to develop extra areas.

11.4            Much of these extra demands would be placed on a part of the Park which is least designed for and has the least capacity to handle extra recreational demands – the tall open forests and rainforests of the Hacking River along Lady Wakehurst Drive, the route along which most of these new park users would enter the park.

12            Dumping of Rubbish

12.1            Dumping of rubbish and garden refuse in the Park can be expected to increase. The dumping of garden refuse is a particularly detrimental activity, the full implications of which are poorly appreciated by the public. The spread of weeds and diseases as a result can be very difficult and costly to control. The Park is regularly used for disposal of garden refuse by some people. The impact of this sort of activity can be out of all proportion to the amount of waste deposited.

13            Fire

13.1            New urban areas adjacent to bushland would require protection from bushfires.

13.2            Bushland adjacent to new urban areas would be subjected to demands for hazard reduction especially for scheduled fires prescribed to reduce fuel.

13.3            The frequency of fires in these areas would increase.

13.4            The altered fire regime of the area would alter the wildlife populations.

13.5            Protection of new urban areas adjacent to bushland from bushfires will need to be seriously considered.

13.6            Proper planning, location and design of new urban areas adjacent to bushland can minimize the risk from bushfires and reduce the need fro hazard reduction fires.

13.7            The Service is concerned about the location and design of the new urban areas because it could be involved in much extra work managing its areas so as to protect the urban areas from fires coming out of the Park.

14            Unwelcome and Unauthorized Access to Royal National Park

14.1            Royal National Park can be subjected to an increase in unwelcome and unauthorized access proportional to the increase in adjacent populations – motor cyclists, horse riders, four wheel drive vehicles, bicyclists, etc.

15            Environmental Protection around Helensburgh

There is no doubt that the amount of further urban development planned for the Helensburgh area, if allowed to go ahead, will have a significant environmental impact.

15.1            The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act requires that for any proposal having a significant environmental impact, approval cannot be given to that proposal until as an environmental impact statement has been prepared as an aid to decision making.

15.2            Are decisions going to be made in the planning for the urban development of the Helensburgh are which largely leave aside the costs which will be imposed on the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the costs of continual degradation of the valuable natural resources of Royal National Park?

15.3            Is the public going to have a say in the development of the Helensburgh area?

15.4            Is the public going to be asked if it is prepared to accept the possible environmental costs of the development of Helensburgh?

15.5            On what basis are the planners going to prepare their reports. Effective management and planning requires careful study and information. So far, the Service has not been called upon officially to contribute to such planning yet it has made great efforts to prepare and pass on pertinent information.

15.6            Environmental protection objectives cannot be left to the market to decide because the market by itself cannot effectively incorporate environmental values.

15.7            Piecemeal development of the Helensburgh without an overall plan incorporating environmental objectives is letting the market decide.

15.8            Environmental protection objectives cannot be left to the various authorities in public works, transport, water, sewerage and drainage, electricity, gas, labour and industry. The protection of environmental quality is only secondary to these authorities and they are quite capable of in fact, even if not in law, of defeating environmental objectives to supply their services, as has been amply illustrated in this report.

15.9            The protection of environmental quality here needs to be integrated as one criterion amongst others in an overall plan, a local environmental plan, to be used by all agencies in their policy making and administration processes.

15.10            The proper design of the subdivision is imperative in this area to minimize environmental impacts.

15.11            Information is available upon urban erosion control and subdivision design which has been used effectively and economically and which if used here could minimize the impact of many aspects of this development, e.g. erosion and sedimentation, stormwater discharge, urban runoff quality.

15.12            Proper consideration needs to be given to all criteria before determining land-uses in this area.

15.13            The Service would anticipate that there would be an adverse public reaction to urban development in the areas marked as wildlife corridors on map 4 and as on NO URBAN DEVELOPMENT on map