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

M3/1

DRAFT

Report to:            The Director,

Department. of Environment and Planning

For:                        Discussion at Urban Planning Development Committee Meeting, February

1985

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

9.1.84

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.

SYNOPSIS

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.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  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.

Conservation

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

……..

Impact of Helensburgh, Otford and Stanwell Tops on their surrounding natural environment, report to DEP 1984

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

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

M3/1

RC:RE

National Parks and Wildlife Service

IMPACT OF HELENSBURGH, OTFORD AND

STANWELL TOPS ON THEIR SURROUNDING

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT_________________

(NPWS report to the Department of Environment and Planning for their study and comparison of urban development proposals for Helensburgh and West Menai. This digital copy was prepared on 24th February 2011 by Bob Crombie from a photocopy of the original copy of the report.)

The Study Area

The study area includes Otford, Stanwell Tops, Blue gum Forest, Helensburgh West, Helensburgh, Lilyvale, Garrawarra Hospital and the lands surrounding these developments north to Waterfall and McKell Avenue including parts of Royal National Park

Water Catchment

The study area is almost wholly contained within the Catchment area of the Hacking River. A small area on the western edge drains into the MWSDB Woronora Water Catchment Area.
Major tributaries receiving runoff from the 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.

Resume of Royal National Park

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.

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 sites and objects
  • Protect and preserve areas that are the sites of buildings, objects, monuments or events of 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 quality of people’s environment.
  • Provide for regulated appropriate use and enjoyment by the public consistent with the nature conservation objectives for the area.

Royal national Park for 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 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 a reflection of the very varied assemblage of sol factors (depth, structure, nutrition), 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).

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
  • An excellent sample 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 very rich floristically and are a very varied assemblage with considerable intergradation 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 very 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. This unique geographical and biological location produces many unique and important features in the rainforest in this area.

  • A very rich variety of endangered plants and animals
  • A biologically outstanding, very varied and complex array of wildlife (described above) important ecologically, scientifically and educationally and for appropriate recreation.
  • 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.
  • The first national park in Australia and the second in the world.

Historical Perspectives and implications

Royal National Park was dedicated as the National Park in 1879 as 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 for Sydney” to purify its air and provide a place of healthful retreat for Sydneysiders.

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 vast tracts of natural and crown land to the north west.

This continuity ensured the safety and survival of the wildlife in the park.

Ijn 1934, the Garrawarra range was secured as a reserve for public recreation. This was added to the park in 1967.

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 area recommended included the lands east of Helensburgh encompassing Herbert’s Creek, Gardiner’s Creek, Cedar Creek, Stuart’s Gully and the lands north of Camp Gully Creek.

The process of acquisition was begun for these lands, however, an unfortunate clerical error resulting from promotion and transfer of the staff member handling these matters, resulted in this process being sent into 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 pf the land was secured for the Service and only awaiting release from t he 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.

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

Many established land uses in the areas 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

Since 1975, State, Regional, and Local Government planning requirements have changed considerably. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979, h as 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 impinge upon the Service’s responsibilities.

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

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.

LAND-USE CHANGES IN THE STUDY AREA

(a)            Historic and established changes

  1. Firewood cutting and logging of all lands in the Hacking River valley and tributary valley south of Bola Creek with emphasis upon tall open forests and rainforests.
  2. Firewood cutting and logging of all lands along the Woronora Ridge from Waterfall to Sutherland.
  3. Establishment of Javan rusa deer populations over entire study area.
  4. Considerable alterations to all aspects of the fire regime over most of the area.
  5. Fires burning rainforests and tall open forests following the aftermath of logging.
  6. Introduction of exotic plants particularly lantana and Crofton weed.
  7. Introduction of exotic animals particularly dogs, cats and foxes.
  8. Diseases affecting many marsupials in early 1900’s and dramatically reducing population levels of many species.
  9. Construction of Prince’s Highway.

10.  Construction of the Illawarra Railway Line.

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

12.  Sydney urban rail link to Otford established.

13.  Coal mining at Helensburgh established.

14.  Coal waste disposal in Camp Gully Creek.

15.  Helensburgh Garbage Tip and Sanitary Depot established.

16.  Garrawarra Hospital established.

17.  Strip mining for laterite on Woronora Ridge.

18.  Sand and stone mining.

19.  Mushroom mining.

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

21.  Road and track construction throughout the area.

22.  Establishment of flora reserve on Camp Gully Creek.

(b)            Recent Land-use changes

  1. Upgrading and widening of the Prince’s Highway.
  2. Increase in traffic on the Prince’s Highway.
  3. Construction of F5 Freeway from Waterfall t o Wollongong.
  4. Upgrading, widening and electrification of the Illawarra Railway line with increased rail traffic.
  5. Further urban and rural development.
  6. Connection of sewer to Helensburgh from Waterfall (imminent).
  7. Increase in the number of service easements and constructions.
  8. Establishment of horse-riding activities around Helensburgh and Otford.
  9. Establishment of Kelly’s Falls Reserve.

10.  Increased trail-bike and 4WD vehicle activity on roads and tracks around Helensburgh.

11.  Small acre farm development between Helensburgh and Otford.

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

13.  Mapping of Protected Lands Around Helensburgh (Soil).

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

(c)            Proposed Land-use Changes

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

b)    Further ‘rural’ development around Helensburgh.

c)     Upgrading of the water supply to the Helensburgh area.

d)    Increased industrial development of Helensburgh.

e)     Large scale urban developments of the Helensburgh area.

f)     Development of Stuart’s Gully as a coal waste dump of alternatively the Garrawarra Hospital gravel pits.

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

h)    Increased recreational demand on Royal National Park.

IMPACT OF LAND-USE CHANGES ON ROYAL NATIONAL PARK

The impact of the land-use changes surrounding Royal National Park has been considerably 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.

These sediment beds have been ‘fertilised’ by nutrients from many sources (Garrawarra Hospital, Otford mushroom farms, Helensburgh Garbage Tip/Sanitary Depot) and grown massive weed infestations.

However, the impacts of some of the changes are not immediately obvious and impose long term threats to many environmental values.

ISOLATION OF ROYAL NATIONAL PARK

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

Urban development, railway constructions and upgrading highway and freeway construction, increased traffic on the transport services, rural and semi-rural development with their tree clearance, 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 their surrounding lands except for a few corridors of varying degrees of quality which are available for the movement of Wildlife to and from the Park.

Royal National Park is approximately 15000 hectares in area and is a goodly sized reserve of natural land. However, a look at Map I (attached) will show that this 15ooo hectares is not a continuous conservation 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 open woodland unit, (c) a tall open forest/rainforest unit, and (d) a unit of vegetation influenced greatly by its littoral exposure, respectively with their associated animal life.

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.

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 circumstance or combination of circumstances with disastrous results for the wildlife in them.

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

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.

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

Unit C is the area under most threat as it is the smallest unit. It presently is continuous with forests outside 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.

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

Therefore, throughout these lands today the area occupied by many natural habitats, and the distributional areas of many species, are undergoing two types of change. First, the total area occupied by natural habitats and by species adversely affected by Man is shrinking at the expense of human-made habitats and by species benefited by people. Second, formally continuous natural habitats and distributional ranges of human-intolerant species are being fragmented into disjunctive pieces. These processes have important consequences for the future of natural habitats and human-intolerant species.

The implications are: (1) the ultimate number of species that the area will save is likely to be an increasing function of the reserve’s area or conservation units’ areas, and their integrity.(2) 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. (3) The relation between reserved habitat area and probability of a species’ survival is characteristically different for each species. (4) Explicit suggestions can be made for the optimal design of human intrusions to minimize the impact of these intrusions upon habitats and species.

The effective population number must also 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 for continued evolution. It must take into account natural and human-induced fluctuations, and be large enough to withstand the vicissitudes of fire, drought, disease, increased predation (dog, cat, fox, insect, etc,), 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.

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.

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

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.

There is reserved in Royal National Park, insufficient area of tall open forest and rainforest to maintain effective population numbers of many species particularly the large mammals. 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 clearance and various developments. If the integrity of these habitats and their continuity with 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.

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.

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 fragmentation of land into smaller natural units and to allow for movement of species between the land units as a safeguard against the effects of catastrophe and, just as important but more insidious, the effects of slow accumulative impacts.

Royal National Park requires some form of recognized, and preferably reserved, continuity with the MWSDB Catchment lands to the west and south west to safeguard units A and B and with the lands east of Helensburgh and the Illawarra Escarpment to safeguard units C and D. (See map 3 – wildlife movement corridors around Helensburgh).

As much as possible, the Service should seek to acquire these lands or seek their protection by special zoning.

WATER POLLUTION

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.

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

In a great many ways the creeks and Hacking River permeates the aesthetic qualities and leisure and recreational potential of the Park. They provide the drinking water for many of the animals in the Park. They are frequently bounded by communities very sensitive to environmental disturbance such as rainforests and tall open forests.

The river and streams are highly variable in flow and for long periods of the year may be stagnant or slowly flowing.

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.

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 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 waters have seriously disrupted the Park management systems and involved them in time and money consuming control activities.

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 accidents, negligence 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 and 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.

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

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? This calculus is a basic but very difficult part of the process which should underlie all policy decisions upon developments in the area.

The Hacking River and certain tributaries can expect massive increases in volume of rainwater 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 stormwater drains. Although in proportion to the water volume the quantity of waste matter may be small, it can and does have major detrimental impacts on the quality and amenity of the receiving water bodies 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 scouring of man-made wastes from developed surfaces, the volume and directions of flow depend on the basic factors of city layout design road and building materials and human activities: they tie massive liquid waste flow intimately into town planning and development. No such control is planned in any of the new developments prepared for action now and likely to increase the population of Helensburgh fourfold and expand the developed urban area. Their lack of control will only vitiate other expensive management and control provisions.

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

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 rain periods will almost certainly contribute to regular overflowing of the sewers.

It is interesting to note that when the sewer line from Helensburgh to Waterfall was constructed, the National Parks and Wildlife Service was given no say in the planning of the route of the line and the location of 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.

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 watercourse to dilute and carry away the waste. It is expected that within a very short time these overflows will become weed ridden swamps.

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

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

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 Highway in the headwaters of Wilson’s Creek.  Since then, no platypi have been seen anywhere in the Hacking River catchment area. What impact this acid spill had on other life forms is not documented or known.

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, record 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 Garrawarra Hospital where in both instances, treatment processes had broken down and large quantities of raw liquid waste were released in the 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 SPCC has been negotiating with the Health Department fro three years to repair the sewage treatment plant at Garrawarra Hospital and the National Parks and Wildlife Service is still waiting for a progress report on these negotiations.

These aforementioned polluting problems have had 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, Garrawarra Hospital Sanitary Depot Waste Water Treatment Plant, Metropolitan Colliery Waste Water Treatment Plant and Otford Valley Mushroom Farm. At the same time, the SRA Illawarra Railway Line electrification activities and the MWS&DB Helensburgh to Waterfall sewer works were contributing massive sediment loads to the creeks and river which silted up dramatically in places. In both of these instances the National parks and Wildlife Service had to battle for lengthy periods to gain control of these problems and eventually the SRA and the MWSDB had to employ Soil Conservation officers to prepare erosion control plans and direct restoration and control works.

However, the Hacking River ad 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 1981/82 show the whole river bed to be a weed choked swamp with o water channel at all and the banks covered with a profuse growth of weeds. The bed of the river was stinking, putrid mud.

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 then become foci for the weeds to spread into the bushland surrounding. Coincidently, the Hacking River traverses the Park through the natural communities least able to resist this threat, the tall open forests and rainforests.

The coal waste dump in Camp Gully Creek for Metropolitan Colliery has regularly polluted the Hacking River with sediments and suspended particles. Black and grey sediments are spread the whole length of the river to Gray’s Point from its confluence with Camp Gully Creek. Many minor collapses of the coal dump walls have occurred blackening the bed and waters 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 old 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 proportion. The walls are so steep that this will occur purely as a result of natural processes.

Recently, Metropolitan Colliery has constructed a 3½ million dollar waste treatment plant to treat all 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.

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 back coal waste to the Hacking River.

This 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.

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 would be blocked on more occasions.

OTHER IMPACTS

Another direct impact would result from increased predation upon wildlife from a large number of domestic dogs and cats living around the Park. Domestic dogs regulary hunt in Royal National Park either singularly, in small groups, or even in packs. They travel large distances on these forays. Many dogs from Sutherland have been caught at Garie Beach and Era.  They chase everything that moves and have even, although rarely, menaced people in the Park. Although not studied, I believe their hunting forays have made a significant contribution to the reduction in population numbers of many large mammals.

Domestic cats also make hunting forays in 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.

Traffic through he Park would be expected to increase and an increased number of animal road kills would be expected as a result. Road kills are a significant cause of death in many animal populations in the Park. For example, in May 1982, 15 swamp wallabies, 7 possums, 3 bandicoots, 3 cats, 3 foxes, 35 birds (including lyre birds, kookaburras, owls, and wattlebirds), 4 snakes, 5 blue tongues, 1 wombat, 5 deer, 3 rats and 7 lizards were reported as killed on roads in the Park and this record is no where near a complete record for that month. The proportions would be different for each month as the different animals begin their various movements.

An increase in population around Helensburgh would lead to an increased visitation to the Park for recreation and place great demand on the recreation facilities which are frequently stretched to their full capacity now. Also these demands would be placed on a part of the park which is least designed for and has the least capacity for recreation and where recreational disruption to the natural environment would have the most impact – the tall open forest and rainforests of the Hacking River along Lady Wakehurst Drive, the route along which most of these new park users would enter the park.

Logging of the tall open forests and rainforest in and around Royal National Park has had a major impact upon these habitats. The rainforests in particular have been hard hit and their recovery has been seriously hindered by the incursions of fire, which have occurred more frequently and been able to enter the forests opened up by the logging. Deer particularly have hindered the recovery of these forests for a long time by grazing off the regenerating shoots, seedlings and saplings and considerably slowing down regeneration. The logging removed nearly all the big trees. A lot of clearance of ‘old and useless’ trees was done during this logging. Unfortunately it is these ‘old and useless trees’ which are most important for animals by providing the essential nesting and shelter hollows. Logging has consequently greatly reduced the carrying capacity of these forests for many animals (including birds) dependant upon hollows. It takes a forest a very long time to grow and mature enough for hollows to develop and the carrying capacity to increase again. The number of hollows in an area is in many cases the limiting factor for the population size of many species.

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 area poorly appreciated by the public. The spread of weeds and disease as a result can be very difficult and costly to control. The Park is regularly used for the 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.

_________________________________________________

CONCLUSION

The further development of the Helensburgh area for rural, urban and industrial purposes would have a considerable detrimental impact upon conservation values in the area and upon Royal National Park.

To safeguard the natural values of Royal National Park, wildlife corridors must be established between it and the neighbouring natural lands units to mitigate against the fragmentation of the land into small natural units and to allow for movement of species between the land units to counter the effects of catastrophe and slow accumulative deleterious impacts.

Royal National Park requires some form of recognized and preferably reserved naturally vegetated continuity with the MWS&DB catchment lands to the west and sout west and with the lands east of Helensburgh, and the Illawarra Escarpment.

As much as possible the Service should seek to acquire these lands of seek their protection by special zoning.

The Service should be involved in all land-use planning design and policy formation within the catchment of the Hacking River.

R Crombie

Senior Ranger

South Metropolitan District

30th March 1984

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.

Organising to Hasten a Result

Uloola Falls, RNP. Photograph: Phil Smith

Support for World Heritage Listing of Royal National Park (RNP) continues to widen – confronting leaders of the campaign with great expectations of a not-too-distant decision, first by the Australian Government, second by the United Nations agency UNESCO.

Special visit to Sydney. Dr Geoff Mosley, leading authority on national parks, made a special trip from Melbourne to Sydney on September 5 to discuss ways to expedite the campaign. He is commissioned to write the main Report, and he presented three pages of “Selection Criteria” to an early morning meeting, after which he was driven to familiarise himself with key areas of the Park and its adjacent “Reserves” (Holsworthy Military Reserve, Garawarra State Conservation Area, Heathcote National Park).

Let’s improve on “stand alone” qualities. Dr Mosley says he believes RNP can achieve Listing based on its own magnificent “stand alone” features, but he suggests we should go beyond its abundant flora/fauna qualities by specifying also “cultural landscapes”, e.g. that RNP is one of the oldest in the world, is truly representative, and is wholly contained within a city – all these being properties that “combine the world of nature and man” including recreation, military uses, mining, science, education, and nature conservation.

What is the hoped-for time frame? With hard work being put in on his draft Report, Dr Mosley is aiming at presentation in December. It will pass though many critical hands, and will then assume final form by March 2012.

A role model for other areas of the Sydney Basin. We believe our final Report, by revealing new wonders, will stimulate the extension of the past work on features of Greater Blue Mountains National Park (part of the Sydney Basin) – and this could prompt other areas of the Basin to make claims for Heritage Listing. (The Basin extends from Batemans Bay in the south, to Newcastle in the north, and to Lithgow and Mudgee in the west.)

A “Lobby Book” will follow. Completion of the Report will be the signal to put together a very attractive “Lobby Book” containing supportive statements from authoritative persons, together with brilliant photos of key features of RNP. Armed with this, we will make approaches to MPs, Councillors and the media – that is, we will “go public” in a major way.

Too many activities to spell out in detail! At the First National Park meeting on September 15, the following activities were projected:

  • Keen support for NSW Government’s rejection of mining beneath the 6000-hectare Dharawal national park south-west of Sydney.
  • Contact to be established with all political parties to get assurances of support (including writing to the four local MPs).
  • Bob Crombie and Bob Walshe to meet MP Lee Evans to request interview with Premier Barry O’Farrell and Environment Minister Robyn Parker.
  • Strong criticism of obvious underfunding of the National Parks and Wildlife Service by successive governments.
  • We support the NPWS initiative of an Open Day at Audley on November 27 – reopening of the famous Dance Hall. We will operate a stall on the day.
  • The Geological Society members, strongly behind our cause, will be asked by Bob Crombie to write supportive statements for the draft Report.
  • The Linnaean Society will run a seminar on RNP (at a venue in Kamay Botany Bay National Park) from September 29 to October 1

The Push for Royal Recognition: Many Forces FOR – and One AGAINST

In just one year, the campaign for World Heritage Listing (WHL) has attracted wide support, has raised the money it will need, and has made strides towards its goal of recognition by the world.

In a major stride, it has secured the services of Australia’s top authority on national parks: Dr Geoff Mosley will write the main report which, with supplementary materials, will eventually go before the decision-maker, the United Nations agency UNESCO.

Who is Geoff Mosley?

As Dr Mosley AM, he is a geographer, conservationist and environmental historian. His work for heritage protection began in the early 1970s. Several Australian governments have engaged him – for example the NSW Government, to make the assessment that won recognition of the Greater Blue Mountains region in year 2000.

Known internationally, Geoff has been a member since 1979 of the World Commission on National Parks, and he has represented Australasia and Oceania on the governing body of the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Well, optimistically, four years!

Members of our WHL committee, like the writer, have been startled by Geoff’s recent statement that “I’m an optimist, so I think it could take, at best, four years”.

So long? Yes, he says. His report will take till March 2012 to finalise. Then supplementing things will be added, like a book on the Park’s visual wonders.

Then the whole submission must go through the hurdles of a long process – getting endorsement of State Government, then of a rather rare meeting of state environment ministers, then of the Commonwealth Government experts, then of a meeting in Switzerland, then of final scrutiny by UNESCO. So many hurdles! And so much time between the hurdles!. Yes, at least, four years.

A few things, alas, don’t help

While almost everyone eagerly supports the campaign, there are a few elements that won’t help. There’s the Shooters and Fishers Party, pushing for the right to shoot in national parks. There are developers who push for commercial enterprises on or beside parkland (chalets, caravan parks, etc.). And there are currently some persons in Wollongong Council who are reticent to protect the upwaters of the Hacking River (which zigzags through the Royal) from the tree-clearing and high-density building which will so obviously send pollutants and eroded soil through the Park.

Back in 1994 a meticulous Commission of Inquiry ruled out further urban development around Helensburgh and urged containment of dumped waste. How outrageous, then, that negative “development” is again being pushed 16 years later – in sordid contrast to the wide, enthusiastic movement for heritage listing of the Royal.

Royal National Park as World Heritage

While tempted to wish my “local” park to be spared the extra visitor pressure that World Heritage listing will bring, I hope that the increased focus on its sustainable management will support the sharing of Royal National Park’s treasures by visitors from around the world. But it won’t be easy.

Already, walking tracks wear deeply into soft sandstone. Weeds and fungal diseases creep into the fragile plant communities from disturbed edges. Large areas are sacrificially burned to protect  the poorly planned suburban fringe from bushfire.  Urban and mine drainage pollutes the Hacking River. Feral animals distort the balance of vegetation and native fauna. Developed areas are subjected to litter and compaction by visitors drawn by boating, kicking a football on a grassy flat or driving or riding through, without appreciating the significance and fragility of their surroundings. I confess to enjoying such a superficial view myself from time to time, swimming at a beach or flying over the coast in a hang glider.

It would take more than a lifetime to learn what a diversity of plants, birds and animals live in Royal National Park, let alone how they interact. But the beauty of its sparkling beaches and pools, its coastline, wildflowers and forests brings even naïve visitors back again and again to continue the learning process.

I trust that Heritage listing will be accompanied by an expansion of NP&WS resources for research, rehabilitation and a strong Ranger presence for interpretation, education and a watchful eye for careless damage or vandalism. We cannot afford to show future visitors the worn out shell of what was once a magnificent environment, maintained for millenia by its Dharawal custodians.

Megadiversity of the Royal – and of the Sydney Basin

What a big word megadiversity is! But no other will do to convey the riches Royal National Park has to offer.

Yes, Big/Great/Huge in its diversity. Most obviously its biological diversity, of plants, forests, insects, birds, and animals, but also of its landforms, rocks, soils, waters, views, rocky coastline and beaches and Aboriginal sites.

Much of it is not just special; it is unique to Australia.

On a planetry scale, even, it is remarkable. The UN has identified 17 megadiverse countries, and of these Australia is one of the most megadiverse, with only Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, Mexico and Columbia.

Unquestionably, the Royal is one of our continent’s most megadiverse regions. And as Bob Crombie never ceases to stress, its World Heritage Listing would open the way to extension of the region so that it not only takes in the Garawarra State Conservation Area, Heathcote National Park and Holsworthy Military Reserve but also much of the Illawarra to the south and the grand arc of surviving green areas of the Sydney Basin to the north and west.

Interestingly, urban Sydney, with over 4 million residents, should be seen not as something apart from this wide megadiverse region but as part of it – a realisation that dramatises the importance of many surviving green(ish) pockets, including wetlands (“marshes”), cliff slopes, cemeteries, and not least some verges, wastelands and even backyards.

You could say that in the last 20 years a new worldwide philosophy is emerging. In 1992 the UN’s “Earth Summit” took place in Rio de Janeiro and came up with the Convention on Biological Diversity. It has since been signed by nearly 200 countries, which are legally bound to implement its sustainability provisions.

Let’s be outspoken for World Heritage Listing of the Royal. Did you know it has more birdlife than mighty Kakadu!

What’s National in “National Park”?

Australia the “lucky country”? You bet we are! Despite quibbles over pros and cons, one huge stroke of luck has put us ahead of every other country on earth: we are a single nation, government, populace on an entire continent.

Yes, “bound by sea” and not chopped up by boundaries into separate nation-states that have histories of border raids, disputed territories, bloody wars.

No “grab” for Australia! Whereas the European powers competed in colony-grabbing on Africa, the Americas and elsewhere, only one imperialist power, Britain, “grabbed” effectively on this continent. Its invasion, from 1788, though disastrous for the Aboriginal people, was not seriously contested by any power. The name “Australia”, rooted in Latin australis (south), took a while to catch on. Ordinary people preferred “I’m an Australian” to “I’m a New South Welshman”. The best of our British governors, Macquarie (1809-21), used it in his correspondence, then the British Admiralty complied in 1824.

The great goldrush of the 1850s trebled the colonial population to over a million with irreverent diggers who had no doubt they’d come to “Australia”.

Hence a “National Park”. Not long after the main goldrush, a group of farsighted Sydney conservationists prevailed on New South Wales’ young parliament (since 1856) to gazette a stretch of unspoiled bushland in 1879 as “The National Park”, 18,000 acres, increased to 36,320 acres by 1887.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 29 March 1879 headed “A National Park” said “a better name could not be given”. On 2 April it added, “extent and beauty will hardly find its parallel within the same distance of any metropolis in the world”.

National right enough. As Britain recognised separate colonies on our contintent (NSW 1788, Van Diemen’s Land 1803, etc.) each had the status of sovereign state, i.e. nation within the Empire, equivalent say to Rhodesia within the African colonies. And nationalist movements were then seething in Europe (“Italy” in 1860s, “Germany” in 1870s). Our Sydney founders were in no doubt that “National” was the right term. (The “Royal” was only added in 1955, after young Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1954.)

Progress Towards World Heritage Listing

Here’s a brief account of actions thus far in the Campaign for World Heritage Listing launched on 11 March 2010 by a meeting held in Sutherland Shire Council Chambers.

  • The Campaign aims to persuade the Commonwealth Government to take up the issue and then make an appeal to the United Nations’ relevant committee, UNESCO. RNP is already listed as a protected heritage by the NSW State Government. We will embrace this as a base and add to it.
  • We have widely publicised four great features of the Royal: (1) that it was indeed the world’s first “National Park”, set aside on 26 April 1879, preceding mighty Yellowstone (1883) in the United States; (2) that RNP is in many ways unique, not least for its location within a major city; (3) that it exhibits extraordinary diversity of plants, animals, rock and soil types, not to mention wonderful views; (4) that Royal’s pioneer status and natural riches make it the respected leader for all other parks on the Australian continent.
  • The Campaign has written to six Australian universities and other institutions inviting learned studies of the Park. Three have so far responded.
  • Campaign leaders have been interviewed by radio station 2SSR. Other stations will be approached. Major articles have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and St George and Sutherland Shire Leader.
  • Bob Crombie is negotiating with the eminent team of wildlife photographers, Stanley and Kaisa Breeden, for production of a major coffee-table-size book on the Park, which will feature its remarkable biodiversity. A First-in-Australia new photo technique will produce a book deservedly called “stunning”.
  • Botanist Alan Fairley’s book, Discovering Royal National Park on Foot, has been gifted to all members of Sutherland Shire Environment Centre (and can be purchased online www.ssec.org.au).
  • To keep in touch with the Campaign, please send your email address to firstnationalpark@ssec.org.au

Ours was Indeed FIRST!

You are wrong if you follow the myth that Yellowstone was the world’s first modern national park with our Royal coming later. Here’s the truth – that our National Park predated mighyt Yellowstone by several years.

First ‘National’. While Yellowstone was one of a number of ’State’ or other regional parks by the 1870s, our park “was in fact the very first protected area anywhere in the world to be officially named as a national park” – on 26 April 1879. So says Australia’s top authority on national parks, Dr Geoff Mosley. On that date 18,000 acres was set aside (increased in 1880 to 35,000 acres, and in 1889 to 36,320 acres).

Welcomed at once by the Herald! Three days after the historic dedication, the Sydney Morning Herald, in an article headed “A National Park”, declared “a better name could not be given”! (29 March, 1879). And a few days later it added that the area “for extent and beauty will hardly find its parallel within the same distance of any metropolis in the world”.

As to Yellowstone: it was not initially proclaimed a national park but, by the Yellowstone Act of 1 March 1872, as a “public park or pleasuring ground for the enjoyment of the people”.

Yellowstone confirms our ‘first’. When Yellowstone celebrated its centenary in 1972, its Library and Museum Association’s commemorative book Yellowstone, A Century of the Wilderness Idea, said, “But the first time the words ‘national park’ were used in the body of a public act was in the establishment of Royal National Park near Sydney, Australia, in 1879. It was then simply called ‘The National Park’ (the first legislative reference to Yellowstone as a national park occurred in 1883 in a bill relating to appropriations)”.

News! Dr Geoff Mosley will speak at Sutherland Entertainment Centre, Thursday 16 September, 6.30pm.

Four Great Features of Our RNP

The campaign, launched in March, to achieve UN “World Heritage Listing” is gathering learned papers on the very special features of our Royal National Park. Here, broadly, are 4 areas of that specialness.

First! Beyond question, the RNP’s founding as “National Park” in 1879 made it the first such park on the mighty continent of Australia. “Royal” was added after young Queen Elizabeth II’s visit in 1954. Moreover, our RNP must be recognised as “First in the World” as it was from the first named a National Park on 26 April 1879, whereas the great Yellowstone Park in the United States, though established early in the 1870s, was not termed “National” till 1883.

Unique! The RNP is almost certainly the only national park in the world located within a major city. Those farsighted pioneers of 1879 located it on the margin, but Sydney has since enclosed it. What a treasure it is! Visited each year by 4 million, mainly Sydneysiders, it generously provides open space, recreation, photo abundance, clean air (“lungs of Sydney”) and endless bushwalks, not to mention Aboriginal heritage and superlative natural phenomena.

Diverse! The bid for World Heritage Listing will specify a biodiversity as rich as the rarest on the planet. At least 1130 plant species are identified, including many classed as “rare and endangered”, and diverse fauna including an extraordinary number of bird species. Add to all that, four major rock/soil types and remarkable variety of scenery. So let’s see this as Sydney’s  20,000 hectares of significant habitats that conserve the unspoiled nature which greeted Cook and Phillip in the late 18th century.

Benefits! World Heritage Listing will widen public and government recognition. Will promote need to preserve other wilderness areas. Will strengthen resistance to damaging “development” proposals. Will increase visits by school and university study groups. In short, will do great things for Sydney and Australia.