NPA NEWS 4
Cover story: National parks in Australia 6, by Mike Thompson
ENVIRONMENT NEWS & ACTION 8
ACTIVITIES PROGRAM(Supplement following p 12)
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 22
Commonwealth Environment Protection: Biodiversity Conservation Bill 1998 by Katherine Wells
Election 13, by Noel Plumb
Biodiversity surveys 14, by Claire Carlton
Fire and vegetation16, by John Benson
Wilderness & the conservation ethic18 by Haydn Washington
Perisher Inquiry 21, by Peter Prineas
FRONT COVER: Bundanoon Gorge, Morton NP Photo: Brian Darwood
|This is an interim posting of part of the latest National Parks Journal, to see more, please subscribe! - Please visit the NPANSW homepage soon.|
From the President:
One of the duties of the President is to personally sign thank you notes for those who have donated more than a certain sum of money. As I come to the end of my first term as President of the Association, I am humbled to see how many of our members quietly contribute to our various appeals. These contributions play an important part in allowing us to pursue the study and conservation of nature in NSW.
Too often our work involves rearguard action against proposals for inappropriate development in our national parks. For example, in this issue we have a report of the Inquiry into the proposed extension of the Perisher resort. Your contributions to our recent appeal are allowing us to participate in the Inquiry and to advocate responsible management of the park.
In another interesting development the NPA, along with other environment organisations, has concluded an agreement with a mining company that, in the event of a mine opening at Lake Cowal, the company would fund a trust to promote nature conservation in the region.
Some in the country have criticised the willingness of city conservationists to sup with the devil. However I think that a mine with some support for conservation is better than one acting only for short-term gain. The trust should allow support to be given to local groups seeking to conserve the remaining natural vegetation near the lake.
Land Rights at the Frontline
Last year NPA wrote to the Prime Minister expressing our opposition to his 10 point plan on native title. We were concerned about both the social injustice of his attempt to reduce native-title rights, and the implications for widespread environmental damage should the proposed legislation precipitate a massive conversion, at taxpayer expense, of leasehold Crown lands to freehold.
Our action was taken in the spirit of reconciliation and was also a reflection of the common cause pursued by Aboriginal people and conservationists around Australia in protecting natural areas of great significance to both. At this moment, hundreds of conservationists, together with the Mirrar people (the traditional owners), are defying the miners and the police at the Jabiluka uranium-mine site in the Kakadu World Heritage Area.
Also in the spirit of reconciliation, NPA has supported the proposed transfer and lease-back of a number of NSW national parks to Aboriginal people - as provided for by amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act in late 1996 - while retaining some significant concerns about the amendments. These transfers are not related to the establishment of native title, but are based on an assessment by the Minister for the Environment of the cultural significance of the parks to Aboriginal people.
The first of these parks, Mootwingee in the far west of the State, is to be handed back to the Mutawinji people on 5 September 1998, on the fifteenth anniversary of bitter Aboriginal protests at the park. Those protests highlighted the poor management of the rich Aboriginal cultural heritage of Mootwingee, and the lack of recognition and involvement of Aboriginal people in the operations of the park. Those actions led to major changes in the management of the park and will now culminate in the handover, with a lease-back for continued operation as a national park under an Aboriginal majority board of management.
Unfortunately, the manner in which the handover and lease-back are being approached is not in the spirit of openness and goodwill which should underpin such reconciliation initiatives. The Minister for the Environment, Pam Allan, supported by Aboriginal negotiators, has refused to provide the draft lease to NPA or other peak conservation groups for comment. We sought this right because of weaknesses in the enabling legislation which could leave the new Aboriginal parks open to commercial interests or inappropriate development. The Ministers stated reason for refusal - that the proposed lease is commercially confidential - is hardly reassuring when we are talking about the disposal of the public national parks estate. This lease will set a precedent for transfer of at least seven, and potentially many more, of the States national parks to Aboriginal ownership.
Compounding the strain on the goodwill of conservationists in NSW for reconciliation is the situation which has been created by the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act, 1983. This law is a substantial gesture of reconciliation and has provided the NSW Aboriginal Land Council with more than $400 million since 1983 through part of the States land tax. It also permits land councils to claim unoccupied Crown land, and to date over 6,000 claims have been made. Some 1,600 claims have been granted, with a total value of more than $200 million; and the land councils are free to sell or develop these lands on the same basis as any other private owner.
Unfortunately, among those claims are several hundred for lands of significant conservation value whose future has been in limbo while court appeals were pursued. These appeals arise from litigation initiated by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council over the refusal of claims under the Act, on the grounds that the lands are needed for the essential public purpose of nature conservation. A recent important precedent decision in the Supreme Court suggests that many of these claims will be successful on narrow technical grounds despite the conservation values involved.
The Act has effectively put conservationists and Aboriginal people in competition for land of significant nature conservation value. Among the important conservation proposals now under threat are two long-standing NPA initiatives: Maroota National Park and Warrell Creek NP. Both areas were promised for reservation by Bob Carr in 1995.
NPA has discussed the situation with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council to see if a negotiated solution to this painful situation can be reached. Regrettably, the Council has indicated that it prefers to continue to litigate on each disputed claim, as it desires to obtain the lands with full development rights rather than be encumbered by conservation responsibilities.
We hope that the Premier will intervene in both situations in the interests of nature conservation and reconciliation in NSW.
OUTBACK NATIONAL PARK TOUR
Want to experience and absorb the colour and excitement of the outback, Aboriginal art and heritage, the majesty of State forests, frog hunting on the Paroo, learn heaps about flora and fauna, and visit our most recently declared national parks?
Sydney Branch, in connection with the Western Lecture Series, are proposing a 9 day tag-along tour of the far north-west of NSW on 17-25 October. Visiting the Goonoo State Forest at Dubbo, Gundabooka NP near Bourke, the Nocoleche Nature Reserve, Mootwingee NP north of Broken Hill, Mount Grenfell Historic Site, Goobang NP near Parkes, and return to Sydney. With Roger Lembit as guide, and lots of local experts.
BYO tent and food. We hope to car pool with 4WDs. We look after camp sites, guided tours, car pool and itinerary. Cost approx. $250 per person (fuel not included).
Interested? Phone Kristi or Julie at NPA on 02 9233 4660.
Environment News & Action
Back to the future Mike Thompson*
Understanding the strategic role of protected areas for nature conservation in Australia requires both an appreciation of history and a commitment to the next millennium. There are many who are attempting to grapple with the lessons of the past and the future for conservation in Australia.
Letting 400 million years of evolution continue
Biological diversity is the wealth of life on Earth. This was the theme at a function in Sydney in 1991, where David Attenborough reminded us, Australia is fantas-tically rich in environmental variety. From the wet tro-pics of the north to the temperate woods and forests of the south, the hot desert, the Barrier Reef: your country is so rich. And that richness is the variety of ecosys-tems that you have, the variety of animals and plants that live within them that have evolved to sustain them. You have in your hands one of the great treasures.
Our OECD Environmental Performance Review (1998) also begins with timely reminders: Australia is an ecologically unique continent, characterised by mega-biodiversity ... Australia contains a large and unique part of the earths fauna and flora. Though marsupials and eucalyptus are probably the best known representatives of the countrys biological di-versity, practically all the major taxa of plants and animals contain a very high percentage of endemic species, species found nowhere else, and even en-demic genera and families."
Overall, fewer than one-third of Australias species have been documented. These include 700 eucalypts, 1,000 acacia, an estimated 200,000 fungi and 268 terrestrial mammals, of which 84% are endemic to Australia. The OECD report on Australia continues, With this very high and distinctive biological diversity, Australia has responsibility for managing and conser-ving a significant share of total global diversity.
Today, Australia has more than1,000 recorded threatened species. It has more threatened amphibians and reptiles than any other country, and a third of all the recorded world extinctions of mammal species this century have occurred in Australia. (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1996). Other species share our right to exist on Earth. This government report plus the OECD Review highlight the vital role protected areas play in preventing further extinctions. Moreover, sophisticated economic rationalists should also want to fiercely protect Australias fabulous natural capital in the 21st century.
60,000 years of Aboriginal land management
We can never return to the lore of the land pre-1788, but all of todays Australians can certainly benefit from Aboriginal history. Their ancient customs provide clear messages for those who care to listen and learn about sustainable land management. The wisdom of Abori-ginal grazing and fire-management policies helped shape and protect our unique Australian ecosystems. The priceless legacy Aborigines have given Australia through to the 21st century is most visible in every one of our remaining old growth trees over 200 years old, and in every one of our threatened species, including our exceptional Australian birds and marsupials.
1788-1999: Land management by feral Englishmen?
James Cook commented, we see this country in the pure state of nature. The Industry of Man has had nothing to do with any part of it. 18th century English explorers observed, "If Aborigines seemed strange, the flora and fauna were inexplicable - there seemed to have been a separate creation at work here." (Quotes from David Hortons Recovering the Tracks the Story of Australian Archaeology).
Like many Australians, I take pride in my English heritage and Australias many great achievements since this continent first began being overrun by British colonials. But ignorance and arrogance have always been a dangerous combination. Well-meaning inten-tions gone wrong are visible across our landscape for all Australians to see - including our stolen generation.
Listen ... Our Land is Crying is the latest book from Mary White (author of The Greening of Gondwana). Interviewing her, the Weekend Australian of 20 June, 1998, described her latest book as: shocking for its contents, the relentless documentation of the catastrophic degradation of Australias land and water, and its conclusion that much of our agricultural practice is unsustainable ...
White believes Australian agriculture has been,... a case of this awful misreading of the land, trying to tame it to fit the picture people had of what the land should do, what it should provide ... No matter how well we farm, ultimately the end result was going to be what it is today because the land itself dictates the results. White states it was inevitable that, imposed Euro-peanstyle agriculture on an ancient fragile land, would cause problems.
It is not a case of agriculture not having a future, it is a case of having to do some pretty drastic rethinking if it is to have any sort of a future. We really have reached a point where we cant go on putting off very hard decisions, and there are certain areas that are not capable of being used sustainably. Most of the people on the land already know that.
Most of those hard decisions have to be made by government. Professor John Ralston Sauls theory, based on 20th century history, is that expensive government programs with noble intentions often generate disastrous opposite outcomes. One such perverse example in progress is Australias own Regional Forest Agreements. Today our Federal and State governments are actually managing the des-truction of most of Australias remaining old growth trees (over 200 years old). Yet we know these old trees anchor many of Australias unique ecosystems and their hollows harbour threatened species.
Too few of these natural forests are being securely conserved in national parks. Many of these old growth trees are being senselessly woodchipped and the areas cleared to become new-growth eucalypt planta-tions similar to those overseas. Meanwhile, existing plantation trees in Australia go unused. At the same time, hydrologists say over 25% of our vast Murray-Darling Basin and other degraded farmlands cry out for reforestation.
The fact that sustainable free markets cannot thrive, let alone benefit Australia, without good government and honest accounting for Australias natural capital is being recognised far too slowly. In 1992, Prime Minister Keating also made a commitment to work cooperatively with the States to develop "a national comprehensive system of parks and reserves". This National Reserve System (NRS) was to represent the full range of ecosystems by 2000. The new LNP Federal Government elected in 1996 claims it also supports the NRS. Regrettably, State and Federal government priorities, as reflected in annual budgets and actions from 1993 to 1998, have not adequately followed through.
Last year the Auditor Generals report revealed,"... the total land area involved in the "Save the Bush" and "One Billion Trees" programs nationwide, over the seven years from 1989, rep-resents only 11% of the bushland which has been estimated to have been cleared Australia-wide over the same period." The saga continues, as despite the noble intentions of Bush-care and the Natural Heritage Trust, 1997 satellite data suggest governments are still not reducing vegetation clearance.
Expanding "core" national parks into the bioregion
Our colonial culture has to change for the 21st century. We must learn from our Australian history and we now know it. "We dont own the land, the land owns us" is the indigenous culture of sustainability. Land manage-ment is primarily about privilege, which brings with it responsibilities to the whole Australian community for the ongoing protection of biodiversity in our great land. Our highest priority must always be to save Australias remnant natural habitats including marine eco-systems.
"Protected Areas" must be promoted outwards into bioregions - anchored by a central core of national parks and/or equally secure high-level nature reserves. This strategy embraces both public and privately owned land. Nature conservation cannot be helped by a series of gradually degrading categories, which ultimately include highly disturbed areas of unsustain-able agriculture (including unsustainable old growth forestry). On the other hand, we strongly support eco-logically sustainable agriculture (including forestry), tourism, industry and urban development.
Integrated regional planning is essential in these sustainable bioregions. We must set a firm platform for establishing protected areas into the 21st century. NRS Program review meetings are planned in each State and Territory, which will culminate in a National Reserves Conference in Canberra in November 1999. 1999 is our last chance this century to show good faith!
* Mike Thompson acts as National Coordinator for the National Parks Association and is a member of the NPA Executive.
National parks in Australia
Tooth's Lookdown, Morton NP Photo: Brian Darwood
Vol. 42 No. 4
The National Parks Journal
is published bi-monthly, with news and features on nature
conservation and national parks, by NPA Publications Pty Ltd, 4th
Floor, Imperial Arcade, 83-87 Castlereagh St, Sydney.
Phone: (02) 9233 4660
Fax: (02) 9233 4880
Editor: Glyn Mather
Journal Committee: Tom Fink (ex officio), Stephen Lord, Anne Reeves, Mike Thompson, Noel Plumb
Proof Reader: Janice Beavan
Activities Program Coordinator: Richard Thompson
Activities Program Typist: Pat Tregenza
Printing: SOS Printing, 65 Burrows Road, Alexandria.
The body of this Journal is printed on 100% recycled paper. The cover is printed on 75% recycled, de-inked post-consumer waste.
Distribution: Salmat, 1-13 Childs Road, Chipping Norton.
Frequency: Six issues per year - February, April, June, August, October, December.
Contributions to the National Parks Journal are welcome, but we may not be able to publish everything we receive. Send articles on IBM format disk plus hard copy, photographs or illustrations to:
The Editor, National Parks
Journal, PO Box A96, Sydney South 1235;
or e-mail email@example.com
Opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily represent the policies or views of the National Parks Association of NSW.
Recommended Retail Price is $3.00. *The Journal is free to NPA members.
Advertising Bookings: (02) 9233 4660 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rates apply to camera-ready artwork. A fee equivalent to 20% of the cost of the advertisement will be charged to design from rough copy. An advertisement placed in three to five consecutive issues attracts a discount of 5%; ads placed in six consecutive issues attract a 10% discount. The deadline for inserts is negotiable.
October deadline: 17.8.98
AUGUST 1998 Vol 42 No 4
The National Parks Association of NSW Inc. is a non-profit community organisation which seeks to protect and conserve the complete range and diversity of natural habitats, features and species as well as significant cultural items and landscapes within New South Wales.
National Parks Association Executive: Tom Fink, President; Stephen Lord, Senior Vice-President; Tim Carroll, Junior Vice-President; Brian Everingham, Secretary; Kathy McCourt, Treasurer; Anne Reeves, Claire Carlton, Mike Thompson.
INSIDE FRONT COVER
NPA relies on volunteer assistance to keep us going with our efforts to conserve nature and champion the national parks system. We can always do with more willing hands. Any time you have available, however irregular, would be of enormous help to us.
We need help with:
If you think you can assist us, please let us know - and maybe we can help you develop your skills further.
When are you available?
What can you help us with?
Please send this form to:
If you have any
questions, please ring:
We look forward to hearing from you!
WANTED for legal reference panel
Would you like to assist NPA as its Honorary Solicitor, or as a member of a Legal Reference Panel? From time to time we need advice on such matters as environmental law, corporate, intellectual property, defamation, contracts etc.
Please contact the Executive Officer on(02) 9233 4660 or fax (02) 9233 4880.
Commonwealth Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Bill 1998 Katherine Wells*
The following article is a Commentary on the Bill from the Environmental Defenders Office Ltd.
On 2 July the Commonwealth Government tabled its long-awaited Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Bill 1998. The Bill is a mammoth 400 pages and 528 sections long, and combines the Commonwealths proposals on environmental impact assessment and biodiversity conservation into one Bill, instead of the two proposed in the Commonwealths February Consultation Paper. At the time of writing (less than a week after it was tabled) the EDO was still in the process of analysing the Bills contents. How-ever, some of the main issues were already clear, and are set out below.
Generally speaking, it seems fair to say that the Bill closely reflects the proposals contained in the Consultation Paper. For this reason, many of the criticisms which the EDO made of the Consultation Paper remain valid.
While the Bill contains a number of useful features, overall the EDO is gravely concerned with the di-rection the Bill is taking. The Bill demonstrates a very restrictive view of the environmental matters which the Commonwealth should be legis-latively responsible for. As if this were not bad enough, it also uses a host of mechanisms to enable the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Department of theEnvironment to delegate those environmental responsibilities to other bodies, with almost no environmental safeguards. This is not the strong environmental leadership required of the Commonwealth as we head into the next century.
A number of the EDOs key concerns are set out below.
The Commonwealth will only take legislativeresponsibility for a very narrow list of environmental matters
The Bill proposes that the Commonwealth be responsible for assessing and approving matters of national environmental significance. However, the Bills list of these matters is very narrow, and will restrict Commonwealth responsibilities to very site-specific or issue-specific matters (such as Ramsar wetlands, and World Heritage sites).
The list ignores the extremely serious broad-scale issues facing Australia, such as climate change, land degradation, vegetation clearance and the allocation of water rights.
These issues are critical. The Commonwealth has the constitutional capacity to demonstrate strong environmental leadership. If it is to be a credible force in environmental protection, it simply must accept its responsibility and lead the way in dealing with them. The list needs to be amended to address this.
The Commonwealthsaccreditation packagecontains almost noenvironmental safeguards
A major part of the Commonwealths proposals rests on matters of national environmental significance being managed on the ground by accredited State processes. The Bill sets up a framework for this by providing for bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and individual States. However, the Bill provides almost no details about the environmental safeguards to be associated with the bilateral agreements, and no details at all about any public participation to be associated with them.
This is quite unacceptable. Ac-creditation should only proceed if there are stringent safeguards built into the Bill. As a minimum:
accreditation should only be granted where the State processes being accredited meet best-practice environmental criteria which are specified in the relevant bilateral agreement
States should be required to comply with strong monitoring and reporting requirements
State performance should be reviewed every two to three years. Significant non-compliance should lead to non-renewal of accreditation
the public should be involved in the development of bilateral agreements, and in the reviews of State performance.
At present, the Bill is silent on most of these issues. Theaccreditation process must be clarified before the Bill proceeds.
The Department of theEnvironments approval functions can be delegated, without environmentalsafeguards, to otherCommonwealth departments
The Bill will also allow the Environment Minister to sidestep the Bills approval mechanisms by effectively allowing him or her to delegate the Department of the Environments environmental assessment and approval functions to other Commonwealth Departments - such as, say, the Department of Primary Industries and Energy.
The Minister will be able to do this by way of declaration, without any public consultation. Worse, the Bill does not provide for any guaranteed environmental safeguards or any public consultation in the assessment and approval processes which must be followed by those other departments. This needs to change.
The Environment Minister can approve one-offspecial accreditationprocesses, withoutenvironmental safeguards, for individual projects
In addition, the Environment Minister will be able to sidestep the Bills assessment mechanisms by approving one-off special accreditation processes for individual projects. Again, the Bill does not provide for any guaranteed environmental safeguards nor any public consultation in the assessment processes which must be followed. Indeed, the Minister merely has to specify the relevant process in a notice.
This is quite inappropriate, and (as with the delegation to other Government departments) has the potential to completely undermine the Bills main assessment process.
The Commonwealth cannot consider all environmental impacts when assessing projects
The Commonwealth will be required to take all social and economic impacts into account when assessing a project. However, it will only be able to examine a narrow range of environmental impacts - essentially, those triggered by the list of matters of national environmental significance.
For example, a proposed coal-fired power station could trigger the need for Commonwealth environmental approval because a threatened species listed under the Bill would be affected. The Commonwealth will be required to take the impact on the threatened species into account, but will not be able to consider the power stations greenhouse gas emissions - even where those emissions increase Australias total greenhouse emissions substantially.
This makes no sense at all; the Commonwealth is purporting to promote the concept of ecologically sustainable development, but is not taking a holistic approach to the environment. The Bill should be amended to address this problem.
The Bill does not apply to forests covered by Regional Forest Agreements
The Bill does not apply to forests covered by Regional Forest Agreements. These agreements have been negotiated without minimum standards for environmental impact assessment or public participation. They cover a substantial part of Australias forests, which in turn provide habitat for a substantial part of Australias biodiversity. It is quite unacceptable that Australias Biodiversity Conservation Bill does not apply to these forests. This needs to change.
Parties who sign conservation agreements will be exempt from complying with Commonwealth environmental impact assessment laws
The Bill provides that a person who signs a conservation agreement will be exempt from Commonwealth environmental impact assessment laws. This is undesirable, and unnecessary. Conservation agreements can be a powerful tool to encourage good environmental outcomes on private land. However, it is inappropriate to provide people with the incentive of an exemption from environmental laws. The incentive traditionally used - financial and technical assistance from government - is quite adequate.
The Bill fails to implement key parts of the Biodiversity Convention
The Bill fails to implement crucial provisions, principles, objectives and priority actions contained in the Biodiversity Convention, the National Biodiversity Strategy, and the National ESD Strategy. We have a rare opportunity to address biodiversity conservation into the next century. We should not miss it.
Where to from here?
The Bill has now been referred to the Senate Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee, which is required to report back to the Senate by 7 October 1998. (The Democrats attempted to have the Bill referred to the Senate References Committee on the Environment, which is not Government-controlled as the LegislationCommittee is, and which considered the Governments proposals earlier this year. The Democrats failed in their attempt when Senator Harradine voted with the Government against the Democrat proposal.)
The Committee has invited written submissions by 21 August 1998. Submissions can be sent to:
Senate Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee
S1.57 Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
For further information call the Committee Secretariat on:02 6277 3526.
* Katherine Wells is a Senior Solicitor with the Environmental Defender's Office.
Conservation or restoration:
The state of our waterways
Sydney Branch Members' Evening guest speaker
Monday 31 August
Greg worked for 23 years for the Department of Land and Water Conservation and is now a Project Director with Australian Water Technology.
Greg questions - Have we gone past the balance point where conservation alone is sufficient to save our waterways? Do we need to restore? How much do we restore, and what are the best options?
If you would like to find out more and perhaps discuss the options, come along for Greg White's talk and slide presentation.
Place: Mitchell Room, Level 4, Imperial Arcade (can be entered from the Pitt St Mall).
Time: Guest speaker starts soon after 7 pm, after a few Branch matters. Tea and coffee available from 6.30 pm.
Bring a friend!
From the NPWS
Tracking the Sydney Harbour little penguins
A mapping exercise is currently under way to identify all possible locations of little penguins in Sydney Harbour by updating location records. This is part of a long-term monitoring program undertaken by volunteers and NPWS. It is being funded through donations to the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife Save the Fairy Penguin Appeal.
The Sydney Harbour little penguin colony is the only known colony on the mainland of NSW. The colony's survival has largely been due to the efforts of local residents who keep a watch on the colony and undertake the occasional rescue. Little penguins have been known to wander into back-yard pools and sometimes nest in shoes or other available hollows. Residents have been able to assist the NPWS by providing information on nesting sites and sightings.
Since November, all known burrows have been identified and almost one-third of the little penguins have been identified and banded. The next stage of the project will be a wider search for individuals and burrows. Other research will focus on the reproductive rate of penguin pairs and the interrelationship between the Sydney colony and other colonies in NSW. In the future, the NPWS will investigate the possibility of establishing artificial burrows to increase the species survival rate.
People wishing to make a donation to the Save the Fairy Penguin Appeal should contact the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife on 02 9337 3388; or send a cheque to GPO Box 2666, Sydney 2001. Anyone who sees a penguin, whether alive or dead, should contact the NPWS on 02 9585 6333.
National parks & conservation Conserving biodiversity Perisher Inquiry
Dharawal reserves biodiversity survey
In September 1997 the NPA's Macarthur Branch conducted a biodiversity survey of the Dharawal State Recreation Area and Nature Reserve. The survey was coordinated by Stephen J Fellenberg and I, with the aid of many helpers from NPA. The reserves are 40 km south of Sydney and are a fairly recent addition to the national parks estate.
Originally the survey was of high importance due to the proposed international airport development in the Holsworthy area. This development would have had a devastating effect on the reserves and their wildlife (as has been reported in previous Journals). The survey generated data that would have been used to oppose such a development.
The Holsworthy option for an airport has since been abandoned and so the Dharawal will not be affected by any developments of such magnitude in the immediate future. The Federal Government is now investigating the second airport option, Badgerys Creek, and an answer to their decision should be known in the near future.
With the several days of rain preceding the survey we were all prepared for a wet and cold four days in the field. Fortunately the clouds cleared on the first day and only returned for an hour or so during the survey. Some tents got blown over and we might have gotten wet for a little while, but it wasnt the biodiversity survey from hell that I had envisaged.
The event was a great success. We camped at the Cataract Scout Camp, which had excellent kit-chen, shower and toilet facilities making camp life very comfortable. Overall the survey yielded excellent results. We managed to obtain snapshot data for the area with four locations being sampled. We found a total of 36 frog and reptile species; 64 birds; 12 mammals; a new Lomatia sp. hybrid and a Leptospermum - Range Extension; and three native fish species.
All the people on the camp were very helpful and the success of the survey lay in their cooperation and positive attitudes. I would like to thank all of them for their help. I feel that these surveys hold great value for Australias biodiver-sity conservation. The surveys, in most cases, ensure that community members gain a new perspective of the area they live in and - I hate to use a clich - they become one with nature, even if it is for a short time.
Fortunately there were no glitches, apart from the fact that I lost my voice and directions had to be given by hand signs. The survey was declared a complete success and I state again that this was only due to all the wonderful help and cooperation I had from everyone there.
One interesting find was the climbing Galaxia, which has not previously been recorded in the Georges River catchment. This native fish will only survive in clean environments free of introduced pests such as Gambusia (commonly known as mosquito fish, although mosquitos are the only things that they do not eat).
From what we know of the Dharawal reserves and what we found on this survey, Campbelltownians can say that our back yard is a wonderful place, with wilderness of pristine quality. Lets keep it that way!
Blue Mountains - World Heritage hope
On June 25 Senator Hill, Federal Minister for the Environment, dis-patched the World Heritage nomination report for the Blue Mountains to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Paris. The report will be subject to detailed assessment over the next 18 months. The proposal is unique in that it has the enthusiastic support of the Labor and Liberal Parties, in both the State and Federal parliaments.
Senator the Hon. Robert Hill, when announcing the nomination bid, said that the early European settlers found the region awe inspiring and that it is credited with playing an important role in developing our image and love of wilderness areas. In her supporting media release, the Hon. Pam Allan, NSW Minister for the Environment, thanked the Colong Foundation and the Member for the Blue Mountains, the Hon. Bob Debus MP, for their roles in pushing the proposal.
The Sydney Morning Herald Editorial of Friday June 26 commented that protection of the Blue Mountains has enabled people to cast their eyes upon virtually the same dramatic vista that Darwin beheld 160 years ago, and that the nomination can only strengthen protection for the benefit of future generations.
Among the significant characteristics of the area identified by the study were the geological features such as pagoda rock formations; wilderness areas; a 430-million-year record of plant history documented by fossils; the Jurassic-era Wollemi pine; and internationally significant Aboriginal sites.
The nomination covers more than one million hectares and, except for the addition of Yengo NP, it mirrors the area originally proposed by the Colong Foundation in 1989.
Colong Foundation for Wilderness
Defending the Defenders
The first-ever national Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) conference is planned for October 24. It will address Citizenship, participation, the environment and the law.
Environmentally concerned citizens engaged in debate and action are often subject to violence, harassment and the abuse of the legal process through frivolous litigation. The EDO Network has convened a conference to assist those who seek to defend the environment to understand their legal rights and responsibilities.
Conference themes will include: the strength and importance of public participation; tactics used against environmentally concerned citizens; strategies that can be em-ployed against such tactics; an international and national view of legal action against public participation, including defamation and SLAPP suits; getting organised; if you are arrested; and the importance of getting incorporated.
Speakers will include: Sharon Beder, Bob Burton, MC Mehta, Professor John Bonine, and public international lawyers.
For more information, call Ann on 02 9262 6989 or e-mail email@example.com
Environmental Defenders Office
NSW water reforms
The NSW Government recently released a discussion document titled Water Sharing in NSW - Access and Use, which looks at the complicated systems for allocating water to users. Many of the major river systems across NSW are under stress as a result of river damming and water extraction. The paper acknowledges that the cur-rent system of water allocation does not adequately account for river health, and that an appropriate share of water must be provided to the natural environment.
Some irrigators and farmers are seeking to open up water allocations to a free-market scheme where water could be traded amongst users. They are also suggesting that the environment should be made to compete in this market for environmental flows.
NPA opposes this system as it will ultimately lead to further degradation of rivers. Together with other conservation groups including the Inland Rivers Network, the Nature Conservation Council and the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Association is preparing a response to the document. If you would like further information on the water reforms, contact NPA Head Office on 02 9233 4660.
NPA Executive member
Water - wet or dry?
The Nature Conservation Council is holding Water - wet or dry? A conference on wetland and water management 98. It will be held in Sydney on 20-21 November. Topics will include the environmental values of rivers; water sharing; envi-ronmental flows; and the social and economic issues of water resource management.
If you would like to present a paper, or are interested in attending, please call Tanya on 02 9279 2477.
The Federal Government is currently preparing an Oceans Policy - a move forced on it by obligations under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (1994). In return for Australias claim to an internationally recognised and huge exclusive economic zone - 16 million square kilometres, or nearly twice the landmass - there must be in place a comprehensive strategy to protect and sustainably manage these marine areas. There is little precedent for such a task. However, extractive agencies such as oil, gas and mining companies have been quick to oppose the growth of any new regulatory authorities.
Conservation groups now have a limited chance, in this the International Year of the Ocean, to demand that firm measures of marine environmental protection, including substantial reserves, are placed firmly on the national agenda.
Voluntary Marine Project Officer
Stirrings in theforests
A satisfactory resolution has been reached with NSW State Forests over the conflict about Wandella State Forest (see "Election" in the June issue). However, the blockade confirmed that conservationists remain vigilant over the forests, and that the Government cannot afford to be complacent.
As part of this vigilance, over 11,000 people had written to the NSW Government by the end of June, in support of the conservation option for the Eden forest assessment (Scenario A). The regional forest assessment report for Eden was released in May, and Scenario A is one of four options presented.
The South Coast Labour Council has also endorsed the conservation option, which protects the high-conservation value areas, ends clearfelling, and uses the region's massive plantation resource as an alternative.
The jobs of the future are not in woodchipping.
Get your tables together! NPA, the Nature Conservation Council and other conservation groups invite you to the 1998 Environment Liai-son Office Budget Session Fund-raising Event: Good News Week meets The Quintessential Quaffing Quiz Night.
Special guest: Godfrey Bigot; 7.30 pm Thursday 13 August at Balmain Town Hall; tickets $10/$15. Bar sales and light supper available. All proceeds to the Environment Liaison Office. Call into the NCC office at 362 Kent St, Sydney; or ring Tanya or Jacquie at the NCC on 02 9279 2466.
To bee or not to bee
The honeybee, Apis mellifera L. , was introduced into temperate Australia in the early 1800s. Temperate Australia is particularly in-fested with feral honeybees as a result of swarm dispersal from man-aged hives, which continue to be agisted in favourable sites across Australia.
The impact of honeybees from feral and managed hives on the native biota has sparked much controversy. Some argue that there is no clear evidence that they have an effect, while others contend that a growing body of information sug-gests honeybees can indeed affect native species. Honeybees may impact on the biota in the following ways:
Retard seed-set in particular native plants (such as by pilfering previously deposited pollen)
Consume resources(such as nectar, pollen) intended for native pollinators
Occupy nesting sites that might otherwise be occupied by native fauna
Increase seed-set in weeds
Aggressively hinder native-bee foraging at flowers
Induce native bees to forage for greater periods of time, thereby exposing nest brood to more predators in their absense
Cause native birds that depend on nectar resources to occupy larger territories, thereby excluding smaller birds from these resources.
In NSW there are about 100 apiarists licensed to agist hives in national parks. Up until very recently these licences were not transferable, but there are now moves to promote licence transfer.
The agistment of hives within national parks is considered by many to be an unusual practice to allow in areas supposedly devoted to biodiversity conservation.
The issue is certainly a vexed one, especially when new national parks are acquired that have ex-isting beekeeping activities. The honey industry is an important one, but then so is the maintenance of biodiversity values in conservation reserves.
University of New England
Pine Brush: National Estate scandal
Some of the worlds largest colonies of Earths most threatened plants, and debatably the last vestige of the once-vast, clearfelled Lower Clarence riparian rainforest, have been discovered on 492.5 ha of botanically critical National Estate. This land has been misrepresented publicly as ordinary, and thrown away for a dollar an acre to be illegally damaged by cattle, logging and bushrock theft, which continue apace.
This surprising land deal (concluded under the previous State Government) has shamed many who have been involved (including politicians and government agencies). Conservation groups have also not adequately pursued formal assertions that the significant con-servation values lie outside a sham conservation agreement area.
In 1996, in the Senate, Bob Brown extracted, We cannot intervene from Minister Hill, Federal Minister for the Environment. The Greens are now challenging NSW Minister for the Environment Allans alleged errors of fact to State Parliament.
Hundreds of damning FOI files have now been published privately on the WWW to expose this perfidy internationally. Go to http:/www.nor.com.au/users/gaiaguys It is painstakingly compiled documentation of a scandal so extensive as to impede its own resolution.
(See also NPJ February 1995.)
Dharawal rifle range
The NSW Minister for the Environment has revoked part of the Dharawal State Recreation Area (SRA) to allow access to a proposed rifle-range site on a Crown Reserve adjoining the SRA. The range site is on a significant upland swamp (part of the OHares Creek National Estate Area). This decision contradicts a direction by the Land and Environment Court in March that development consent had lapsed and that orders be made prohibiting any further work.
As reported in the February Journal, local conservationists commenced legal action last year after the Illawarra Shooters Association (ISA) commenced track construction work. The works carried out by the ISA destroyed several hundred specimens of the threatened plant Pultenaea aristata, and the NPWS fined the ISA for unauthorised access within the SRA and damage to native flora. The ISA claimed that the work was carried out under a valid development consent - conservationists successfully argued that the con-sent had lapsed in 1996, and that no work was permitted on the site without a further consent.
Following the legal action, Mac-arthur Branch approached the ISA in an effort to resolve the matter; however the Minister has totally disregarded these efforts. Despite any formal environmental assessment, development consent or lease, the Government appears to have decided that the rifle range will go ahead.
What you can do: Write to the Minister for the Environment and the Premier condemning the Governments decision to revoke parts of the Dharawal SRA.
The December 1997 Journal carried an article (SA landholders in action) about a company formed to purchase land for conservation. The company, Bushland Conservation Pty Ltd, previously won the SA section of the National Landcare Awards. They have again been recognised for their efforts, and have now been awarded the Australia-wide National Landcare Award.
Biodiversity surveyors hard at work cleaning Elliott traps:
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