FEBRUARY 1999 Vol 43 No 1
NPA NEWS 4
Mutawintji National Park 5 by Noel Plumb
ENVIRONMENT NEWS, VIEWS & ACTION 7
Native vegetation - one year on
Natural Heritage Trust grants
A dear solution to a deer problem
Department of Mineral Resources & conflict
ACTIVITIES PROGRAM (Supplement following p 12)
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 21
Gundabooka NP 12 by Vivien Dunne
Election 13 by Noel Plumb
Connections with the bush 14
by Glyn Mather, Peter Herbst, Melati Lye,
Kristi Macdonald, Linna Mitchell, David Rudder
Perisher resorts - 19
A make-or-break issue for national parks by Keith Muir
FRONT COVER: Aboriginal hand stencils, Mutawintji NP, NSW Photo: Tom Fink
BACK COVER: Eastern Pygmy Possum, Nowra. Photo: Attila A Bicskos
|This issue has not been posted in full for logistical reasons. However most of the text is here if you care to scroll down. You may buy a full copy from the NPA office To see the latest National Parks Journal, including more photographs, maps etc., please subscribe! - Please visit the NPANSW homepage soon.|
Mutawintji National Park Noel Plumb*
The yellow, red and white ochre paintings of people who long ago came together in the Stone Country, 100 kilometres north-west of the Darling River at Wilcannia in the far west of NSW, occur in many places amidst the red sandstone cliffs and gullies of the new Mutawintji National Park.
Images of kangaroo, dingo, euro and emu tracks are interspersed with the numerous stencils of hands. Many paintings do not tell a story although there is a story in them. Most of the paintings in the best-known sites are by women and children, and are evidence of their relationship to the country. Elsewhere stories of hunts and legends are recorded in engravings and paintings. Once thought to have 300 archaeological sites, Mutawintji in fact has many times that number.
Current information suggests an Aboriginal presence for at least the past 8,000 years.
In September 1998 Mootwingee National Park became Mutawintji National Park, the first national park in the State of NSW to be transferred to Aboriginal ownership (see NPJ October 1998). The day was celebrated with ceremony and speeches (see box over) and begins another chapter in the long, long history of this land.
The modern history of the area is a story of displacement of the Aboriginal people by the pastoralists who settled the country, with heavy sheep grazing established by the 1870s. Major changes to the landscape have occurred in common with much of western NSW, due to overgrazing and the loss of traditional Aboriginal land management. Much of the topsoil has been blown or washed away in the past 100 years, and plant communities vastly altered as native grasses were lost whilst so-called woody weeds (in fact grazing-resistant native plants) instead began to dominate.
The core of the present park was established in 1927 at the instigation of the Broken Hill Field Naturalists Club as a 486 ha Reserve for the Preservation of Caves, Native Flora and Fauna and Aboriginal Carvings and Drawings. In 1967, with the advent of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the reserve was declared an Historic Site in the national parks estate.
Although identified in the early 1970s as habitat for NSW's only population of yellow-footed rock wallabies, it was not until 1979 that some 6,700 ha of pastoral land was purchased to establish the associated Coturaundee Nature Reserve to the north-east of the park. The major park area was formally established only in the early 1980s when some 68,000 ha surrounding the historic site was reserved as national park. Much of the park is now designated as a wilderness area. Some stock transit rights for adjoining properties still exist in the wilderness area, together with water tanks which were built by previous owners.
The landscape is dominated by the rugged Bynguano Range, which runs diagonally north-west to south-east through much of the park. In the central, northern area of the park lies the broad "river" valley of Mount Wright Creek, filled with sand and gravel Half-Dome - Wana Karnu, Mutawintji NP PHOTO NO REDUCE BY 2/3 TOM FINK Rock waterholes, Mutawintji NP TOM FINK PHOTO NO REDUCE BY 50% 6 FEBRUARY 1999 Mutawintji Welcoming words by Warlpa Thompson Mutawintji Handback 5 September 1998 ngayi hello paliirra yuku ithu it's a good day ngiinkina paliirramarri ithuna kiirrana we are here at this special place ngamakaayi ngamakaama wiimpatjakuana kiirrangka ithu this is my mother's mother's people's land kiirrinana mirrimpilyiminina our country makes us happy minha Wiimpatjaalpi warli ngimpa can you be like us Wiimpatja yurrila kiirrari, maarima kiirrari thinking and caring about the land kila Wiimpatja thurlakmaku kiirrakiirrinana us Wiimpatja don't exploit our land karnmatjurta kiirrinana you stole our land manthatjina wapitjurta ngininari we waited for you to give it back ithu kiirra murta kiirrinana ngiinkatjina this place is just part of what we had mirrikana wapitjurtili ithu kiirrinana Mutawintjinana getting Mutawintji back is a start paliirra parripatjina maarimamilana it's good that we are moving towards reconciliation pulapulitjatjurta you invaded yurrilurtili Wiimpatjari now you recognise us Wiimpatja Wiimpatjaku mathirri kiirra watutina kalypu soon we will have our sovereignty waturrina kiirra, mirrimpilyiminanari when we get our land it makes us happy maarimamilapina Wiimpatja warli ngina caring is our Wiimpatja life ngukamilapina Wiimpatja warli ngina sharing is our Wiimpatja life paliirra ngiinkina ngarratja paliirra kiirrana it is good that we are here together at this special place eroded from the surrounding ranges. To the northeast, dry creek beds create a deeply dissected tableland of weathered rock.
The park landscape is old and arid and yet, ironically, it is the forbidding Bynguano Range which provides the key to the long-term Aboriginal and the short-term European occupation of this landscape.
Hidden within its gorges and gullies are deep rock waterholes which provide nearly permanent water in this dry, stony country. The broader creek floors and outlets to the surrounding plains clearly provided a viable gathering place for many Aboriginal tribes and clans when the seasons were favourable. One of the interpretations of Mutawintji is "grassy place": one can understand how this area could sustain large numbers of people from time to time when you see the creeks running, the deep pools and swift increase in plant and animal life after a wet season.
There are many challenges facing the new Board of Management, which has a majority of Aboriginal people. Feral goat populations have to be kept constantly in check, and hopefully eliminated, to prevent further damage to both the fragile soils and the precious rockart sites. Feral cats and foxes have invaded the area and represent a threat to the rock-wallaby colony, as well as to other wildlife. Artificial watering points, tank sites, and their contribution to overgrazing by native and feral animals present significant management problems which have to be weighed against firecontrol needs and neighbour relations.
The scale of visitor facilities and the relationships to be established between the new owners and park visitors are sensitive and complex issues, as is the need to extend the park to better conserve this country and ensure the best protection for the threatened rock wallabies. The sense of commitment by the new owners to the conservation of the land, and the guiding framework of the National Parks and Wildlife Act, give a strong sense of confidence that the challenges will be met.
* Noel Plumb is NPA Executive Officer. He visited the park in May and October, 1998. He wishes to acknowledge that he has drawn heavily on Peter Wright's excellent introduction to Mootwingee NP in The NPA Guide to National Parks of Northern New South Wales, 1991.
PHOTO NO EXPAND BY 2.5 Mutawintji NP MARION HAWLEY
FEBRUARY 1999 7 Envir Envir Envir Envir Environment onment onment onment onment News, V News, V News, V News, V News, Views & Action iews & Action iews & Action iews & Action iews & Action Native vegetation -one year on The Native Vegetation Conservation Act has been in place for more than a year now. It (and State Environmental Planning Policy 46 which preceded it) has fundamentally challenged concepts of private land in NSW. No longer can a landowner choose to destroy vegetation on their property without considering biodiversity, future generations and sustainability.
A lack of financial and policy support from the State Government made the start of this process more difficult than it needed to be.
When regional committees began work on vegetation plans, they had little guidance on the crucial question of "how much vegetation is enough?" However, there are now some encouraging signs of change in this area. The Department of Land and Water Conservation (DLWC) is commencing work on bioregional vegetation targets to guide these committees and other aspects of the vegetation reforms.
Funding remains the biggest problem, however. While the water reform process has had over $100 million in additional funding, the native vegetation reforms have been largely funded by cuts elsewhere in DLWC. Vegetation mapping - a vital precursor to sensible planning decisions - has not been properly supported. The Nature Conservation Council has calculated that to map the State properly at the appropriate scale would cost at least $20 million over a ten year period.
At the Federal level, there have been mixed messages from Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill. He has told the NSW Government that the rate of land clearing is too high, and that it may threaten ongoing funding from the Natural Heritage Trust. On the other hand, he has refused to list land clearing as a threatening process under the Federal Endangered Species Protection Act, despite advice from his Endangered Species Scientific Sub-Committee and the National State of the Environment report.
Perhaps it is such a big problem that Senator Hill would rather pressure NSW than take action himself.
It is clear that progress is being made in NSW, and the policy settings are improving, but without significant funding the process could falter.
Peter Wright Natural Resources Manager Nature Conservation Council of NSW Natural Heritage Trust grants Reminder: 26 February 1999 is the deadline for most community group/individual grant applications under the one-stop-shop Federal Government Natural Heritage Trust program (NHT). This now combines a number of previously separate programs that covered both natural resource management (including soil conservation) and the natural and cultural heritage National Estate grant program, established as an outcome of the Whitlam Government's National Estate Inquiry in the seventies.
Details have also been advertised widely in the press, including at least some local papers. Contact the NPA Office on 02 9233 4660 as quickly as possible if you have a conservation project you would really like to see get off the ground if only the funds were available. Remember that competition for funds is strong; and that the Government is particularly keen to support `hands-on' projects that demonstrate support from the local community.
A substantial proportion of funds goes to natural resource management including Landcare and Bushcare. In the 1998 round, sister groups of NPA NSW have received support for vegetation survey work; and the WWF/NPA Western Project is an approved FOREST RESURGENCE!
A public meeting for forest action Sydney Town Hall Sunday 28 Februar y 1999 1pm - 5pm Get active, get informed and come along!
NSW Forest Alliance Kristi 02 9233 4660 8 FEBRUARY 1999 Envir Envir Envir Envir Environment onment onment onment onment News, V News, V News, V News, V News, Views iews iews iews iews relatively ineffective. Capture and transportation to deer farms are extremely stressful to the deer, and fail to avoid the charge of cruelty levelled against the far more humane practice of euthanasia by shooting.
This comparative inaction has allowed herd numbers to build up again, probably to well over 1000, after having been reduced by the 1994 fires to about 150 - a tragically lost opportunity for complete elimination.
The deer have now spread to other reserves: Heathcote, Nattai, Dharawal and Illawarra Escarpment.
A succession of fires culminating in the 1994 holocaust have endangered the integrity of the park's ecosystems, which need a long disturbance-free period for recovery. The presence of a growing herd of deer hardly assists this process.
The Service is liable to prosecution by neighbours for deer damage to their gardens, and by motorists for collision damage. Last year a car swerved but hit a deer and a parked car: $25,000 payout!
In 1994 a motor cyclist was injured, and although the Service denied partnership initiative to promote Ramsar wetlands.
The NHT also funds the National Reserve System Program (NRSP), the focus of a recent series of national fora organised through the Community Liaison Officer NRS Project via the National Parks Australia Council. The NRSP addresses a crucial component of overall national Biodiversity Strategy, although hopes are fading for achievement of the original target of a national and comprehensive Australian reserve system to be in place by the year 2000.
Defending the defenders
Papers have now been published from the conference held by the Environmental Defender's Office last year. The publication addresses public participation, actions against participants, case studies and your legal rights and responsibilities. The 12 authors are mainly lawyers and/or activists.
The papers are available for $25 (including postage). Call 9262 6989 for an order form, or send a cheque to the EDO at: Level 9, 89 York St, Sydney 2000.
A dear solution to a
Rusa deer in Royal National Park and beyond
The world's best system of protected areas managed by the world's best nature conservation agency. This very laudable Vision of our State Environment Minister, Pam Allan, must surely be endorsed by all of us. The Government has shown considerable strength of purpose in creating many new reserves, for which we are grateful. However, it is in the field of management that we have problems. The outrageous failure of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, due to constraints imposed by the Minister, to deal properly with rusa deer in Royal National Park is a prime example.
Consider some facts: The deer are multiplying fast.
They compete with native animals such as swamp wallabies for food and do considerable damage to vegetation and soils. This has been well observed, and there is no need for the expensive program of scientific research upon which the Service has embarked to prove it.
Rather than follow the advice of her own expert agency, the NPWS, the Minister has heeded complaints from the RSPCA and individuals which, being based on a concern for animal welfare, are irrelevant to nature conservation, the Minister's essential responsibility.
As a result, the NPWS has been instructed to use methods of deer removal which are slow and costly (a major proportion of the total management budget), and thus a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a PHOTO NO EXPAND BY 3 TIMES The Pool, Kangaroo Creek, Royal National Park BRIAN DARWOOD FEBRUARY 1999 9 a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a aaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa & Action & Action & Action & Action & Action liability, it settled out of court. The Service is in no position to meet the high costs of possible litigation as well as the severe environmental and management costs - a dear problem in every respect and totally unnecessary. A simple circumstance has become a complex problem.
The basic fact is of course that the introduced deer is a feral animal, a pest. The Service, through attempting under Ministerial directive to placate the RSPCA and misguided citizens - who apparently know or care little about wildlife, biodiversity and so on, but see only warm and cuddly "Bambis" being shot - is compelled to compromise by exploring nonlethal methods. These methods include capture and sale to a market now almost non-existent; or capture, sterilisation and release of males.
In the July 1998 Visions for the New Millenium, speaker after eminent speaker stressed the need for integration of NPWS' work with the interests of other agencies and those of the whole community. This is essential, but I doubt that any of those speakers were suggesting that, in order to effect this, the Service needs to modify its principles, set aside its core responsibilities, or defer to others who have neither of these.
We see here the degrading spectacle of a responsible government agency being prevented from doing its job. The Minister must cease bowing to ignorant minority pressures in this and certain other issues, such as beekeeping and 4-wheel driving off the public access system in national parks. The NPWS should be allowed to get on with conserving nature and educating the public to support its role and work. I consider that firm policy adherence will assist the Service to counter any lack of public respect that it may now suffer. I will certainly by supported by the NPA.
The Royal is earmarked to be one of the State's "icon" national parks. As such, it should not be saddled with a major imperfection.
The Minister should see to it that the deer problem is solved quickly and tidily - by shooting all of the deer now.
1. Shire Life - August 1998
2. St George and Sutherland Shire Leader - 12.11.98
Convener Park Management Committee
Environmental activism exhibition
The Historic Houses Trust of NSW has mounted an exhibition, titled PROTEST, of environmental activism in NSW. It is on view at the Police Museum and features police culture, counter culture, middleclass activists, left unions, green bans and forest ferals. The display includes historic photographs and documents from the thirty-year history of environmental activism.
The exhibition will continue until 30 October at the Police Museum, at the corner of Albert and Phillip Streets, Circular Quay, Sydney. It is open at weekends from 10 am to 5 pm and admission is $6.
Natural resource conference Getting it Together: Solutions for Integrating Natural Resource Management in NSW, 4-5 March, 1999; Mallett Street Theatre, Camperdown, Sydney Environmental flows for our rivers, total catchment management, controls on land clearing, fire-risk management - the list of natural resource reforms is growing longer. These are important issues with implications for our future, but how do we draw them together in a meaningful way? How do we guarantee economic, social and ecological harmony? Are there lessons we can learn from New Zealand, Canada or Victoria? "Getting it together" will examine these and other questions. For more information contact the Nature Conservation Council of NSW conference line on 02 9279 2477.
Department of Mineral Resouces and environmental conflict They are thoroughly decent people, the sort you would be glad to have as neighbours, reliable, helpful, courteous. And this is true of them privately. The problem is that collectively they can only see issues from their own culturally determined point of view and that point of view takes precedence over all else.
To whom am I referring? Why, the staff of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) of course. The trouble is they are caught up in the culture of the Department. The culture was set at the time of the gold rush when there was a need to regulate the extraction of gold, but at the same time to facilitate it. The bonanza which gold brought in its wake, particularly at a time in the colony's history when wealth was in short supply, led to an ascendancy of which the department was proud and which it has rigorously defended to this day.
continued over the page 10 FEBRUARY 1999 Envir Envir Envir Envir Environment onment onment onment onment a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a News from the NPWS In 1973 the Mining Act was changed in response to pressure from conservation bodies, including the NPA, to give effect to the changing community attitudes, but, due to mining industry lobbying, the change was only made to the granting of leases, not to their renewal. Renewals were made as a matter of course depending only upon whether the miner had paid the royalties and met the conditions of the lease.
In 1992 the Act was changed again, this time permitting environmental conditions to be imposed during the currency of the lease, so that renewal, though still required, essentially became redundant. In the words of an officer of the Department - when asked under cross-examination what the purpose of renewals might be replied, "Come to think of it, the lease may as well be in perpetuity".
This, sadly, arose during the hearing of the Mining Wardens Inquiry in 1997 into the mining of peat in the Wingecarribee Swamp near Robertson. A few short months later the swamp collapsed during a flood, as a result, according to our hydrology consultant, of a zone of weakness caused by the mining (see October 1998 NPJ).
The whole sorry episode would have been avoided had a `whole of government' approach been taken by the Department of Mineral Resources; or had the Mining Act required renewals of lease to be treated the same as the original grants. There is nothing in the Act requiring renewal to be granted if conditions are met, or that compensation is payable in the event of refusal. To the contrary, it merely states that the Minister may grant or refuse the application for renewal. No need even for reasons to be given. Tradition has so saturated the system that even the Minister apparently thought that compensation could be claimed had he refused the lease.
The `in-house' term used for this expectation of renewal is `sovereign risk'. If renewal is refused when conditions have been met, "there would be a significant adverse impact upon the confidence of mining operators generally and hence a significant adverse effect upon the proper utilisation of the mineral resources of the State of New South Wales. This would arise due to a perception that the New South Wales Government had violated a widely held expectation that a lease renewal would be available as a matter of course [my emphasis] to an applicant which complied with conditions" and so on. One might concede that the company which has been working the lease and abiding by conditions should expect its application to be renewed; unless, of course, perceptions have changed since the lease was last renewed or granted, such that continuation of mining is held to be against the public interest.
The Department, in all its dealings with the many other government authorities which objected to the renewal, steadfastly refused to concede a problem, essentially arguing the company case throughout. It also turned a blind eye to the many Government policies to do with environmental protection and to the considerable evidence of major damage being done to the Swamp.
The fact that the area was recognised as of national significance; had been proposed for recognition as of international status; and had been zoned for environmental protection with no mining allowed; meant nothing to them. They were only too willing to accept evidence from the company that the quality of the drinking water for Bowral, State's 100th park now more accessible Visitor facilities at the South East Forests National Park have recently received an extensive upgrade after $300,000 was spent to improve access for visitors to Myanba Creek.
The South East Forests NP was announced as the State's 100th park by Premier Bob Carr in 1997.
Since then, new facilities including a disabled-access boardwalk, lookout platforms and interpretive signage have been added, emphasising the importance of the Myanba Creek area.
As with past developments in the park, the upgrades represent a cooperative spirit between the NPWS and the local community.
The facilities have been developed to provide maximum access with minimum impact, allowing visitors of all ages and physical abilities to enjoy some of the most spectacular landscapes in Australia.
NSW Environment Minister Pam Allan said the Myanba Creek area has a rich cultural past. "Aboriginal people camped at this location while moving between the coast and the mountains. In the early 1900s, gold miners worked the ground here," Ms Allan said.
Additionally, the area is recognised as an important destination for nature tourists, who are discovering the South East Forests National Park in ever-increasing numbers.
People wishing to receive more information about the facilities and attractions available at the South East Forests NP should contact the NPWS Park Information Line on 1300 361 967, or the Merimbula NPWS Information Centre on 02 6495 5000.
Liz Rossiter Media Assistant FEBRUARY 1999 11 News,V News,V News,V News,V News,Views & Action iews & Action iews & Action iews & Action iews & Action a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a Mittagong and occcasionally Sydney would not be compromised provided certain `safeguards'were adopted. This, despite substantial contra evidence.
The DMR submitted that if the Inquiry supported the need for reassessment at the time of renewal it would encourage many further challenges and would be an improper use of resources. They apparently assume that opposition is simply lodged on principle.
We argued that peat should not be mined in NSW because of its role in the ecology of streams along with the swamp vegetation it supported. This argument is reinforced by the fact that the use of peat in the horticultural industry its only use in Australia - can be readily and adequately substituted by other products, such as coir, which pose no ecological threat.
The DMR, on the other hand, refused to concede either point, arguing instead that it was a resource which the market demanded.
It existed, therefore it should be extracted.
They argued that the overseas objections to peat mining were not relevant to the Wingecarribee situation as mining overseas used dry methods which are inferior to the wet methods used here. It was stated that continuing operations "will be beneficial for the flora of the swamp" whilst at the same time accepting that there was slumping on the upstream, vertically faced side of the dredge pool which "appears to be of little or no significance." A sad irony indeed.
The DMR accepted that the Act does not exclude consideration of environmental concerns in dealing with applications for renewal, but the thrust of its argument on sovereign risk was strongly against it.
The Wingecarribee Swamp issue is by no means the first, nor will it be the last, time that the culture of the DMR has been a critical factor in conflicts between environmental and mining concerns. There has to be a resolution if major damage to the environment is to be avoided in the future.
Changes to the Mining Act are needed by way of requiring applications for renewal of lease to be treated in the same way as for the original grant; that mining shall cease with the expiration of the lease unless supported by favourable environmental assessment and no objection has been lodged; that objections on environmental grounds shall be referred to an Inquiry independent of the Mining Act.
Whilst the Mining Warden is a magistrate independent of DMR, his main function is to do with mining issues. The post attracts those interested in mining, as the Warden stated during the Inquiry.
This is no criticism of the man or the office, rather it would be strange were it not so. To effectively adjudicate environmental/ mining conflict however does require of the person or persons inquiring an understanding or interest in both fields.
At the same time the Planning legislation needs amending to provide that development consents for mining operations be granted only for the period of the lease, thus requiring a new consent for the renewal of the lease.
The next step is for the government to take a firm line in changing the culture within the DMR and to require that the DMR be responsive to other government policies.
It should cease to be the advocate for mining companies and get on with its role as regulator in ensuring the wise use of our non-renewable resources. If this were achieved then conservationists could work in greater harmony with the DMR and the miners in achieving the best outcome for society.
Mining does affect only a small proportion of the Earth's surface generally, and does not significantly affect the ecology in most instances; no objections are lodged in such cases. It does however have the capacity to have a major impact on small but critical areas when one or other side must give way. In such cases it is not reasonable nor in society's interests that mining necessarily take precedence, as it does at the moment on most occasions.
If nothing else comes of the huge sum spent and time wasted at the Wingecarribee Swamp Inquiry and of the terrible disaster of the collapse of the swamp, then we will not have laboured in vain.
(John) HC Dorman Branch Coastal workshops A series of workshops on coastal issues is being held in March by the Environmental Defender's Office, in collaboration with Coastcare and a variety of local groups.
The half-day workshops will deal with using the law to protect the coastal environment; changes to planning and development law; and other related matters, such as the laws relating to native vegetation and threatened species conservation.
The workshops are to be held in many locations: Byron Bay, Lismore, Grafton, Forster, Newcastle, Narrabeen, Wollongong, Vincentia and Narooma. There is a fee for attendance; refreshments and an environmental law toolkit will be provided.
To find out more, contact Julie at the EDO on 1800 626 239 or 9262 6989 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org 12 FEBRUARY 1999 The Executive of NPA's State Council held their December meeting in Gundabooka National Park with accommodation at Belah Homestead. Their hosts were staff from the park and the Cobar NPWS office.
Located seventy kilometres southwest of Bourke in north-western NSW, with an area of 43,590 ha, Gundabooka NP spans both the crescent-shaped, rocky Gundabooka Range and a large expanse of lower-lying semi-arid bush land.
Gundabooka NP is one of the newer national parks, and has recently been further extended with the acquisition of Mulgowan Station.
Bordering the north-western edge of the Cobar Peneplain Bioregion, Gundabooka NP provides valuable habitat for a diverse range of plant and animal species, many of which are characteristic of the region. Prior to the establishment of the park only one percent of these native species were protected within the reserve system, making Gundabooka a valuable contribution to the national park estate. The Gundabooka region has maintained many important traditional Aboriginal cultural and oral links, with Mount Gunderbooka still forming a significant part of the Biame Dreaming Track, a major dreaming track in the region.
On our recent visit to the park, the many natural and cultural values of the area were immediately recognisable. Following a month of heavy rainfall in the region, the park was supporting a dense covering of native grass and bush vegetation, and a diverse range of insect and bird species (52 different bird varieties were spotted in the immediate vicinity of Belah Homestead).
The park has good examples of mulga (Acacia aneura), bimble box (Eucalyptus populnea), ironwood (A. excelsa), white cypress pine (Callitris glaucophylla), wilga (Geijera parviflora), rosewood (Heterodendrum oleifolium) and belah (Casuarina cristata) (NPWS, 1996).
The protection of a number of threatened animal species within the park is of paramount importance, including the little pied bat and the largest colony in NSW of kultarr (a small hopping mouse).
The natural vegetation of the rocky ranges provides essential habitat for the wallaroo, the wedge-tailed eagle and the peregrine falcon, with the lower plains providing habitat for the western grey, eastern grey and red kangaroo, as well as emu (NPWS, 1996).
Mount Gunderbooka is of special spiritual and cultural importance to the local Aboriginal community. Within the park there are many good examples of traditional rock art showing Ngeemba dancers, animal spirits and intricate fish-trap designs. Local Aboriginal guides provided us with invaluable information about the cultural significance of these sites and the surrounding area, including significant Aboriginal burial sites and fish-trap middens along the Darling River. The Cultural Museum in Brewarrina gives an extraordinary insight into the traditional history of indigenous Australia and to a people living in sensitive and equal harmony with the environment.
My personal thanks go to Paul Gordan, Ngeemba man and traditional owner; Phil Sullivan, Aboriginal Sites Officer, Bourke; and Brad at the Cultural Museum in Brewarrina: for such an informative insight into traditional Aboriginal culture.
Thanks also go to the NPWS for looking after the NPA Executive during the December Executive Meeting at Belah Homestead, and for giving up the weekend to take us by 4WD around Gundabooka National Park. Thanks to Henry Petersen, District Manager; Bill Fittler, Assistant District Manager; Richard Atkinson, Pest Control Officer; Tim Lanyon, Gundabooka Park Ranger; and Rob Bartell, Senior Field Officer.
Reference NPWS (1996), Gundabooka National Park Information Sheet, Government Publication, Sydney NSW * Vivien Clayphan-Dunne is an Executive member .
Gundabooka trip Vivien Clayphan-Dunne* ARTWORK NO REDUCE BY 1/3
FEBRUARY 1999 13 E L E C T I O N O n your mark, get set, go! And so the politicians are off and racing for the NSW State election on 27 March.
In this race, the winning margin will be determined in theory by who has the most attractive set of policies for the voters.
Unfortunately, as we go to press we have no new policy announcements on the environment from either the ALP or the Coalition - indeed we fear that for the major parties it may well be a repeat of the recent Federal election: don't mention the "E" word.
Of course Premier Carr will seek support from conservation voters on his delivery of national park promises, and the initiation of reforms on inland water resources and conservation of native vegetation. What he will not want to acknowledge is the failure on his major 1995 promise - to save the forests - and that the water and native vegetation reforms are modest and already compromised.
On the other hand, the Coalition has already handicapped itself and desperately needs to improve its environmental credentials. It has promised to tear up the water and native vegetation reforms and start again - promises clearly driven by an intransigent and environmentally irresponsible National Party and NSW Farmers Association. National Party MPs have made it clear that they will oppose any new national parks or major environmental reforms; some are seeking a review of national parks so that so-called "surplus" areas can be handed over to the graziers, loggers and miners.
The Leader of the Coalition, Ms Chikarovski, has still not formally repudiated her reported statements as Shadow Environment spokesperson that she would revoke new forest national parks not approved by the Federal Government (given that the Federal Minister for Forests, Wilson "Ironbar" Tuckey, has already rejected the highly compromised forest decisions by the Carr Government as too unfavourable to the timber industry, this is hardly promising).
Her initial press conference as Opposition Leader was unfortunately marred by claims that people were being locked out of national parks and that she would open the parks up for all. This of course is the very rhetoric of the extreme development, 4WD and other high-impact recreation lobby groups, who want to go anywhere and do anything in national parks no matter what the environmental damage or loss of amenity to other park visitors may be.
NPA will be seeking clear commitments from all parties to the future directions for national parks. Key commitments must include: a publicly owned and managed national parks estate nature conservation as the first priority for national parks appropriate use of national parks consistent with the first priorities of nature conservation and quiet enjoyment by all other visitors a robust and uncompromised National Parks and Wildlife Service which is not part of any land-use or natural-resources department, with the inherent conflict of interests.
We will also be seeking support for solid progress with the achievement of a comprehensive reserve system and a number of specific new reserve proposals, particularly in western NSW, the Sydney Basin and on the South Coast. Major initiatives need to be taken to incorporate coastal lakes and their immediate catchment areas in the national park system, together with many of the coastal wetlands and patches of remnant coastal rainforest.
The environmental damage caused by peat mining in Wingecarribee Swamp in the Southern Highlands has focused attention on the need for reform of the mining laws, to prohibit peat mining in NSW and to otherwise bring mining into line with current environment and planning controls for other development. Commitments to these reforms will be sought.
There are many, many other issues which can and will be raised by NPA in the election lead-up; indeed many are already the subject of NPA representations and public statements. The real issue is obtaining clear and genuine conservation commitments from the politicians and their parties. This is much more likely if NPA members and other concerned conservation voters are constantly taking the issues up with party leaders, local members and election candidates.
Noel Plumb Executive Officer
14 FEBRUARY 1999 T TT TT he NPA's main focus is the expansion and conservation of the national parks system. The core component of this system is what we consider to be "the bush", whether it is forests of massive trees or arid-country shrubs. The notion of "the bush" will have a different connotation for each one of us though. The meaning each attaches to landscape is based on our perceptions of its significance and its components.
To many Australians a specific environmental feature is the element that counts: it may be the birds that are of primary interest; for others it could be botanical variation; or rocks. This highlights however only one meaning: educational interest (or sheer curiosity).
Another popular meaning is as a refuge, a haven, a place to escape daily pressures. This seems to be of greatest relevance to those who feel city-locked and cut off from natural phenomena, or feel simply overcrowded. This, of course, applies to the majority of non-Aboriginal Australians, who have always clustered in large urban centres.
Then again, people who live in rural areas, and indeed many peoples in other countries, regard the bush as an intrinsic part of their lives and their survival. The sheep-station owner is not so very far removed from those in most of the world who will eat whatever animal they may come across, and with good reason, too.
Historical continuity can be a significant connection. To be able to say "Alexander the Great walked through my town" is impossible for many of us to imagine. We are trying to establish our own historical meaning, such as recounting the travails of the "explorers", but we only have 200 years worth to rely on how does that match up with potentially 60,000 years of continuous occupation?
Then there is spiritual significance, in the literal sense of being aware of the presence of spirits. These may be ever-present, or historical. Many cultures retain this notion of spirituality, but those who came here in the last 200 years no longer have such connections, particularly if they were from cultures that had already relegated such spirituality to being mere superstition.
These are all ways of engaging with landscape, whether it is substantially modified by humans or still remains as "bush".
When I first started approaching people to put down their ideas of "What the bush means to me", I began with the theory that ethnicity would influence relationship to the natural world. I think I am about to throw that out the window. From talking to various people (of varied backgrounds) about the subject, and reading the following articles, I have developed a few new theories. One of them is that I suspect direct personal experience is the major determining factor.
Another is that possibly the greatest difference exists between those with extensive experience of living in country areas, as against intensely urban people. A further thought is that the lack of true history and spirituality here has muddied our vision and often led to the creation of a false ideal of the "bush".
Except for Aboriginal Australians, we are all migrants, and that has led us to pillage and destroy. We viewed this country as somewhere to "make good", somewhere we may even leave one day, taking home our spoils. We had no notion of past connections and so could not envisage future connections - so what was the point of nurturing what was here?
Conversely, the human need for solace, for engagement with the natural environment (even if only discrete parts of it), for a sense of the continuity of life, has led us to construct the abstract vision of "the bush". Before you lynch me, the corollary of this is that we obviously need that vision for sanity and survival.
In conclusion, we tried to collect a disparate range of authors, with the intention of re-examining why it is that we go bushwalking, or engage in "nature conservation". You will notice that we have included a couple of those who would generally be considered as "dinky-di Aussies". There are particular themes that are common amongst these articles (especially the view of the bush as a refuge from urban life), but some of the other connections mentioned above are also highlighted. Naturally, a major thread is that whatever vision one may have of it, the bush is significant to us, as humans and as part of the animal world.
It is dangerous to lose too much of it, as we will lose part of ourselves.
Glyn Mather NPJ Editor Contributions to a continuing debate in the Journal on this subject are welcome!
a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a Connections with the bush FEBRUARY 1999 15 C A (Linna) Mitchell C A (Linna) Mitchell C A (Linna) Mitchell C A (Linna) Mitchell C A (Linna) Mitchell To me the bush is a place of recreation, relaxation and education.
I find lots of entertaining things to do in the bush, such as looking at interesting rock formations, swimming in a natural waterfall, engaging in both easy and exploratory bushwalks, canoeing in the rivers, camping in the beautiful natural areas or purely appreciating the fresh air and the scenery.
I feel going to the bush is a way of relaxation. The atmosphere is quiet and tranquil and I get more in tune with my inner self. Looking around me watching the big and the small trees with their green leaves makes me feel peaceful. I can make a contrast to other types of leisure, such as when I watch a thrilling movie and I'm at the edge of my seat from start to finish. When the movie is over I feel tense and in need of a rest to unwind.
Going to the bush has taught me a lot of things. I have gotten to know what is a eucalypt, a wattle, a possum, a kookaburra, a gymea lily and many more.
As a practising accountant by profession, I find it fascinating to see different types of trees, flowers, animals and birds that are in their natural environment rather than in a zoo.
I was 22 years of age when I came by myself to Australia as a migrant. Where I grew up in the Philippines there is not lots of "bush" as such. Most of the land areas are privately owned and there is not a great deal of land area that you can call bush or national park and go exploring to. I had never even heard of the word bushwalking before coming to Australia.
The first time I saw bush in Australia was at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains National Park. It was awesome to be in a spacious open place where the fresh air blew in my face and I could smell gum leaves and hear the sound of bird songs. It was sheer and utter freedom, both physically and spiritually! The first time I saw a goanna my instant reaction was to reach for my sling shot to kill it and eat it for my dinner. I was immediately chastened by my companion and told that the goanna is a protected species. It was such a wonderful realisation for me that the animals also have the right to live freely.
My childhood upbringing was that any animal we would see in the forest was for us to hunt for food, and also that it is extremely dangerous to go camping because we could get robbed, mugged or assaulted by thieves.
In Australia it is generally safe to camp in the bush and it is a good way to learn to appreciate the bush.
Most national parks have designated camping areas which serve to promote camping. I am so lucky to have become part of this country with lots of natural bush to appreciate and use.
It has given me the inspiration to share my wonderful experiences of the bush with my extended family, circle of friends and members of our ethnic community. I organise bush walks, camping trips and crosscountry ski tours so that in turn my friends may also experience the beauty of nature. In the process we all get to know more about the country we are now living in. Every time we go to the bush we have much enjoyment and fun in the natural surroundings. We realise how important it is for the natural environment to be protected and maintained in a similar condition as exists now, so that our grandchildren and future generations may also be able to have the experiences that we did.
I stayed at the Star City Casino and Hotel for three days during the New Year of 1999. I got sick and the doctor diagnosed that I picked up a virus from so many different people in the casino and the restaurants. The next day I went on a trip for a week to the Grampians National Park in Victoria. The place was the best medicine I could have ever asked for. The sight of green leaves, the smell of fresh air, swimming in the clean waters of the waterfalls and doing leisurely walks for exercise invigorated my body. My experience proves that leisure spent in the big city is physically tiring, whereas leisure spent in the bush is physically rejuvenating.
The last time I visited my old home town in the Philippines I sought out natural bush areas to visit and go for a walk. Unfortunately such areas just don't exist on the island I come from. So I went to the beach instead, and while gazing at the horizon I said to myself, "As soon as I get back home to Australia, I'll go to the Royal National Park for a pleasant bush walk".
Peter Herbst Peter Herbst Peter Herbst Peter Herbst Peter Herbst I was born in far-away Europe and I received my education in Pommieland, for which I still have respect and admiration. It is a pity, that England has to be PHOTO NO EXPAND BY 2.5 Kingfisher Trail, Heathcote, Royal NP??
BRIAN DARWOOD 16 FEBRUARY 1999 denigrated so that Australians may feel that they have come of age. The devices of nationalism are many, cultural and linguistic. They are often tied to a military tradition which values glory. Nationalism is born of legend; it is replete with heroes and villains. There is one thing which the nation-state cannot dispense with: it is the idea of the uniqueness of the mother-land. The word "land" is to be taken literally: a nation requires a national territory. It lays claim to a tract of land on the Earth's surface, with its hills and dales, its flora and fauna. In this country we have the advantage of having species which distinguish it from all the rest.
When I came to this country, it was the outback which I saw first. It was vast, direct in its impact, unsentimental. Huge flocks of cockatoos dominated the landscape. Later I became acquainted also with the rocks and forests of the eastern seaboard. I loved them but find it hard to tell you why. The bush is rough and unforgiving and also timelessly present and primordial. I discovered that Australians treat this land as if it were an enemy. By way of demonstrating our mastery, we cut down our forests, to gain a pittance.
We poison our river systems, we squander our precious supplies of water and we allow our rivers and creeks to become wadis, with the silt washed into the sea. Our fauna is unique, but year by year the list of extinctions grows longer. In my view, patriotism which allows the land itself to be despoiled, is fake.
It has become fashionable to be a a conservationist. The council collects waste, we are kind to the bush, or to some feature of it. But many of us expect the bush to compete with consumer goods. Now how can that be done without predetermining the result? To appreciate the beauty and power of the bush we must foreswear the role of managers.
I'm not a purist, neither in morals, nor in my environmental stance. A garden, though man-made, does not necessarily upset the natural balance, and a grassy hill does not seem any the less beautiful if it was wooded in former times. Man-made changes damage the ecological balance mainly if they take the form of land clearance or industrial exploitation.
Many who think of themselves as caring for unspoiled nature are fearful of the Australian bush. The earliest travellers recorded it as flinty and harsh. But that incorporates a misconception. The darling buds of May are not for us in the antipodes. To be lovely is not necessarily to be temperate. A thought strikes me, which is very abstract. What I chiefly love about the bush is that it is not the centrepiece of a well-rehearsed drama, it does not invite anthropomorphic appreciation. It is what it is, without our intrusion, and not, as we falsely suppose, a stimulant of bogus emotions.
Kristi MacDonald Kristi MacDonald Kristi MacDonald Kristi MacDonald Kristi MacDonald As a girl born and bred in Sydney, the bush is a place for me to escape to. I have always lived in and gone to school in suburbia. As a working adult I travel every day to the city centre. Being able to get away from the everyday and flee to the bush, which provides a place of solace, probably keeps me sane. The bush is a place to reflect: to just sit, look around and wonder what the area was like before the onslaught of development.
Getting completely away from our metropolis on an extended trip is even better. Really going bush, getting back to basics and doing little else but walking, contemplating life, spending time with the few people that I travel with and just relaxing is something that I do not indulge in often enough. This is probably the case with many people.
However - knowing that these areas are there is enough. Imagine if we didn't have remnant natural areas surrounding Sydney - not only would we miss out on the experience of "getting away from it all" what would happen to everything that depends on them? It is important to me that these areas are there that there are some islands of nature amongst the crowded area of Sydney where our native flora and fauna can survive - albeit a challenge to do so.
Getting out there amongst it all - and just listening to the sounds of the bush - is one of the most enjoyable ways to relax that I know. The bush is a place to go for a long walk and to forget about the trials of the working week and the jobs around the house, to reenergise and calm the soul.
Although I appreciate the bush as a place to reflect, I see the bush, more importantly, as areas to cherish not for what they provide to us, but what they PHOTO NO EXPAND BY 2.5 TIMES A "flinty and harsh" landscape? Gundabooka NP, NSW VIVIEN CLAYPHAN-DUNNE FEBRUARY 1999 17 provide for everything else. Our remaining natural areas, little affected by human occupation, are havens for our plants and animals, areas of biodiversity to be managed accordingly. We need to retain and look after what is left so that we can continue to appreciate all that these areas have to offer well into the future.
Glyn Mather Glyn Mather Glyn Mather Glyn Mather Glyn Mather I arrived here at the age of six from the snowy landscape of Canada. My first year was at Emu Plains (very different then), but the biggest impact came when we moved to North Queensland. So green, and always green, and the rain was so heavy, the beaches so startling beautiful (those of the so-called Great Lakes not being a patch on, say, Port Douglas), and everything was so big (even the ants), and each there was so much variation in the landscape (from semiarid to rainforest).
Everything just seemed to be drawn on a grander scale (although I hadn't seen Niagara Falls at that stage). I did my best as a child to re-create snow from time to time (my lucky mother!), but my heart got lodged in the tropics, particularly on the beaches. And you could go around with no shoes on - a freedom which probably epitomises the appeal for many European settlers such as my parents (one English, one Swedish).
I was thrown into this world where even a child could wander around freely and find something to do (exploring rock platforms), something to watch (such as those ants), something to engage with (cubbies amongst the beach shrubs), every minute of the day.
Even in small towns the natural environment seemed to be ever-present, and right outside the door (tadpoles in the grassed swale gutters of Cairns). I have been fortunate to able to maintain these kinds of connections since becoming an urbanite, as my parents still remain in the country (surrounded by hectares of welladvanced regrowth forest, what's more).
The bush to me is part of a continuum of nature. I admit to breathing a sigh of relief when I find a place from which Centrepoint Tower is not visible, and to going a little peculiar if I have been stuck in the city for too long. The personal significance of the bush though is not so much the opportunity for solitude, but rather that of being able tobe surrounded solely by features that are not human creations. The plants, the fungi, the birds, the insects (particularly the ants - did you know Australia has an extraordinarily high number of species?): the minutiae of life. I can still see evidence of these, as well as the bones of the Earth and the cycle of seasons, in inner-city Sydney; here, however, they are clouded by the intrusion of artificial structures and vast paved areas.
I confess to finding the bush surrounding Sydney to be too trammelled, too frequented; that shock of vastness and human emptiness has never left, and to me true bush - whether it is so-called wilderness or regrowth forest - is the absence of human evidence.
(That, of course, is probably not true of any part of Australia, but I am too untrained to be able to detect Aboriginal traces.) Although the signs of "nature" may be visible in cities, it is the sheer diversity of life that is missing, that has to be conserved. Or where will the new life come from? And new species of ants?
PHOTO NO REDUCE BY 20% ROB JUNG A child's-eye view of the world, perhaps; Croobyar State Forest, NSW 18 FEBRUARY 1999 Melati L Melati L Melati L Melati L Melati Lye ye ye ye ye I would consider myself an urban dweller having spent most of my life in cities, first Colombo, then Hong Kong and now Sydney, and I must admit that the built environment is more familiar to me than the `bush'. So trying to understand what the bush meant to me involved a fair bit of soul searching, particularly as my senses have been somewhat jaded by a predictable urban life. I would also add that my `bush' experiences are more closely related to the jungles or forests of Sri Lanka, where I spent my formative years.
The jungles of Sri Lanka are invariably linked to places of religious significance by myths, legends and folklore. My earliest recollections of the jungle were connected with an annual pilgrimage that we made to one such location, Kataragama in southern Sri Lanka.
Religious obligations were usually followed by a few days of relaxation at nearby Yala National Park. The entire region was `God's country', where all living things were considered sacred.
We usually stayed in a wooden hut belonging to a game-ranger friend of my father. It was a strange feeling to be surrounded by the jungle with its unfamiliar sounds and smells, particularly at night. Having an intimate knowledge of the park, our friend would identify the animal sounds, footprints, droppings and let us view them (particularly the elephants or leopards) from a safe distance. He would recount his latest escapades, where his fierce love of wildlife led to constant battles with poachers and on some occasions nearly cost him his life. I always felt a heightened sense of reverence bordering on awe on these visits. The whole experience was unreal, almost an escape, but it seemed to fulfil some sort of spiritual need to touch base with the natural world. We would return to `civilisation' enlightened and enriched.
Traditional eastern philosophies adopt a non-anthropocentric view of the world where every living thing has a place in the natural hierarchy, with humans no more or less than any other being. Conservation values were thus cleverly incorporated with spiritual concepts. The jungle was considered a mysterious place, where the unknown existed and fear abounded; the abode of spirits both good and evil. The magnificent trees, rock formations, still waters and rapids, the strange sounds and a multitude of creatures ranging from the minute, almost invisible, insect to the mighty elephant were all part of an intricate system that commanded respect.
To me nature's mysteries and wonders represent the fragility of existence and certainty of death, but it also means the continuity of life. We humans cannot ignore it, as we are a part of it. The American naturalist Aldo Leopold observed that: `We of the industrial age boast of our control over nature ... there is no force in earth or sky which we will not shortly harness to build "the good life" for ourselves. But what is the good life? _ We stand guard over works of art, but species representing the work of aeons are stolen from under our noses.' David Rudder David Rudder David Rudder David Rudder David Rudder Living and working in the heart of Sydney, the bush is so far removed from my daily routine that it only enters my consciousness when I have the opportunity to contemplate my urbanised condition. Then the bush comes to the fore as a stark reminder of the real world as opposed to this crazy construct we call the city. I seek escape to the bush at these times not so much to "recharge my batteries", although this is an inevitable and welcome consequence, but more, to renew contact with something more fundamental: something un-made by humans.
In the bush I find reassurance in the continuity of nature in time. The same species of birds and lizards are here as were here last time and the time before that and in fact since a time beyond my comprehension, although I do fear for the future. In the bush I am amongst rocks and trees which have been here "forever". I find this timelessness reassuring, even if this bush is regrowth after earlier activities.
I feel privileged to have grown up with something that inspires awe in visitors from Europe. The unkempt antiquity they confront here cannot be found in the Old World, where the landscape is largely contrived at the hands of "civilised" mankind after centuries of occupation. The Australian bush is not pretty but I find its rawness beautiful.
For me, the bush is not a playground. It is not a place for frenetic activity. It is not even a place that must be traversed with backpack. It is a place to be: to sit down in or wander about in. Best to sit still for then its wonders are revealed to me as its creatures seek me out because of natural trusting curiosity. The bush asks for nothing but to be accepted on its own terms. This is a dignity unattainable to humans which lends the bush unequalled nobility.
For me the ambassadors for the bush are not those icons the kangaroo, wombat and koala: I have only ever seen two koalas in the wild and only one wombat.
The true ambassadors for the bush are the bush birds: the wrens, fantails, thornbills and finches. I find their presence unfailingly reassuring and companionable. Without them there is no bush.
The bush is where I like to be alone. In all other environments I enjoy human company and I generally seek social contact. Not in the bush. I find company enough in the certainty that when the day dawns the trees, rocks, birds and all other forms of bush life will be there with me: around and over me, like always, even in a storm's tempest.
The city is a construct that is constantly changing and suffocating of my spirit. The bush is timeless, uplifting, invigorating. The bush represents the antithesis of all that is wrong with the world. The bush is my wellspring of optimism and hope for a future for my children.
FEBRUARY 1999 19 Perisher resorts make or break issue for national parks Keith Muir* T he future of national parks in NSW is encapsulated in the Perisher Range issue. Do we allow commercial interests to dictate park management, as recommended by last year's Commission of the Inquiry into the Perisher Range ski resorts? Or are national parks in NSW to remain areas set aside for nature conservation, where beauty and environmental integrity are valued above economic efficiency and utility?
The Resort Commissioners' have recommended 1,320 more beds above the snowline. These beds are said to be needed to combat "the downturn or static economic performance of the Perisher Range Ski resorts". To date the Perisher resort has netted about 40 per cent of the national snow business with less than a quarter of the beds. It is quite obvious that more beds are not needed to maintain the healthy flow of day visitors to the slopes, let alone the 30% more beds than the NPWS were obliged to recommend.
The head-lease contest The Inquiry's recommendation that a head lease be established to make resort design and management easier and more coherent is clearly contradicted by the National Parks - Visions for the New Millennium (Report from the Steering Committee to the Minister for the Environment), released in November last year. The `Visions' report recommends that (pp 52 & 53): "no concessions of a private or semi-private nature should be granted"; "the Service should not encourage developments of a village or urban nature within its reserves"; "the Service should plan and manage its reserves so as to make the maximum use of visitor accommodation and related facilities off park"; "the Service should discourage the amalgamation or amassing of concessional interests within its public reserves and avoid the creation of commercial entities which may exert excessive influence in their management"; and "the Service should not be encouraged to create a real estate market".
The Perisher Range resort developments are the Park Visions' acid test. And it is a conflict that will set the Minister for the Environment, Pam Allan, and the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Craig Knowles, on a collision course.
The resort is an apartment/real estate and retail development that has little to do with skiing. The Commissioners accepted as fact Perisher Blue's opinion that realising the park's assets through resort development will arrest the decline in the market share experienced by the NSW ski industry when no persuasive evidence was offered. The facts are that the skiing industry has plateaued because Australia's population is aging and less interested in skiing.
Perisher location ARTWORK NO REDUCE BY 20 FEBRUARY 1999 To make quick profits it is necessary to sell real estate (longterm apartment leases) in Kosciuszko National Park and increase commercial floor rental space by 6,000 m 2 .
That banks, shops and maybe even real estate offices may compromise sound national park management is irrelevant according to the Commissioners - it is dollars and suburban convenience that counts in their analysis.
A head lease is a licence to print money. It is the sub-lessees who carry the risk if their shops and apartments go broke. The head lessee simply administers the operation and picks up the rent. It is a monopoly situation, and the average skier will pay more for the privilege.
Park planning privatised The Inquiry Commissioners also foreshadowed a need to facilitate future resort development. A further planning process is proposed in partnership with Kosciuszko Thredbo Pty Ltd, Perisher Blue and the NSW Ski Association.
Such a planning structure effectively hands NPWS park management over to the developers.
This entrepreneurial park management approach is in accord with the Commissioners' view of managing for "the most significant use of Kosciusko National Park, namely snow sports". This is an interesting opinion given that only about a third of the park is above the snowline.
But as snow sports are a "significant component of the State and Regional economy over which the NPWS has a direct control", resort growth in national parks apparently takes precedence over nature conservation.
Park management by market share It is not just floor space that would be developed; it is also a broad range of uses that have nothing to do with parks or conservation. In "Cool summer high peddled", Barry Oliver for Weekend Australian (19/12/98, p 41) explains that after a disappointing winter Australia's top skiing resorts are launching marketing campaigns to attract visitors to these huge operations, which have millions of dollars of infrastructure and cannot afford to stand idle for two-thirds of the year.
To woo Aussies to higher ground in summer, resorts have organised special events. At Mt Buller in Victoria a country festival, picnic races, rodeo, Irish comedy and music festival, bush market, romantic weekends and mountainbike races attract a lot of interest.
Unfortunately none of these activities are nature-focused recreation activities appropriate to a national park. They can all be established in population centres and rural districts outside national parks, where the development would be of more benefit to local business interests.
In Thredbo a program of music festivals, a Shakespeare weekend, sculpture symposium, trout fishing, horse riding, a golf course, bobsledding (on a stainless steel track), plus pool, gymnasium and other sport facilities have been developed. These are the activities that the well-funded marketing campaigns will seek to define as appropriate use in national parks.
The same breadth of uses will soon be pushing up into the Main Range for the Perisher Resorts, if the resort owners have their way.
Conservation, where it does rear its head in the Inquiry's report, is relegated to the mere alleviation of biotic pain through soil conservation works and pollution controls.
Integrating developers into park management is exactly the wrong way to manage parks. The purpose of parks is to set these areas aside from development, for nature, forever, otherwise there is no point in reserving these wonderful remaining fragments of the natural environment.
The practical alternative of locating resorts outside the park, recommended by the NPWS in October 1980 and again in the Millennium Vision report, should be adopted by the Government to ensure our parks are kept primarily for nature conservation.
* Keith Muir is the Director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness. Perisher resort areas (derived from NPWS report to Craig Knowles "Proposed Perisher Range Resort Area - Village Centre Master Plan) ARTWORK NO REDUCE BY
Letters to the Editor Letters to the Editor Letters to the Editor Letters to the Editor Letters to the Editor a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a USUAL PHOTO see p 21 December issue
Deep down, The earth-gnawer, As steel feet Shuffle forward, Relentless behind The bitter biting Of tungsten teeth.
It moves along, As the rams push And behind, the roof Sags into void As sandstone strata, Laid on the floor Of an ancient sea, Shatter and crumble.
The monster below Cracks and casts down The creation of aeons.
Pagodas crash, Their delicate shapes Beaten to dust By the sightless one That chews the bones Of a helpless world.
For this man comes, For the trapped sunlight Of a long lost age.
To crash the temples Of Nature's architect, And deface the work Of the Earth's sculptor.
Deep, deep down Step by step Crawls the nemesis, Breaking the spell That binds the world Of the sandstone wizard.
Hunters ruin peace
My son, daughter, husband and I undertook a walk in Kosciuszko NP in November and had reason to feel unsafe from day one, through the finding of two hunting knives and the continued presence and ongoing evidence of illegal 4wheel driver activity. Other related concerns included track damage from illegal vehicular use and the loss of a heritage hut.
We located the Grey Mare Fire Trail on 14 November and immediately identified recent vehicular tracks heading in both easterly and westerly directions. We walked to Mackey's Hut, and on finding two enormous and frightening hunting knives in the hut, my husband urged that we camp outside so that, should any nighttime incursions from their owners or like-minded 4-wheel drivers occur, we would not be trapped in the hut. The knives measure approximately between 25 and 35 cm long, and appear to be those likely to be used for the killing of pigs or other large animals.
We hid the knives, and camped outside. Sure enough at 1 am we were woken from a dead sleep by the sound of vehicle(s) and dogs, and by the flashing of spotlights and headlights. An examination the next morning of the vehicular tracks showed that they had come within 50 m of our tents. We were all very upset and frightened by the experience.
This was my daughter's first long bushwalk. She told me that, while she had often heard me speak of these night-time incursions, until it actually happened to her she had never fully understood how truly terrifying it could be.
Fortunately, on this occasion we were not harmed, but at the time we could not predict what might happen next.
Our walk over the following days witnessed constant and recent evidence of 4WD activity.
The damage, at times, was significant. We NEVER felt totally safe. In fact we thought that, based on our past experience, as a party of four we were particularly vulnerable.
During recent contact with people from NPA NSW and the NPWS, I have learned that a recent stake-out by the NPWS and police had successfully apprehended the occupants of a vehicle after an extensive chase through the Jagungal wilderness and Mackey's Hut region of the park.
Obviously our park rangers need improved resources to cope with these problems, and to ensure their own safety and that of the public. I expect there must be new technological devices that can be used to record these illegal visitations for subsequent convictions: similar devices are used on the highways. This would reduce the need for rangers to be physically threatened, increase the safety of the public, increase the conviction rate, and deter future illegal ventures. I feel very strongly that there is a great disparity between the means of collecting data for convictions and the level of fines as a deterrent for ordinary drivers, compared with those charged (if they can be charged) and subsequently convicted for infringements in national parks.
My son has concluded, and we have reluctantly been forced to agree, that as things now stand there is no impediment, constraint or threat, to any use, by anyone, at any time, of any weapon or vehicle in our national parks. A person can drive in, carry guns and knives, use dogs, threaten and intimidate the public, and the owner walks away in a court case without even a related National Parks and Wildlife Act charge against them.
I am repeatedly told by some well-intentioned NPWS staff, to "take their number plates, report the location of incursions." I know from experience that, having done every one of these, even though it may be a life-threatening deed - it comes to nought. How dare they suggest, and the State Government condone, that I continue to risk my life (and possibly those of my family) by just walking in KNP, let alone in trying to identify these marauding intruders.
What am I supposed to do?
Walk up to these nice men, ask them to turn off the spotlights, tether the dogs, put away the guns, knives and the chainsaw, while I uncover the registration plate, then ask them to hold still while I take their photo and seek proof of identification! The National Parks and Wildlife Act is inadequate to deal with these current problems. It needs reform.
It is only a matter of time before someone in the public or the NPWS gets hurt or killed.
Unfortunately the continued evidence of 4WD activity further marred the trip, culminating on 19 November when we made our way down the Four Mile Fire Trail to discover the worst event of all that the heritage Broken Dam Hut had been totally burnt down. Our daughter never got to see it.
There are few wooden huts left in the park, and she may not get the opportunity to see another. Evidence of vehicular tracks, large chainsawn burnt logs at the doorway to the burnt hut and a stubbie suggest the involvement of the 4WD sector. This hut was a rarity in the park, and it truly breaks my heart to have lost it to careless and illegal use.
6 January 1999
This is an edited version of a letter that was sent to Premier Bob Carr.
Clubs the way to go In her letter published in the December 1998 NP Journal, Margaret Richardson told of seeing rubbish left around an overnight campsite. My experience has been that rubbish is mostly found in the more accessible sites and is likely to have been left by inexperienced walkers walking in private groups. The record of club walkers, even inexperienced ones, is in my opinion much better.
On club walks, people who are new to bushwalking learn very quickly what is acceptable and what is not - and often it is not just the leader who conveys that message!
As Margaret says in her letter, we do need to remind all walkers how to behave in the bush. The Confederation of Bushwalkers has published a "Code of Ethics" which is an excellent summary of good walking and environmental practices and should be read by all walkers. But, in addition, we need to encourage new walkers to join a club. Obviously, club walkers are not perfect and we can always improve, but for safety and to learn conservation values, walking with a club is very definitely the way to go.
16 December 1998
"Doing" the bush
Permit me to relate a minor bugbear of NPA bushwalking. Inevitably talk turns to walks that have been "done", as in "I did the Six Foot Track". The "doers" then relate their exploits, astonished at their own fearlessness and rugged resolve.
One does not "do" walks any more than one "does" the opera (except in a sardonic sense). Use of language connotes something deeper, in this case a mental checklist whose accomplishment is desired at the expense of true experience.
Failing agreement on the abolition of "doing", can I suggest that after 100 walks the "doers" be awarded a cloth badge inscribed "Master Trekker". Further, on visiting the Himalayas (and acquiring the proper emphasis on the syllables) the same cloth badge be issued - but this time in gold.
On second thoughts, yet another cloth badge ought to be made available and worn by those who do not wish to hear about amazing treks, a nepalling prospect.
26 December 1998
Whose land is it?
Noel Plumb contradicts his apparent advocacy for reconciliation with dispossessed Aboriginal people in western NSW when he insists upon the primacy of nature conservation on Aboriginal-owned national parks (NPJ Dec 98).
Noel Plumb should state unequivocally on behalf of the NPA Executive whether they support genuine reconciliation with Aboriginal people or conditional ownership (leaseback) of national parks. If the latter, as would seem to be the case, then this is surely reconciliation on NPA's terms. It is not true reconciliation if, in returning ownership, it leaves ultimate authority over land use in the hands of nonAboriginal people. In truth, it represents a perpetuation of the same paternalism that has pervaded our relationship with Aboriginal people since the days of Arthur Phillip.
Whose land is it really?!
17 January 1999
FEBRUARY 1999 23 INSIDE BACK COVER
Reviews Reviews Reviews Reviews Reviews
Community Biodiversity Survey Manual
National Parks Association of NSW Inc
This book is a comprehensive and detailed manual for prospective biological survey organisers. It has been well focused to assist community groups with the complex task of preparing and executing well-structured surveys. An easyto-understand introduction is followed by an important section belabouring the need to set clear aims and objectives. The manual sensibly deals with two levels of survey intensity which it calls "preliminary" and "detailed" surveys, outlining a rationale for choosing between these levels based on aims, objectives and projected resources.
Chapter 4 details the time requirements and commitments that undertaking a survey will demand.
This section on survey logistics includes information on timelines and planning, and on the necessary permits and licences with where to obtain them (for biological survey work in NSW). All aspects of preparation (down to menus and food quantities) are discussed, and handy form letters to team leaders/ survey participants/landholders are provided as examples.
Site-selection criteria and methodologies are described in Chapter 5. Survey organisers are directed to seek professional advice to assist in site selection for detailed surveys to maximise the value of their efforts.
The remaining chapters deal with methods, references and the need to collect accurate data and also provides examples of the allimportant datasheets and what to do with them when completed.
Valuable notes provide comprehensive instructions for the correct selection and use of appropriate survey methods.
Chapter 8, dealing with plant identification, and Chapter 10, which deals with invertebrate identification, provide extra levels of information which will be of interest to organisers. Similar sections for other vertebrate groups would also be useful, particularly in pointing out species groups which are difficult to distinguish in the field. It is implied in the text that such information will be forthcoming from experts when preparing a survey; however, the importance of accurately identifying all animals seen cannot be over-emphasised.
In the chapter on mammal survey methods (Chapter 12), it was curious to note the perceived uselessness of Elliott trapping in mallee habitats in NSW. From a South Australian perspective it is the most useful way to detect rodent species in mallee, as these species often avoid or can escape from 40cm deep pits. Mallee regions with sheet calcrete are also impossible to dig traps into. Of contemporary relevance was the lack of reference to lissivirus (a virus similar to rabies and potentially lethal to humans) in microchiropteran bats.
On the whole, the manual appears to be a little biased toward surveys along the east coast and ranges, as no modifications to methods developed for forestwoodland habitats are suggested for the much more sparsely populated arid regions which make up a substantial part of NSW. However, these regions are less likely to be the focus of community group surveys, because of their remoteness.
In summary this manual will be an invaluable tool to community groups and students interested in organising and coordinating general biological surveys, over many parts of Australia. The only changes that are needed to extend the manual's usefulness beyond the borders of NSW relate to the species lists in the appendices; permit/licence requirements in the different States; and useful modifications for arid regions.
Robert Brandle & Patrick O'Connor Nature Conservation Society of South Australia The manual is available from the NPA Office for $25.
Aquatic and Wetland Plants Nick Romanowski UNSW Press, 119pp, pb, $29.95 This is a field guide for identification of plants associated with "longstanding waters of non-tropical Australia". This publication is slightly unusual for a field guide, in that it not only presents very useful colour plates of plants but also textual descriptions. It features information such as geographical distribution, preferred habitats, native or introduced, and a general description of each species.
The plants are divided first by family and then by genus; this could make it a little difficult to use without some background knowledge. However, for those familiar with this kind of book, this method certainly assists with locating the relevant species.
I found the plant descriptions very interesting and informative there is a paucity of books in simple language that cover this topic as well as this book does.
A great book for those with an interest in the subject, and who already have some experience with plant identification.
Glyn Mather NPJ Editor
BACK COVER PHOTO NO CROP SIDES & EXPAND BY APPROX TIMES TO FILL BOX The bush - a refuge, wildlife habitat, a place of spir-itual connections, or something which just is. Which fits your view? This issue we canvass a few opinions on the subject.
ATTILA A BICSKOS Eastern pygmy possum, Cercartetus nanus, Worrigee, Nowra, NSW
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December 1998 Vol 42 No 6
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; Anne Reeves, Junior Vice-President; Kathy McCourt, Treasurer; Tim Carroll, Secretary; Vivienne Dunne; John Macris; Beth Michie; Mike Thompson.
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