NPA membership benefits, NPA on the move, Help NPA, Mid North Coast v the dreaded bitou bush
Slow progress with marine parks 7
by Tim Anderson
ENVIRONMENT NEWS &
Salinity audit, Southern Forests, NSW Wilderness Red Index 1999
Regional Forest Agreements
by Brendan Mackey
by Margaret Barnes
Scrub - A forest in the furnace 14
by Tom Widdup
Snowy Mountains Scheme - 50th anniversary:
Scheme & Kosciuszko NP 15
by Bob Ross
- Aint what it used to be 17
by Mike Gooey
by Gregor Manson
ACTIVITIES PROGRAM (Supplement following p 12)
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 20
About the National Parks Journal
FRONT COVER: Blue devil fish, Jervis Bay
Photo: Tim Anderson
and woodlands are being plundered for woodchips and fuel. But
people are speaking out. The Snowy River also is in a desperate
plight, 50 years after the Snowy Mountains Scheme began.
We canvass both these themes this issue.
COVER: Before (background) and after (foreground) clearing for
woodchips -Walkers Against Woodchips at Peak Alone, Wandella
Photo: James Collis
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NPA membership benefits! Forest struggles Snowy Scheme
Funding at the Frontline
ALL BELOW - RED TEXT
Environment News & Action
Slow progress with
Regional Forest Agreements
Business as usual in the Southern Region?
Environment News & Action
Fox control aids endangered native bird
A success story in the fight against feral animals has been revealed at the Yathong Nature Reserve in Western NSW, where a record number of malleefowl were released into the wild recently.
NPWS, in cooperation with the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, has carried out intensive pest control and captive-breeding programs over several years, in a bid to bring the endangered malleefowl back from the edge of extinction.
Yathong NR, near Cobar, has had a long battle with feral animals, with foxes having had the most devastating effects on the reserves native animal population.
The malleefowl has emerged as just one of many native animals to benefit from one of the largest pest eradication programs ever to be carried out in NSW, covering thousands of hectares in and surrounding the reserve.
To increase the malleefowls chances of survival in the wild, Western Plains Zoo staff have worked with NPWS to develop a breeding program that allows the birds to mature without feral animal disturbance. The latest group of mature malleefowl chicks, numbering about 80, were released into Yathong, where the fox control program provides a safer haven for the native bird.
NPWS surveys of the existing malleefowl population have indicated that the approach has been successful, with numbers of birds stabilising.
Greater numbers of other birds, such as the banded lapwing, nightjar and quail have been sighted in the area, indicating that the programs success may prove to be far-reaching.
More information on Yathong is available from the NPWS Cobar District office on 02 6836 2692.
Over recent years the NPA has become more active in its protection of biodiversity off-park as well as its more traditional interest in the creation of new national parks and nature reserves and in their effective management.
One example is wetland protection. The national reserve system does not protect the full range of wetland types and could never do so, even with a concerted program of reserve selection. Consequently we have actively sought protection of these sites through a variety of other mechanisms.
Through the Western Project we are now one of three signatories to an NHT grant project for the better protection of our wetlands. Our partners are WWF and the NPWS. This project was central in ensuring the landmark agreement with the Gywdir landholders to list their wetlands as a Ramsar site. It was also central in a recent Ramsar nomination by the Fischer family over their property in the Macquarie Marshes.
NPA welcomes these developments, is proud to be associated with such cooperative action for the better protection of our environment, and looks forward to many more such agreements. We acknowledge the goodwill of the farmers involved and note that through efforts such as this conservation will become integrated into land-use decisions all over the State. We congratulate all for their dedication and desire for a better Australia.
Exciting new benefits for NPA members! See pages 4 to 6, and page 5 of the Supplement.
Three marine parks are now in place (under a weak Marine Parks Act and a minimalist Marine Parks Authority), but there will be no effective new protection until those parks are zoned (sanctuary, habitat, general use). Unlike a land national park, where the entirety of the park is a well understood no take zone, a marine park has no such protection until and unless parts of it are zoned as sanctuary areas. Refuge zones provide a lesser level of protection where, for example, line fishing is allowed. The three new marine parks are now in a long process of consultation, before any such zones are established.
Glacial progress plans have also been floated for one large marine park in each of six identified bioregions in the state. So more marine parks are on the drawing board, but progress towards actual protection is glacial.
Jervis Bay options paper
In August 1999, Jervis Bay Marine Park issued a Planning Issues and Options Paper. While some welcome proposals for marine protection are floated, it is fair to say that the role for sanctuary zones is fragmented and minimal. The options typically include proposals for management tools to deal with individual habitats and particular impacts. Sanctuary zones have been portrayed as one of those management tools.
Conservationist responses to this paper have demanded a central and a stronger role for large multi-habitat sanctuary zones. Very little weight has been given to protecting the rocky reef of Jervis Bay. This has to do with the pressures from rock fishers, who fish for gamefish in some scuba diving areas, alongside populations of rare and endangered fish such as grey nurse sharks, blue devil fish, seadragons and red indian fish. The Jervis Bay Marine Park options paper, however, contains not one proposed sanctuary zone for any of the major scuba diving sites of Jervis Bay (the Docks, around Point Perpendicular, and north and east Bowen Island). Further, full implementation of whatever zones and management plans do come out of this uncertain process is another two years or so down the track.
The development of large, cross-habitat sanctuary zones is intended to protect the integrity of biological processes across habitats, including for example the fish fry which migrate from seagrass to kelp to rocky reef. In Jervis Bay an example of such a multiple-habitat sanctuary zone might be one which links the reef of the Groper Coast with the seagrass beds to the north. On this principle there could well be a consolidation of sanctuary zone proposals, so that (for example) large sanctuary zones were created in the north (Hare Bay), south (East Bowen Island), east (Groper Coast), west (Plantation Point), and the Point Perpendicular areas of the Bay.
Large multi-habitat sanctuary zones would be consistent with the recent in-principle statement adopted by the Advisory Council on Fisheries Conservation, on 1 September 1999: "The Advisory Council on Fisheries Conservation suggests that the Minister ensures that some sanctuary zones in marine parks be made large enough so as to cover several different interrelated habitats (eg seagrass, estuary, rocky reef, mudflat)."
Solitary Islands planning survey
The Solitary Islands Marine Park preserves some earlier small sanctuary zones, from the 1991 Solitary Islands Marine Reserve. In late September 1999, the SIMP issued a summary of responses it had received to its planning survey earlier in the year. This summary noted a range of options, not organised in any particular form. Possible changes to the SIMR zones, noted in the summary paper, include expanding existing sanctuaries and refuges, and creating large strip sanctuary zones, several kilometres wide. A range of other management options are canvassed, such as monitoring fixed moorings, preventing outfalls, controlled aquaculture (which may be licensed in marine parks) and monitoring the impact of boating and diving. There is strong pressure from commercial and recreational fishing to maintain their respective activity levels in the marine park. However, some commercial fishers have indicated a willingness to set aside some areas from intensive activities, such as prawn trawling. The next step will be an Issues and Options Paper within the next few months.
In its April 1999 submission to the SIMP, the NPA drew attention to its 1998 policy on zoning, which stresses comprehensive management, large multi-habitat sanctuary zones (of around 20 square kilometres), special protection measures, a transparent consultation process and accessible and sustainable recreational and commercial fishing. The NPA called for two types of sanctuary zones: (i) Special Area sanctuaries, designed to protect special features, and (ii) Representative Sanctuaries, a larger zone intended to preserve a representative sample of marine life, and a viable and healthy marine ecosystem. These fully protected zones could be best arranged at the Solitaries as easily identifiable strips 3 to 10 km wide along the land and then out to the limit of State waters a kind a zebra crossing down the east coast. The zones must be large, so as to accommodate and protect spawning and breeding grounds. The regularity of the zones would contribute to the expected cross-fertilising benefit of a network of such zones.
The importance of no take zones
In the past, the State Government has claimed that over 100,000 hectares or around 10% of the States waters (mostly in the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve) were protected. However, only 440 hectares, or 0.05% of State waters, are sanctuary zones which offer the full protection of a land national park. Some threatened marine creatures are now protected species under the Fisheries Act, but despite the marine park declarations, no more of their habitat has as yet been fully protected.
The NPA has for some years pushed for large no take areas (sanctuary zones) which could help regenerate and restock surrounding areas, as well as preserve ecological processes within the no take areas. We have been influenced by New Zealand scientist and campaigner Dr Bill Ballantine, who noted in 1991 that "the minimum area of biologically useful [no take] marine reserves is likely to be a few square kilometres, except where the entire system itself is smaller". All but one of the thirteen New Zealand marine reserves are now fully no take zones, and the odd one out (the Poor Knights) is in the process of banning all fishing. The New Zealand experience has demonstrated that there are very direct commercial, as well as environmental benefits, from significant no take reserves. A great majority of commercial fishers around the marine park at Leigh Marine Reserve (near Auckland) now express their wish to see more such marine reserves.
In 1995 a group of nine marine scientists including Dr Callum Roberts, Dr Bill Ballantine and Dr Colin Buxton found that "marine fisheries reserves (sanctuaries, no take refuges) if well placed and of the appropriate size, can achieve many of the goals that fishery management has failed to achieve using conventional methods." The international evidence is that exploited fish stocks will recover in large no take zones, and spawning biomass will be rebuilt. Marine national parks are not a threat to responsible and sustainable fisheries. There will be resistance from user groups, but fishers who recognise the nursery and restocking potential of substantial reserves will see the benefits.
The critical need for substantial no take zones can be summed up in this way: people can exploit the resources of the sea in most places, but there must be some areas set aside where they cannot. There is enormous support for land national parks people are not stupid; they will also support fully protected marine parks, in time.
* Tim Anderson is NPAs Marine Protection Officer.
NPA membership benefits
ADVENTURE & SPORT
AUSTRALIAN SCHOOL OF MOUNTAINEERING 10% OFF
Adventure School 166B Katoomba St, Katoomba. 10% off scheduled courses or trips within the Blue Mountains
( 4782 2014
BOOMERANG BICYCLE TOURS 10% OFF
cycling tours on the Eastern Coast of Australia. Pedal back roads
and explore the majestic Great Ocean Road, savour the delights of
the Hunter Valley, coast through the Southern Highlands, or
capture the Olympic Spirit at Homebush Bay. Special itineraries
( 9630 0587
BUSHSPORTS 15% OFF
Bushwalking*canyoning*abseiling*rockclimbing*weekend getaways*mountain biking*lilo rafting*corporate adventures or navigation courses. From Sydney sea-cliffs to Blue Mountains and beyond with accredited (OTOA) qualified guides ( 9630 0587
CLIMB-FIT 10% OFF
4/12 Frederick St, St Leonards. Indoor climbing and gymnasium. NPA members will receive 10% off the casual entry price ( 9436 4600
DIVE CENTRE MANLY $$ OFF
NPA members will
receive special pricing on boat dives and hire gear at Dive
Centre Manly 10 Belgrave St, Manly
( 9977 4355
SYDNEY HARBOUR PARASAILING 15% OFF
Manly Wharf. Receive 15% off all flights. Regular flight single $45 or tandem $69. Super flight single $55 or tandem $89 ( 9977 6781
CULTURE & ENTERTAINMENT
COFFS HARBOUR ZOO 10% OFF
NPA card holders receive 10% discount, and also one free animal food per card holder. Not available for family pass entry ( 6656 1330
NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM 10% OFF
Darling Harbour. Australians use the sea for their play, sport, travel, food, defence and industry. See how the sea has shaped Australian culture as our maritime stories are brought to life in this very unusual museum. Present your NPA membership card and receive 10% off Museum entry. Open daily 9.30am to 5pm ( 9298 3777 (excludes submarine, destroyer ship and Batavia)
OCEANWORLD MANLY $$ OFF
Present your NPA Membership Card at Oceanworld Manly and receive $5 off each adult entry and $2 off each child entry (3-15 years). This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer ( 9949 2644
THE ROCKS WALKING TOURS 20%OFF
Discover Sydneys historic Rocks Village on a specialist guided tour at a discounted price. Tours depart daily from our office in Kendall Lane, The Rocks. Conveniently located in a charming cobbled laneway off Argyle Street we promise a memorable experience ( 9247 6678
THE SYDNEY AQUARIUM $$ OFF
Present your NPA Membership Card at the Sydney Aquarium and receive $4 off each adult entry and $2 off each child entry (3-15 years). This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer ( 9262 2300
OVER THE PAGE!!
WESTERN PLAINS ZOOFARI LODGE RETREAT $$ OFF
2 day zoo admission; 1 nights accommodation in African-styled tented lodge; night & day behind-the-scenes tours with Zoo Guide; fine dining - 3 course dinner & full country breakfast; one complimentary after dinner port; lunch from the zoo kiosk; bicycle hire; 10% discount voucher for Souvenir Shop. Costs (per person per night): Adults (twin share) $180, Single adult supplement additional $100; Children 5-16yrs $145, 4yrs and under $50. Call Peter Milling Travel 1300 720 018. Conditions apply
AUSTRALIAN COUNTRY STYLE MAGAZINE 30% OFF
NPA members receive 30% off the subscription price of Australian Country Style magazine (1300 656 933. Quote code ACS-NPA
GARDENING AUSTRALIA MAGAZINE 30% OFF
NPA members receive 30% off the subscription price of Gardening Australia magazine (1300 656 933. Quote code GDN-NPA
THE BULLETIN 10% OFF
The Bulletin - its all you need to read. An exclusive 10% discount offer to NPA members. Free call 1800 252 515, quote BULNPA99
REST & RELAXATION
SOLAR SPRINGS HEALTH RESORT $20 OFF
Bundanoon, NSW. $20 off any standard midweek accommodation package (not incl seasonal/special packages) ( 4883 6027
ALL CAMPING SUPPLIES 5% OFF
2A Railway Pde, Thornleigh. Receive 5% on non-discounted stock ( 9481 0660
ALPSPORT 15% OFF
1045 Victoria Rd, West Ryde. Bushwalking, climbing and abseiling. Receive 15% off all equipment and clothing thats not already discounted ( 9858 5844
BOOTS GREAT OUTDOORS 10% OFF
Campbelltown, Caringbah, Erina, Lidcombe, Prospect. NPA membership card holders will receive 10% discount on all product areas except camping fridges and items already reduced or discounted ( 9636 9266
BOSS DISPOSALS 5-10% OFF
708 George St, Sydney.
Army navy surplus, workwear and footwear. Camping and tramping
equipment and clothing. Receive 5% up to $200 and 10% over $200
( 9211 1991
DYMOCKS BONDI JUNCTION 10% OFF
Bondi Carousel, Bondi Junction. 10% discount on travel books to NPA members on presentation of their Membership Card ( 9389 6644
DYMOCKS - MAIN STORE/FOX STUDIOS 10% OFF
Show your NPA card at
Dymocks Main Store (428 George Street, Sydney) or Dymocks Studio
Store (at Fox Studios) and receive 10% off the price of all
( 9235 0155
DYMOCKS MACQUARIE 10% OFF
Macquarie Centre, North Ryde. NPA members will receive 10% off travel books and maps ( 98784784
DYMOCKS NORTH SYDNEY 10% OFF
Elizabeth Plaza, North Sydney. NPA membership card holders will receive 10% off travel guides, street directories and maps (9956 6771
For purchases over $100, the bearer of an NPA membership card is entitled to one free Discovery Facial. Available at Jurlique Stores: 420 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood; and Shop 1/1B, The Strand Arcade, George St, Sydney
KELLYS CAMPING & OUTDOORS 10% OFF
Warriewood Square and
Dee Why. For every aspect of outdoor equipment. We will give NPA
members 10% discount on all cash purchases and 5% off other
( 9972 0061
LARRY ADLER SKI & OUTDOOR 10% OFF
1024 Pittwater Rd, Collaroy. 10% off rrp for all outdoor and ski equipment, clothing and accessories. Not in conjunction with any other promotion ( 9971 8711
MOUNTAIN DESIGNS NSW 10% OFF
Receive 10% discount on purchases, sale items not included, at Mountain Designs stores: Sydney, Miranda and Katoomba (9267 3822
PADDY PALLIN KATOOMBA 10% OFF
166B Katoomba St, Katoomba. Receive 10% discount on all purchases from Paddy Pallin Katoomba, except sale items ( 4782 5787
PORT CAMPING WORLD 5% OFF+
133 Horton St, Port
Macquarie. NPA members will receive 5% discount on any purchases
(excluding canoes). A bigger discount will be negotiated on
( 6583 2390
SYDNEY CAMPING CENTRE 5-10% OFF
148 Parramatta Rd,
Stanmore. Camping and tramping clothing and equipment. Army/navy
surplus, workwear and footwear. Receive 5% up to $200, 10% over
( 9519 9457
THE SUMMIT GEAR SHOP 10% OFF
Katoomba Street, Katoomba. 10% discount offered on all Summit Gear products for cash only (not cards or eftpos). Repairs expertly carried out for cash only. We try to keep our overheads down ( 4782 3467
THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY SHOP 5% OFF
Centrepoint, Sydney. NPA members receive 5% discount on all purchases (other than sale goods) on presentation of card ( 9233 4674
THOMAS COOK BOOT & CLOTHING CO. 10% OFF
Receive 10% off Thomas Cooks range of classic Australian Outback and Adventure clothing. Available at Thomas Cook stores: 129 Pitt St, Sydney (9232 3334; and 790 George St, Haymarket ( 9212 6616
ANSETT AUSTRALIA UP TO 45% OFF
Receive up to 45% off the full economy fare when a group of 10 or more people travel to the same event on the same day from various cities to the one destination. Conditions apply. Contact the NPA office on 9299 0000 for the conditions of this great discount
See page 5 of the Supplement for information about discounted passes from the NPWS
The NPA Head Office will be moving in mid-December (around 11 December) to a new city location.
The new address will be: Level 9, 91 York St, Sydney.
The office is between Market and King streets, on the western side, and you enter via the lift lobby.
New contact numbers: ph 02 9299 0000, fax 02 9290 2525.
We will be keeping the same mailing address, at least for a while: PO Box A96, Sydney South 1235.
It is probable that we will be getting new e-mail addresses eventually, but we will keep you informed.
NPA membership benefits
Some very exciting initiatives have been underway for NPA members. Our members now have an NPA Membership Card for the first time in the Associations history and some great benefits to go along with it - see opposite page and page 6 for more information. Also, NPA is now an agent for NPWS Annual Passes into NSW national parks. We can offer our members a great discount on the normal price of annual passes (see page 5 of the Supplement). Contact Michelle Johnston at the NPA office on 02 9299 0000 for more information.
Mid North Coast Branch v
It was a very happy birthday on Sunday 8 August, at Diamond Head in Crowdy Bay National Park. The Mid North Coast Branch celebrated 20 years of Bitou Bush Bashing on the spectacular headlands beloved by Australian author Kylie Tennant. A four-kilometre stretch of coastline from Diamond Head to Kylies Beach has been kept almost free of the invasive "coastal curse" by a dedicated team of NPA members working under the supervision of NPWS on two days annually.
Twenty years ago the local NPWS Pest Species Officer, Mike Dodkin, suggested the scheme to our branch and we readily agreed, having seen the relentless march of bitou bush in our district. To date, it is estimated that approximately 80,000 plants have been removed. Smaller plants have been hand pulled, while larger plants - some the size of a moderate room - have had to be cut back and their stems painted with herbicide.
On the big day, after three hours of work, the volunteers were treated to a delectable barbecue meal followed by an enormous birthday cake, all provided and served by NPWS. A certificate of appreciation was made to all volunteers, some of whom had only participated in the early days of the program and had been invited to return for the celebrations. The branch was presented with a sturdy tool box containing secateurs, loppers, saw herbicide applicators and gloves, so that members can work at any time without having to collect gear from NPWS. Hows that for encouragement? The box is complete with an inscribed anniversary plaque.
The gathering was addressed by local NPWS District Manager Greg Croft, who gave an hilarious account of the "bashes" in which he had himself participated since arriving in Port Macquarie. Other speakers were Gary Davies, acting Director for Northern Region, and Richard Groves of CSIRO Division of Plant Industry from Canberra.
Mid North Coast Branch is determined to battle against bitou bush as stubbornly as ever. While continually looking for any weak link in the plants growth system, cooperation with NPWS and weed research institutions is at the same time vital.
Mid North Coast Branch
Would you like to help NPA?
We need people
to help us distribute copies
of our Journal to key locations like
doctors surgeries, dentists, hairdressers,
barbers, camping stores
promote NPA and encourage
Contact Michelle at the office on 02 9299 0000
PHOTO NO 2
REDUCE BY 40%
NPA Mid North Coast Branch bitou bashers, Diamond Head 8.8.99
NPA membership benefits - see also previous page!!
Will a Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) for the Southern Region herald in a new era of sustainable development for NSW forests, or will it simply result in business as usual with no significant shift towards Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD)?
I was personally very supportive of the RFA process when it was first proposed. Indeed I was excited by the prospects of an integrated, community-based approach to resource conflict resolution where the decision-making process was driven by scientific understanding. I have had a great deal of experience in tropical, boreal and temperate forest ecosystems. Despite the good intentions and rhetoric I had encountered elsewhere, the proposed RFA process was far more progressive that anything I had come across in the USA, Canada or SE Asia. Here in Australia it seemed we were on the verge of a major breakthrough in forest management that could have positive ramifications throughout the world.
It has therefore been with considerable regret that I have witnessed the reality of how the process has unfolded over the last few years. What, you may ask, is the basis for my deep concerns, and what implications do these have for the RFA negotiations currently in place for the Southern Region?
As originally conceived, the RFA process was to be underpinned by two foundational strategies. First, scientifically determined criteria would be applied that would have the effect of establishing an Ecological Bottom Line (EBL), that is, a minimum level of ecological protection needed to ensure the long-term viability of the forests environmental values. Second, the timber industry would be restructured to operate within these ecological constraints. The constraints would take two forms. The conservation reserve system would be expanded according to an agreed set of criteria and targets. Off-reserve management would also be modified to protect those conservation values that could not be protected, for logistic reasons, within an expanded reserve system. In this way RFAs would bring about the fundamental industrial reform needed to promote ESD.
Given this, a set of conservation criteria was established by a panel of eminent scientists, and reviewed and endorsed by an even wider circle of experts - such as myself. While concerns were expressed about the details of the criteria, I was one of many scientists who argued that if these criteria were implemented in good faith, then a workable EBL could be established that would give a sound basis for ESD.
The criteria called for the establishment in each region of a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative reserve system. Guideline targets were established for comprehensiveness, and for conservation values related to Wilderness and Old Growth. Subsequently, goals were also established for species of special concern (such as rare, threatened plants and animals).
Comprehensiveness refers to the extent to which a reserve system contains samples of the major forest ecosystem types in a region. Adequacy entails a suite of considerations that enable an evaluation of the extent to which the long-term ecological viability of conservation values is ensured. Representativeness assesses the extent to which the variation and diversity within each major forest ecosystem is protected.
Given the RFA process was founded on such a sound (albeit imperfect) scientific basis, you may be puzzled as to why scientists such as myself are so concerned about how the RFA process has been unfolding.
It soon became obvious that if the full scientific criteria were applied in good faith, then substantial restructuring of the native forest timber industry was inevitable - as there would simply be less wood available due to (a) substantial increases in reservation and (b) significant modifications to codes of practice in order to improve off-reserve management. Given this, a political decision was made to further modify the RFA criteria so that the scientifically based criteria were no longer independently applied as a first step in establishing an EBL. This was a crucial decision as it was now very unlikely that any RFA would deliver ESD, as the modified criteria allowed ecological values to be traded off against economic and social values.
2. Adequacy and representativeness
In practice, no RFA to date has applied the criteria of adequacy and representativeness in a substantial way. Admittedly, the notion of adequacy is quite complex. First, it refers to the size and shape of individual conservation reserves and their spatial configuration with respect to each other. For example, we can compare the efficacy of a network of small, narrow, geographically isolated roadside strips versus a few, large, interconnected areas - which reserve configuration would best ensure the long-term viability of yellow-bellied gliders? Second, adequacy requires evaluation of the condition of the biophysical resources in a reserve. For example, a guild of species may have particular habitat requirements related to mature vegetation structure; these habitat conditions would need to be present in sufficient quantity for the reserve to be considered adequate.
The need for the criterion of representativeness really stems from recognition that we will never have the spatial information needed to fully map the distribution of forest biodiversity. The reality is that only major differences in forest types can be mapped. However, within each major forest ecosystem type there exists a bewildering diversity of plants, animals, micro-organisms, and community associations. The criterion of representativeness was designed to ensure that these additional and essential elements of forest biodiversity are also identified and protected.
There are a number of scientifically-based reasons why the criterion of comprehensiveness should be evaluated against a relatively large number of forest ecosystem types, in the range of 300-400 for a given region. First, from a global perspective, Australian forests have a high level of biodiversity, particularly in terms of invertebrates, tree and shrub species, and hollow-dependent possums, gliders, birds and bats. Second, remember that in reality the soil is an integral component of the forest ecosystem as the soil profile co-evolves in situ with the vegetation and micro-organisms. Third, the landscapes occupied by Australian forests experience the strongest climatic gradients in the continent. Climate of course is the prime determinant of the taxonomic composition, vegetation structure and productivity of forest ecosystems.
Unfortunately, RFAs have been based on relatively simple forest ecosystem classifications - note that in my professional estimation even classifications with 100-150 types are inadequate to assess comprehensiveness.
4. Conservation value of wilderness
Many of the RFAs have made a concerted effort to identify and protect wilderness areas. However, this has focused exclusively on the cultural value of wilderness. I recently co-authored a paper that reviewed the nature conservation value of wilderness from a scientific perspective (the report to Environment Australia can be found at: http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/wwr/anlr_0999/code/pub.htm).
It is often forgotten that ecological systems are different from physical systems. The key difference is that in an ecological system the biota act as a buffer, compensating for and dampening fluxes in external environmental conditions. Furthermore, this buffering capacity is a function of age: the more mature the forest ecosystem the greater its buffering capacity. Hence a mature ecosystem has an enhanced capacity to buffer itself against fluxes in water (from climatic drought) and nutrients (through nutrient recycling and conservation). Thus the very environmental conditions that constitute the habitat for plants and animals are largely generated over time by the biota themselves. Moreover, the larger the area then the greater the buffer the biota provide.
It follows that places remote from or little affected by modern technological society will tend to be larger areas dominated by mature ecosystems. If wilderness is interpreted from this scientific perspective it then becomes highly relevant, indeed I would argue central, to the assessment of adequacy and representativeness. Unfortunately these connections have not been made in any RFA.
One of the most exciting components of the RFA process as originally conceived was that application of the criteria was to follow a Comprehensive Resource Assessment (CRA) of the region. The rationale of the decision-making process the RFA was intended to promote was predicated on access to adequate information. Unfortunately, to date CRAs have either been inadequate (relying mainly on existing information) or the agreement has been fast tracked without adequate time to make proper use of the information.
This has resulted in major decisions being made without the benefit of scientifically robust information. For example, existing data do not enable Net Primary Productivity (NPP) to be mapped at a useful scale. Nor can this phenomenon be adequately predicted from computer models or satellite imagery. NPP is the amount of biomass stored in an ecosystem averaged over an appropriate time period (to account for short-term fluxes). NPP is the difference between the biomass generated by primary producers (plants that photosynthesise) and decomposition of this material. The higher the NPP the more food available for all the organisms - higher NPP therefore means more ecologically viable populations. Once again, here is another characteristic of forest ecosystems that is fundamentally important to the assessment of adequacy and representativeness, but that has not been given due consideration in the RFA process.
6. Off-reserve management
RFAs as originally conceived were meant to result in an improvement in forestry practices such that key conservation values were protected outside reserves. Instead, we have witnessed a general increase in the intensity of timber harvesting off-reserve as a result of RFAs. Where this occurs it represents an abandonment of one of the two foundational RFA strategies. This is particularly important in relation to the need to increase the number, type and spatial distribution of habitat trees outside of reserves for hollow-dependent fauna. All other factors being equal, this requires a reduction in timber yield per unit area, not an increase!
Monga State Forest - a case study
At this point it may be useful to illustrate the significance of these issues to what is currently happening in the Southern Region, taking Monga State Forest as a case study. I will focus on this question: if the Southern Region RFA were to apply the original criteria with full and substantial consideration to the issues I have raised here, would Monga State Forest be part of an expanded conservation reserve system for the region?
It is critical to recognise that forest ecosystems vary in their degree of similarity. Put simply, some forest ecosystem types are very similar and others extremely different to each other. The forest ecosystems at Monga have their strongest affiliations with the tableland country, most of which has been cleared for agriculture; much of the ecological flows in and out of Monga are associated with the tableland system rather than the coastal forests.
This can be illustrated by a number of Mongas environmental characteristics:
These characteristics have many ecological implications and are fundamental to application of the criteria of Comprehensiveness, Adequacy and Representativeness. For example, it is very likely that Monga represents a critical refuge for previously widespread tableland biota such as pond-breeding frogs. Also, a forest ecosystem classification that fails to distinguish between coastal and tableland climates cannot be used to assess comprehensiveness. The distinctive hydrological properties of Monga, together with its high NPP, are also critical to consideration of adequacy and representativeness.
Unfortunately, if the Southern Region RFA proceeds along the lines of previous agreements, it is very likely that (a) assessment of comprehensiveness will be based on a classification of forest ecosystems that fails to recognise ecologically significant gradients and differences, (b) the scientific value of wilderness/old growth will be ignored, and (c) failure to apply the criteria of adequacy and representativeness will result in the distinctive environmental characteristics of Monga that make it a high productivity refugia being ignored.
If it eventuates that as a result of the RFA most of Monga State Forest is not included in an expanded reserve system, it will not be because it is of insufficient conservation value. Rather it will be because the criteria have been applied in a way that is blind to the reasons why Monga is of regional significance.
I maintain my respect for the original aims of the RFA process, and for the need to promote ESD. Indeed, like other commentators, I strongly believe that if the RFA paid more attention to investment issues in the plantation part of the timber industry, increased economic prosperity (including enhanced employment opportunities) could be generated for the region with reduced impacts on forest conservation values. So my argument here is not to be interpreted as promoting some kind of anti-economic growth agenda. Rather I am arguing for ecologically sustainable development.
The RFA process must return to the ideals of its origins. Step one must be to first establish the Ecological Bottom Line by applying the criteria of Comprehensiveness, Adequacy, and Representativeness, together with Wilderness, Old Growth, and species-based targets. Then a Comprehensive Resource Assessment must be conducted that considers all the constraints, opportunities and options, inclusive of the plantation sector. Time must then be allowed for this information to be fully incorporated into the decision-making process.
There is no need to settle for a second-rate process when we have all the means at our disposal to implement an RFA that could be so good as to establish world best practice. Why not dare to hope that the Southern Region RFA can become an historic marker along the global road towards ecologically sustainable development?
* Dr Brendan Mackey has a PhD in plant ecology and has worked as with CSIRO and the Canadian Forest Service. He is currently a Reader in ecology and environmental science at the Australian National University. He has been a member of two expert committees for the South East Queensland RFA.
Slow progress with zoning the States first three marine parks (Jervis Bay, Solitary Islands and Lord Howe) has put at risk the marine biodiversity of our region. Almost five years after Labor promised a "comprehensive system of marine national parks", and four years after the NPA and other groups demanded "at least 15% of the States waters be zoned no take areas by the year 2000", the area of NSW waters zoned fully protected has not increased one bit.
Zebra fish, Jervis Bay Marine Park
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The author in Monga State Forest
In the balance
As we go to press, the fate of the magnificent South Coast forests and the Tumut mountain ash wilderness is being fought out in the Southern Forest negotiations. NPA is a key part of the conservation team battling the combined forces of the NSW forest industry, the national woodchip lobby, the unions, the Commonwealth Government and, last but not least, NSW State Forests.
The industry has launched an outrageous claim to more than double logging on the South Coast. They are also seeking to manage all the Southern forests in the same way as the notorious Eden and East Gippsland operations - intensive logging and clearfelling. Conservation groups under the banner of the South East Forest Alliance have put forward 15 major new national park proposals as the core of a South Coast regional reserve system. Our community reserve proposals will protect the best of what is left - old growth, wilderness, core habitat for threatened species, and coastal river and lake catchments.
State Forests is blocking a real analysis of timber resource, effectively stopping the best reserve design, unless the Government is prepared to put conservation values ahead of the agenda of an irresponsible logging industry.
Dont forget to write to Premier Carr about these forests - see the forest brochure enclosed in the October Journal, and the Tuross/Deua brochure in this edition.
A wake-up call on land clearing
The Murray Darling Basin Commission has recently released a salinity audit report, which shows a worsening of dryland salinity predictions. State Government action to stop land clearing in salt-affected areas is vital to stop the rot.
Last year alone the Department of Land and Water Conservation approved clearing in 86,000 ha of land, two-thirds of that in the Barwon, Central West, Murray and Murrumbidgee regions where the salinity problem is worst.
Recent moves from the Premier to hold a salinity summit are welcomed, but action on land clearing should have begun four years ago when State Environmental Planning Policy 46 was introduced. A massive change in land use is needed and that will take decades. Halting land clearing is the simplest and cheapest part of the solution. It is the vital first step. The long-term future of agriculture, rural infrastructure and the environment depend on it.
Nature Conservation Council
NSW Wilderness Red Index 1999
14 October marked the launch of the 1999 NSW Wilderness Red Index by the Patron of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, the Hon Neville Wran, AC, QC. In an exciting new move, this updated, 500 page version of the Index has been placed on the Colong Web site. This overcomes three serious impediments to communication with potential readers - the limited availability, inflexibility and cost of reproducing a lengthy paper report (The Index was last produced in 1993 and sold 30 copies).
Red is for alert and watch out! The Foundation intends to use the information in the Index to meet the constantly changing campaign needs. New advice can be quickly published on our Web site to assist the community to more effectively respond to threats to wild places.
And it is a stunningly beautiful playground for the residents and the many thousands of holiday makers who visit it to boat, swim and fish, or just paddle and picnic in its many nooks and crannies. Yet Lake Wollumboola and its superb natural and recreation values are under imminent threat from the creeping cancer of urban coastal development. A 3,000 lot subdivision, Stage 1 of 6, is moving inexorably through the temporary roadblocks of planning objections, appeals and Commission of Inquiry thrown up by desperate local conservationists and residents.
In Sydney, councils and communities watch helplessly as the last remnants of endangered Cumberland Plains Woodland and other important urban bushland falls prey to the same war of attrition by developers, an out-of-touch Land and Environment Court, and a Department of Planning becoming known as the Department of Developers Mates.
In western NSW, where whole land systems are almost completely unrepresented in the national parks system, once-in-a-generation conservation opportunities are being lost. There is no money to swiftly purchase major pastoral properties with outstanding wetlands, wildlife or intact vegetation when their owners wish to sell.
It is pathetic that the annual general budget of the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the acquisition of private lands of key conservation value is a miserable $2 million, unchanged for nearly two decades. This in a State spending a billion dollars on 10 days of sport, hundreds of millions each year on unsustainable urban road systems and already facing bills of billions of dollars for salinity, water-catchment damage and soil erosion.
The Government needs to cut through the hopeless muddle of conflicting priorities and community anger with a visionary and lasting solution. Such vision was shown in 1983 when, to redress the economic and social disadvantage of Aboriginal people, the Aboriginal Land Rights Act provided Aboriginal people with 7.5% of the States land tax for 15 years.
A similar visionary use of land tax for the purchase of high conservation land by the NPWS could resolve many of the painful, protracted and expensive arguments over development of private land, and allow the completion of a truly comprehensive reserve system for western NSW. It could also be applied to the agreed buyback of high conservation land granted to a local Aboriginal land council. And it might just save Lake Wollumboola in the nick of time.
On the northern edge of Jervis Bay sits a marvel of nature, a haven for seabirds, waterbirds and birds of prey. Its extensive seagrass beds and shore line sustain abundant fish, crabs, prawns and shellfish. Its reed beds and wetlands shelter innumerable nesting waterbirds and resound to the calls of frogs.
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A forest in the furnace Tom Widdup*
The Pilliga, a vast inland forest wilderness located 20 km north of Coonabarabran, is currently facing threats from two ludicrous logging proposals that make any previous misuse of the area seem inconsequential. The first proposal involves a charcoal plant in Dubbo that will use up to 150,000 tonnes of ironbark eucalypt. The second, a new EPA licence that allows Macquarie Generation to burn cypress pine woodchips in coal power plants. Both threaten to seriously damage the fragile ecology of the Pilliga, and spell a setback for the protection of this significant wilderness area.
The Pilliga is the only extensive forest wilderness west of the Great Divide. The Colong Foundations Wilderness Red Index** lists the Pilliga as 126,415 ha, making it one of the largest areas in NSW currently under NPWS assessment. Numerous threatened species live and breed in the Pilliga including the koala, regent honeyeater and the glossy black cockatoo.
Forests for electricity woodchipping goes berserk
Macquarie Generation, the States biggest electricity generator, has a licence to burn woodchips from the Pilliga and areas around Gunnedah at its Lidell power plant. The licence allows 5% of the coal to be replaced with native forest woodchips. Macquarie Generation have claimed burning forest waste will save 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. CO2 is the major greenhouse gas, and Macquarie Generation expects to earn carbon credits to sell on any future emissions trading market. The plan also qualifies as "renewable energy" under the Federal Governments 2% renewable energy target. This means burning native forest woodchips can be used to assist Australia to meet its greenhouse emission obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.
The waste furphy
Macquarie Generation claims to be using forest waste. As most of the so-called "waste" from existing sawmills is already used by industry, woodwaste for the Liddell power station will need to come from silvicultural thinnings. This is a forest practice that involves intensifying logging of native forests, including old growth forests, without environmental assessment. Fully functional natural ecosystems can be reduced to a few managed commercial tree species (which will eventually be harvested) by the thinning of unwanted trees.
The supposed CO2 savings are calculated on the basis of 50,000 tonnes of coal not being burnt. This ignores the fact that burning wood will immediately produce greenhouse gasses. It takes at least 40 years for a tree to become big enough to absorb the significant amounts of CO2 emitted. The claim of greenhouse reductions is seriously questionable unless the reductions in coal burning are replaced by greener technologies.
Hardwood charcoal and other wasteful ideas
The other proposal threatening the Pilliga is that of the Dubbo Charcoal Plant. This scheme proposes to burn up to 100,000 tonnes of ironbark to produce charcoal. This charcoal in turn will be used to purify silicon for the manufacture of electronics. There is a viable alternative in the form of arthracite coal from New Zealand. As it stands, the scheme will lead to a dramatic increase in logging (see August NPJ "Up in smoke").
In 1995, the Carr Government, recognising the importance of the Pilliga, promised to declare it as wilderness in their first year in office. The Pilliga is now one of 18 NSW wilderness areas overdue for assessment under the Wilderness Act.
The Red Index claims that in recent years logging in the Pilliga has escalated with little regard for conservation values. Previously, much of the Pilliga forest was not affected by logging because the trees were unsuitable for building materials. These two new proposals will create markets for trees which previously had little economic value. It appears that logging in native forests could double in order to feed electricity power stations, according to a report commissioned by the Sustainable Energy Development Authority.
The delay in assessing important wilderness areas suggests that wilderness is no longer a priority to the Carr Government. If indeed the Government is serious about wilderness protection, they must ensure that areas such as the Pilliga are declared immediately and protected from the ravages of ludicrous resource proposals.
* Tom Widdup is the Assistant Director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.
Visit Colongs new website for more info: http://www.colongwilderness.org.au
** The Colong Foundations Wilderness Red Index is a 500 page databank obtained after 30 years of observation, research and wilderness campaigning. It is an invaluable resource for anybody with an interest in wilderness; see "Environment News" this Journal.
The Snowy Scheme & Kosciuszko NP
After 50 years
Shortly after I joined the Snowy Mountains Authority (SMA) in 1967 as a young electrical engineer straight out from Colorado, my wife Wendy and I were invited by Mr Neil Worner (the Chief Civil Design Engineer of the Snowy Mountains Scheme) to climb the three highest mountains in Australia. Wendy and I were keen bushwalkers so we quickly accepted and the next Saturday we collected Neil and drove up to Charlottes Pass to start the walk.
Neil was about 25 years older than us but, despite this, he almost wore us out. He was an amazing person. He was in charge of the civil design of one of Australias greatest engineering projects, but he did not own a car and he lived in the single mens hostel in Cooma. Like most of the people involved in building the Snowy Scheme, he had a great commitment to his job but he was also vitally concerned with the health and well-being of the beautiful Snowy Mountains that provided the water for the hydro-electric scheme he was helping to build.
He showed us what we thought was an amazing site; the highest mountains in Australia had been so badly eroded by almost a century of summer grazing and burning to the point where, on Mount Twynam and Carruthers Peak, there were large areas that had eroded down to bare rock. I was used to climbing 14,000 foot pristine mountains in Colorado, where you rarely saw signs of human influence until you got to the stone cairn at the top. We found it hard to believe that Australia, with its shortage of water, would allow its highest mountains (and best water catchments) to be so badly treated.
Neil also showed us the repair work being carried out by the Soil Conservation Service with the help of the Park Trust and the Snowy Mountains Authority. In 1967 the SMA had already spent about $3 million on soil conservation in the damaged areas of Kosciuszko; the Authority compensated the Park Trust for the loss of rentals from grazing, and went on to encourage the NSW Government to stop grazing throughout what is now Kosciuszko National Park.
After I joined the SMA I heard stories about what sounded like a Colorado range war, but in the Snowy Mountains of Australia. SMA aircraft and radios were used to spot illegal stock in the park and the SMA helped with the removal.
Local people still reminisce about the "Man from Snowy River", but the removal of cattle and sheep from Kosciuszko National Park has been a major benefit for the parks ecosystems. Unfortunately, it was not until governments could see the value of the park as a water catchment for a hydro power scheme that grazing was stopped. The proof of this is just across the border in Victoria, where cattle are still allowed to graze in parts of the Victorian Alpine National Park resulting in long-term effects on the ecology of the native plant communities in the park.
The Snowy Scheme after 50 years
We have just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the start of construction, and it is not surprising that we now see the problems caused by a major hydroelectric scheme in a national park.
Last year I was at a meeting attended by a former Commissioner of the SMA, and when the discussion got around to the problems of reduced water flows in rivers and streams in the Snowy Mountains, he pointed out that the Snowy Scheme includes about 100 separate water diversions, ranging from small weirs on tributaries in isolated valleys, to major dams on the edge of the park such as Eucumbene and Blowering dams.
Unlike most major hydroelectric schemes, the Snowy Scheme is noted for its tunnels rather than large dams. There are 145 km of tunnels and 80 km of aqueducts under the ground in Kosciuszko National Park, to collect and divert the runoff from the catchment.
The tunnel systems of the Snowy are well designed, and they are in good condition even though all of them are now over 30 years old. They are impressive engineering achievements, but their effects on the national park are often quite serious.
There has been a lot of attention given to the effects of the Jindabyne Dam on the Snowy River downstream of the dam, but this has tended to shift the focus from the many other streams inside Kosciuszko National Park that are affected by the hydroelectric works.
In the official reply to the Snowy Water Inquiry, the NSW NPWS points out that not enough attention has been given to the "network of smaller tributaries ... impacted by the Scheme". A good example of one of these "smaller tributaries" is the upper headwater of the Goodradigbee River, which is diverted to Tantangara Dam by the Goodradigbee River Aqueduct a buried reinforced concrete pipeline about 1.5 metre in diameter and almost 4 km long. About 5 years ago the Advisory Committee to Kosciuszko National Park recommended that the park ask the SMA to shut down the aqueduct because it prevents the headwaters of the Goodradigbee River from entering the Bimberi Wilderness Area. Under NSW law the aqueduct may be illegal because of its impact on a declared wilderness area.
The problem of the Goodradigbee River Aqueduct could be corrected in one day, simply by shutting the valves on the stream diversion and allowing the river to flow free.
Weeds and tailings
Other undesirable legacies of the Snowy Scheme inside Kosciuszko NP include the abandoned quarries and huge tailings dumps from the construction of the tunnels, and weeds that were brought in by construction of temporary townships and roads. Weeds introduced by the Snowy include Scotch broom, which is being kept in check by the NPWS but could be serious if allowed to get out of control.
The costs of correcting the environmental problems caused by the Snowy River Scheme in KNP are going to be high. This would not be a problem if the Snowy Scheme had been allowed to charge market rates for the electricity it produced during the first 45 years of its life, but the Act setting up the Scheme forced it to provide electricity to NSW, Victoria and the ACT at subsidised rates. So it is still saddled with a high debt, 50 years after it was started. There may not be enough money or incentive to adequately fix all of the environmental problems.
One solution would be to introduce a carbon tax that would penalise the Snowy Schemes competitors, the coal-fired electricity generators. This would not only encourage more Green energy production but could also give the Snowy Scheme enough income to correct the problems it has caused.
But whatever happens, there is one thing that is certain; the Snowy Scheme in some form or other will be around to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Despite its legacy of environmental problems, the Neil Worners did a good job. The SMA will still be producing electricity well into the next century.
* Bob Ross has been a member of the Snowy Mountains Advisory Committee for many years.
Providing for the management of the environment for improved conservation outcomes is an important consideration in the process of corporatising The Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Authority (SMHEA). Corporatising involves establishing a company owned by the NSW, Commonwealth and Victorian governments to trade electricity in the national electricity market, and to meet water-release obligations to the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.
Environment flows for rivers and streams, ongoing environment management systems and rectification of residual environment issues are being addressed as an integral part of the corporatisation program. Here the NPWS gives an overview of the processes for ongoing environment management and the rectification of issues that remain from the construction era.
rectification & rehabilitation
The SMHEA construction commenced in 1949, when Kosciusko was a fledgling State Park and at a time when environmental management safeguards were very limited.
It is acknowledged that many construction activities and the scheme itself had a significant impact on the environment. Early concerns over soil and water management led to an agreement between SMHEA and the Kosciusko State Park Trust in 1963, which resulted in formation of a joint soil conservation committee, and some major improvements in soil stabilisation and erosion control practices.
For most of the life of the Snowy Mountains Scheme the SMHEA has operated under Commonwealth powers. At corporatisation, expected in June 2000, the Scheme will become subject to NSW law. The existing use rights will be granted under the NSW Environment Planning and Assessment Act, the NSW NP&W Act and NSW Local Government Act to approve continuation of the current range of activities without further planning assessment.
Under NSW laws the new Snowy Hydro Corporation will need to rectify and rehabilitate the residual environment issues related to construction and operation of the Scheme. A due diligence assessment (a formal way of identifying assets and liabilities of a business) is being undertaken as part of the corporatisation process.
Former sites occupied and used by the Scheme, such as town sites, quarries and spoil dumps, are of particular interest in the due diligence program, which has been designed to identify the nature of rehabilitation required and to produce an estimate of costs. Both aspects assist in understanding the financial and environmental obligations of the new corporation, a matter of critical interest to the commercial banking sector when undertaking the refinancing of the Schemes loans.
An experienced environmental audit team is undertaking the due diligence assessment and has recently been researching files and reports of the NPWS and the SMHEA, and spending time with Snowy employees, old and new, to identify issues and sites that could be of interest. This audit team and the corporatisation project team have firstly, categorised the issues and sites into those that are part of the ongoing Scheme management areas, and those no longer needed for future management of the Scheme.
Issues that are encompassed within the Schemes operating area will be managed in accordance with the Snowy Management Plan. The plan, while provided for under the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act 1997, is a subset of the occupation lease and licence issued to the Corporation enabling it to operate in Kosciuszko National Park. The Snowy Management Plan provides the framework for operational management of the environment and is designed to achieve agreed conservation objectives.
Issues relating to sites not required for the future needs of the SMHEA are also the subject of a special program for rehabilitation that will be documented as part of the Snowy Management Plan.
Reviewing the sites
During the due diligence audit over 1000 former sites were identified. Some sites are now indistinguishable from adjacent local areas, having been subjected to minor disturbance that is now effectively rehabilitated.
Other sites have had extensive rehabilitation work, and at times the work has not been entirely successful due to the techniques used and the limited knowledge at the time on Australian alpine rehabilitation requirements. Some practices, while acceptable at the time - such as the introduction of willows and other exotic plants - have created significant weed problems that have spread further than the sites of original disturbance, creating a secondary environment issue.
Many sites were simply abandoned and have not rehabilitated due to the nature of disturbance and high level of climatic exposure. Ongoing erosion and weed infestation has evolved. Sites at lower altitude and with adequate soil depth, water and soil nutrients have generally rehabilitated to a greater extent. Many sites, particularly town sites, are infested with intractable environmental weeds such as broom that will require many years of intensive management for their control.
Three hundred and seventy sites were found to have current environment issues and have subsequently been categorised into major and minor sites.
Minor former sites, over 300, are those that have minor debris, soil erosion and weed issues associated with them, typically disused stream gauging stations, old camp and construction sites. Major former sites (over 50) have soil erosion, water, stability, debris, and weed issues and are typically the old spoil dumps and major quarry sites often associated with dam and tunnel construction.
The major sites have been reviewed in more detail to collect site data on the full range of environment matters including soil condition, geotechnical information and so on. The project team now has a reasonable database on the sites, and is analysing the scope, scale and type of environmental issues to be considered. Those readers familiar with Bourkes Gorge spoil dump (pictured), will understand that the resolution of environmental matters at these sites is complex, technically difficult and therefore likely to be expensive.
At present the project group is identifying a process to provide a management response to the 370 sites. Each major site may have a site management plan which resolves the environment issues in a framework of current legislation, together with an understanding of the history and practicability of meeting current best management practices within the park.
The challenge is to identify what is an appropriate conservation outcome for each site given the expected high costs to remediate, the capacity to achieve improved site condition and the long-term impact of the site in the local, regional and national context. A basic objective of all rehabilitation is to stabilise and ameliorate site conditions such that off-site/secondary effects are contained, and that a trend of recovery of natural soil and vegetation processes is set in progress.
There is no doubt that any works will be expensive and ultimately the decisions on remediation will have to be made in the full social and legal context ensuring that real and priority environmental benefits are delivered for the dollars spent.
* Gregor Manson is a Project Manager for the NPWS Snowy Corporatisation.
used to be
The history of Australia is reflected in the fortunes of the Snowy River. The shift from Banjo Pattersons pastoral idyll to Chifleys modern icon has delivered a new test of Australias maturity. As our values change there are increasingly compelling cultural heritage, social, economic and environmental reasons to restore the Snowy River.
The Snowy River below Jindabyne Dam receives less than one per cent of its original flow. An expert panel of scientists in 1996 determined that at least 28 per cent needs to be returned to restore the ecological functions of the river.
Support for returning 28% of the original flow to the Snowy River is broad-based. This is reflected by the diverse local and international public figures advocating 28%. Supporters include: Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton, Rob Sitch, Julie McCrossin, Andrew Denton, John Williamson, Robyn Williams and David Bellamy.
Conflicting interests - hydro power, irrigation and the environment
Based in the alpine region of southern NSW, the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme was constructed in the 1950s and 60s to divert water from the Snowy River to the west of the Great Dividing Range. This diversion allows hydroelectric generation and supplies irrigation areas in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys.
There is no disputing that the Snowy Mountains Scheme is an incredible engineering feat; however, across the globe the economic, social and environmental impacts of large river impoundment and diversion projects are being examined (see also "Damming the planet", Oct NPJ). Some large dam projects have been shelved (such as Namada Dam in India) and several large dams in North America are earmarked for decommissioning. Interestingly, decommissioning is an economic rather than an environmental imperative. It is often difficult to raise sufficient income stream for very large dams to maintain infrastructure.
The Australian situation is similar; state and Commonwealth government reforms are shifting the costs of access to and use of water to irrigators (and other water users). Taxpayers are still paying billions of dollars for the construction of the Scheme, its ongoing debt and provision of water to irrigators.
Irrigation and power production are important for us all. However, wasteful irrigation practices currently add more than 1,000 giga litres (or 1,000 x 1,000,000,000 litres) of water each year to the already rising water tables in the Murray Darling Basin. The yearly amount of Snowy River water given to irrigation is 1,100 giga litres! The environmental flow to restore the Snowy River is 330 giga litres per year. That is, the Snowy River requires about one-third of the irrigation losses.
After giving away all of its river for thirty years, the Snowy community and others are calling for 28% to be returned. Bringing the Snowy River back to life will provide habitat for platypus, fish and invertebrates, put a wild river back into the Byadbo wilderness area, and provide significant recreation opportunities for all Australians. Why dont you add your voice to the call?
you can do: for more information contact the Snowy River
Campaign, at Total Environment Centre, ph 02 9299 5599; or the
Snowy Genoa Catchment Management Committee,
ph 02 6452 1455.
* Mike Gooey is Executive Officer for the Snowy Genoa Catchment Management Committee, PO Box 26, Cooma 2630.
There was movement at the station for the word had got around
That the dozer fumes were coming up the hill
Theyd come for roads and tunnels - with dollars in their eyes
Big dams, determination and strong will
With men, machines and muscle - the mountains were subdued
Mighty modern man had won again
The River, cowed and beaten, trickles feebly in its bed
With willow trees and weeds and no fish too.
With apologies to AB ( Banjo) Patterson
PHOTO NO 5
Source: Snowy Water Inquiry Final Report, p 97
Location of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme
Men of the Snowy
The 50th anniversary of the Snowy River Scheme has brought a spate of media items, from The Sydney Morning Herald to SBS television, even Australian Energy News (and now the National Parks Journal). It has also regularly come up in conversation. Of course, there have been all kinds of adverse results (such as turning the Snowy River into a trickle), but what has really struck me is what a motley collection of people - mostly male - actually made the whole thing happen.
It was founded on a huge influx of young blokes coming from all over Europe and descending on what was originally a fairly quiet rural area. Some came with families (such as the man from Colorado who wrote the article alongside) but it seems the majority were young single men who came seeking their fortune, or escaping the memories of the recent past. They were off to a new and better world and they were sure to have a good time.
And they all seem to talk about it in glowing terms. The work was obviously physically hard, often dangerous and involved very long hours. On the other hand, they were reasonably well paid and, if they were single men and lived in the dormitories, they were fed and housed (I have heard a tale of "hot beds", which meant those looking for work would sleep in any bed left empty by a shift worker until they got a permanent job, and their own bed): all they had to do in their spare time was find ways to spend their money and get up to mischief.
So, what has happened to these young European hoons? Well, most of them stayed here, set up families and businesses, and turned into solid respectable Australians.
PHOTO NO 7
Bourkes Gorge - spoil dump Photo: Mark Adams
ARTWORK NO 1
Walk Against Woodchips
Australias first Walk Against Woodchips (WAW) took place in early October. There were two concurrent walks, with the Victorian leg beginning at Lakes Entrance and the NSW walk starting in Sydney. They met to rally at the Eden Daishowa woodchip mill. Both groups, each of 25 to 30 people, walked through forests and towns being threatened by the ever-expanding footprint of the woodchip industry.
The WAW concept evolved as part of the Boycott Woodchip Campaign from the April 1999 National Forest Summit. The aim was to give a voice to the vast majority of Australians who oppose native forest woodchipping and who say "NO" to governments and companies who persist in promoting this industry.
Extensive local print, radio and TV coverage along with walks and leafleting through towns, plus nine public meetings, ensured that the WAW put the woodchip debate back on the local public policy and media agendas.
The public meetings were particularly successful in engaging the local communities in discussion. Groups which at first appeared to be divided on forest use, discovered a common enemy - the woodchip industry! As a result, new understandings and alliances have begun to develop. WAW hopes to build on these to end the menace of woodchipping.
WAW also helped alert communities to the impending government forest decision for the southern region of NSW via a Regional Forest Agreement (RFA). As every RFA to date has been a sham for forest protection, and in contrast has resulted in intensification and expansion of logging and woodchipping, alarm bells are ringing for the future of NSW southern forests.
WAW reminded communities of Bob Carrs 1995 promise to end native forest woodchipping by the year 2000. Also, the recent south-east Queensland forest outcome was a timely reminder of what can be achieved.
For the walkers, the experience was unique. They came from a very diverse range of ages, interests, geographical origins and environmental knowledge. A packed itinerary for just over a week was challenging for all, but the level of commitment from each walker was impressive. WAW was a tremendous educational event for everyone. It opened walkers eyes to local issues and experiences as well as the complexities involved in the forest debate. It facilitated communication between local stakeholders on social, economic and ecological issues, and helped everyone in understanding the importance of taking care of communities.
The walkers experienced wonderful forests (most of which are threatened by logging), logged forests, and local towns. The latter offered a mix of warm hospitality and suspicion verging on hostility. All these elements helped to build a picture of the region. It is clear that a continuation or expansion of the woodchip industry will be bad news all round.
It is hoped WAW has given new vigour to the campaign to end native forest woodchipping. More walks are planned for the year 2000. In the words of the chorus of the WAW song composed en route:
Were walking for the animals
Were walking for the trees.
And we wont stop, no we wont stop
Till this woodchip madness ends,
Till this woodchip madness ends.
Walkers Against Woodchips gather followers in Merimbula
Photo: PETER BARNES
To find out more: contact Bruce Dover, Convenor of the Forest Campaign Group, on 9901 8864.
* Margaret Barnes is a long-time activist with ACFs Forest Campaign Group, and one of the WAW organisers.
Readers are welcome to respond by letter or e-mail to other letters or articles in the National Parks Journal, or to write in about any topic you choose. Preference will be given to short, concise letters. Other letters may be edited or not included, depending on space limits. Please be aware of libel and defamation laws! All views expressed are those of the authors and are not necessarily shared or endorsed by NPA.
Letters to the Editor
species at risk
I was very interested to read Ian Johnstones letter on "Conservation of species" and Jack Giles article on "Biodiversity" (June 99 NPJ). Ian Johnstone states: "the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service has the legal responsibility for threatened species, populations and ecological communities." Whilst this may be the case, the decisions on our threatened species are made, in the majority of cases, by local government.
The question I am raising is: are they safer under local government decision making, when it comes to their presence in areas proposed for development? Two instances have occurred recently, where local populations of threatened species (at their southern limits of distribution) will be removed. Independent assessments of these populations have shown that a significant impact will occur in both cases, and yet the NPWS, as I understand, have not been able to become involved in either case. Jack Giles also states that to "achieve the full spectrum of biodiversity, additional resources are required and must be managed responsibly and effectively." He also suggests off-park reserves and community input to achieve these aims. I tend to agree with his argument.
Our experts advise us that, in the two cases mentioned, the processes of approval were irregular and not dealt with under normal procedures. In one case a Schedule 1 species [under the Threatened Species Conservation Act] was involved and in both cases the NPWS and the community were not informed. If this is the way the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act) is tending to work, then my prediction for the future of threatened species and biodiversity is not very bright. The TSC Act requires amendment, and soon, to overcome such loopholes and ensure biodiversity is on the right track.
The author, who has a M Nat Res, noted that he is a practising research ecologist whose specific interest is threatened species.
31 July 1999
"We will meet them on the beaches"
I would like to reinforce Brian Everinghams paper in the October issue of the Journal. Exactly what he says applies to the Myall Lakes, even worse.
The Myall Lakes are under the jurisdiction of the Sydney Waterways Authority, not the NPWS. That authority lives on licence fees for boats, wharves and moorings. No wonder these are constantly increasing, of course in response to user demand and participation. The NPWS merely controls the fringes of the lakes and some northern forests.
The generally shallow lakes have very fragile seagrass beds in the lowest lake, the Broadwater. The wettest seasons are late summer and early autumn leading to a fall in salinity of that lake to almost fresh water. The large Toplake is practically always fresh. The fall in seasonal salinity leads to a frantic exodus of prawns during the new moons of February (the Darks) and partial dying of the seagrass beds and their plankton. But just at that crucial time, there is also a massive invasion of power boats and their propellers.
The result is the destruction of the recreational potential of the lakes during month-long "stink" periods, which make the water unfit for swimming or water sports. In Europe, by contrast, fossil-fuel powered boats and their pollution of the water with nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide, and their ground-stirring propellers, are prohibited even in the deep alpine lakes. Electric motors are quite sufficient to get sailing boats home.
The division of jurisdiction in the Myall Lakes is not in keeping with gazetting the area as a national park.
Dr Hanns Pacy
21 October 1999
This, supposedly the first gazetted national park in the world, is a disgrace! Marked tracks are nonexistent. Blame is levelled at the fires of a few years ago, but this is not the whole story. Even if it were, there has been sufficient time to remedy the situation. The other excuse is insufficient funding. Who is going to pay the damages when someone is lost or injured following tracks marked on NPWS maps, when those tracks are either missing or nearly obliterated?
On the June long weekend holiday Monday, my son and I tried to do a round-trip walk from a track marked plainly in the visitors centre at Audley. The track took off from the Wattamolla Road just short of the car parks and led down to Curracurrang Creek, thence north along the coast back to Wattamolla. We intended to park at Wattamolla, walk along the coast to Curracurrang and thence along the creek and up to the road. Alas, once at the creek any semblance of the marked track was absent. Indeed even the publicised waterfall was unreachable.
Then on Sunday, 27 June, we walked from Bundeena to Jibbon Head, passing the Aboriginal rock carvings on the way. The quite elaborate notice describing the carvings was so worn it could not be read, and fancy allowing people to walk all over them anyway! Then we tried to walk south along the coast to link up with the Marley Track and so return to Bundeena - no way. The track was so overgrown we eventually had to give up and return the way we had come. On the way back we met a foreigner going south. He knew less of the tracks than we did - I hope he is not still there!
This is magnificent coastline. The Bundeena-Jibbon Head coastal track must be one of the best there is, yet it has been allowed to deteriorate so much. Do not those who run the NPWS care?
K Bridson Orr
28 June 1999
Bushland under the hammer
It must have come as an unpleasant shock to many NPA members to learn that some local Aboriginal groups are not interested in protecting the bushland around Sydney. At the September public meeting about bushland near Mona Vale Road (see "Environment News", October NPJ), our Executive Officer, Noel Plumb, spoke eloquently of the need to add the 36 ha bush corridor to Garigal and Ku-ring-gai Chase national parks, rather than allow the Metropolitan Land Council to sell it for development. A number of NPA members who were present at the protest were strongly opposed to the $3 million auction of land given to the Council.
When NPWS, with NPA support, tried to implement the twenty-year-old promise made in State Parliament that Maroota State Forest would become a national park, they found themselves opposed by the Deerubbin Land Council in the Land and Environment Court. The Judges reasons for refusing to accept the claim made by NPWS were so illogical that the matter is now under appeal. If the Service loses again it is likely that the easily developed land on the perimeter of the 5,000 ha block will be sold, leaving a question mark over the fate of the remainder.
If it is the considered view of Aboriginal land councils in the Sydney area that their need for a substantial economic base is more important than the preservation of our system of national parks, then I believe that NPA should be seeking changes to the NP&W Amendment (Aboriginal Ownership) Act when it comes up for review early in 2000.
Maybe the Executive should ascertain the views of NPA members by means of a questionnaire inserted in the Journal.
16 October 1999
Impact of metal
All of us who enjoy spending our leisure time in the bush would agree that part of the pleasure we receive is visual as well as physical. However, no matter how careful we are in practising low-impact bushwalking, we leave our mark. Tracks, no matter how eroded, seem to be accepted. Metal intrusions on our scenery have a more jarring effect.
Mumblings and grumblings have been heard recently about rock climbers and those terrible things call bolts and chains that they place on their climbs. I wonder if bushwalkers who are offended by these have ever visited Tarros Ladder, Carlons Head or Walls Pass, just to name three places where bushwalkers find it very convenient to have metal things attached to the rock. Two other examples of excessive use of metal to aid bushwalkers are Pigeon House and Govetts Leap.
I have been a member of NPA for more than twenty years. I also enjoy rock climbing and am a member of Blue Mountains Cliffcare and Sydney Rockclimbing Club, so I would like to explain that the use of bolts, fixed anchors and lower-off chains can actually reduce the impact of rock climbing on the cliff face, as well as on the vegetation at the top of cliffs. Rock climbers generally condemn excessive use of bolting, just as bushwalkers would condemn excessive installation of ladders, handrails, steps and sign posts, so I do not feel that we should be critical of someone elses chosen leisure activity, but instead work together to stop any excesses.
Blue Mountains Cliffcare is dedicated to preserving and restoring climbing areas. Since inception three years ago, five work days have been held at various climbing cliffs. The most recent one was attended by ninety volunteers who did a magnificent job restoring eroded tracks and laying brush matting.
29 October 1999
I am concerned at the amount of visual pollution caused in national parks by bushwalkers and climbers. It seems that, whenever we tourists fly or helicopter over these beautiful areas, our pleasurable views of the fire trails, power lines, dams and so forth are becoming increasingly spoiled by the sight of small parties of walkers.
Ive even spotted some of them shaking their fists at our plane, if we happen to be flying low enough. What cheek!
Again, our photographs of the lovely cliff lines are liable to be ruined by the blot of some selfish rock climbers.
After all, what are national parks for?
21 October 1999
A frolicking Whale in Sydney Harbour
a breath of life on our homely shore
evoking much of love, joy and laughter
in our long dead collective soul.
Whole and fulfilled we feel again
but the Whales gone and alls done and said
now we can go back to serious business
of destroying its old habitat.
The Whale was nice, but people have needs
and the more people the more needs to be met
when there are no whales, we tell our children
to go and watch them on the Internet.
Books on the High Country
Tilting at Snowgums
Australian High Country in poetry and photos
Photos: Klaus Hueneke
Tabletop Press, pb, $19.95
Mark OConnor sees the tiny herbs as well as the great expanses: he is sensitive to the comeback after grazing of "Twynams tussock, grown spongy minus the sheep", which serves the important role of holding back the water.
He describes camping in blizzards: "the words from all sides disputing a peak like bull seals around a rock ... raging in chorus till one rises up supreme and your tent, like a bent bow, sees it out or doesnt."
Descriptions of the flora and fauna: "The snowgum pauciflora offers few flowers, a light white scented froth where native bees work short, snatched hours on windless days", and, "A muscular Robin, wood-god with many eyes (a misshapen tuft of ear points up)".
Mark is concerned for the present-day road kills: "The leg-splayed dog pissing attitude of a road killed wombat"; and the survival of all wildlife: "Does the last lyrebird in a forest carry memories of all the sounds once heard? ... fierce wars and faithful loves Iliads of cancelled song".
And the beauty: "Alpine Flower Beds - the desperate purity of soil and water, the nutrient poverty, locks out the monotony of grass. This garden of flowers without weeds."
The coloured photographs are outstanding.
A beautiful little book for all those who love the high country.
One step at a time
Tabletop Press, pb, $22.95
This is an account of Klaus Huenekes life, from his early childhood in Germany to migration with his parents and siblings to Australia. It includes his schooling and adolescence in Orange, and many years of camping and travelling in a Kombi with the family.
In the Introduction Klaus briefly describes camping in the Kosciuszko huts; surfing with Father at Palm Beach; building an igloo in the snowy country; and exploring the Australian bush, walking and canoeing.
He invites the reader to share his adventures and life-forming experiences. There are many good black and white photographs in the book.
The book starts by
describing camping in the Budawangs, and I find that Klaus has
the ability to make the reader feel as though
s/he is there. He tells of how he enjoys planning his journeys, what to take or leave, the Spartan menu, companions, photos to take, finding water and a campsite and firewood, cooking, chatting, crawling into a tent dog-tired and listening to the sounds of the night, of navigating and testing himself in dense bush.
There are bits about his grandfather; of Klaus own birthplace, where the Pied Piper led the children into a hole in the mountain; other relations in Europe; a trip later back to Europe; of a trip to India and Kashmir. He also writes of his love of mountains, time at Yanco Agricultural College, girls, teaching, skiing, lots of trips into the Snowy Mountains, painting classes, as well as about exploring the bush as a member of the Macquarie University Mountaineering Club and the NPA.
There are black and white photos of some of his walking companions and he mentions the names of some well-known NPA members in the text.
He talks about Barren Grounds, Kangaroo Valley, Mount Corang, Ettrema Gorge, Bouddi, Burning Palms and lots more. Of trips in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, with descriptions and interesting tales from many of them.
Klaus takes a keen interest in the ecological and biological sciences, and he gets a research job in Canberra, then back to the Snowy country again and again. Knowing these areas so well myself, I share his feeling for the high country as I read his accounts of it.
Ill have to stop short of the first draft I wrote for this review, as the Journal Editor would say "no room" and put it aside to edit further!
Buy this book, and take plenty of time in relaxed hours to read it, particularly all bushwalkers, campers and travellers - even if you are only an armchair traveller.
El Niņo CD
Environmental music, $15
An interesting CD offering a wide variety of musical styles: country, reggae, rap, Aboriginal, with a touch of folk. There are songs with a variety of themes including laying the blame of environmental changes on El Niņo; the peace and love of Aboriginal Dreamtime; environmental campaigners trying to save Australia from "looking kinda slack"; the overuse of packaging and wrapping by modern countries; the peaceful life of the country versus the busy pace of the city; and the sensual melodies of humpback whales "singing as they swim along".
My personal favourite on the CD was the funky reggae song El Niņo, which is also the title track. Both the sound and wording of the song would appeal to a wide range. I also quite liked Dreamtime Christmas. However, the quality of the CD varies widely.
The CD is available from Jeff Aschmann direct, 1858 Araluen Road, Moruya 2537; ph 02 4474 3093. Price includes postage.
Postcards on CD
126 National Parks of NSW
This CD for PC use contains attractive colour photographs and "field-guide" information on the national parks of NSW. As a CD, it has an advantage over traditional field guides, in that it has been produced quickly on an inexpensive medium. This means it is very much up-to-date. Most of the information has been provided by the NPWS.
The entries on each area vary considerably, depending on recreational opportunities, facilities available and the length of dedication of each park. For example, Blue Mountains NP has seven pages of photographs and information including three pages on walk suggestions, whereas new parks (that comprise about a third of the entries) have only a single page.
One deficiency of the CD is the absence of maps of the parks (perhaps this will come in a later edition). The ardent national park buff may find the entries on many of the parks too sketchy, but in every case they provide information that whets the appetite for getting out and exploring them.
For just $9.95, it is a very desirable addition to home libraries of people interested in our national parks.
The CD is available direct from Ben Bassey, 20 Endeavour Drive, Bellingen 2454; ph 02 6655 9993. For NPJ readers, the price ($9.95) includes postage. Or you may win a free copy - see below!
GIVE AWAY COMPETITION!!
Win yourself a New Year present!
We have five copies of "Postcards on CD" to give away to our readers. The CD gives detailed information on 126 national parks in NSW (see review above), in a readily accessible form for every user of an IBM-compatible computer - sorry to all you Mac users out there.
How can you win one? The first five entries received which give the correct answer to the
question below will be sent a free copy of the CD. Simple!
Question: How many glacial lakes are there in Kosciuszko National Park?
[The answer can be found in that other reputable source of national park information:
The NPA Guide to the National Parks of Southern NSW.]
Closing date: 31 January 2000. Winners will be notified, and announced in April issue of the Journal.
Send your entries to:
CD Competition, National Parks Association, PO Box A96, Sydney South 1235.
National Parks Association of NSW
Vol. 43 No. 6
The National Parks Journal is published bi-monthly, with news and features on nature conservation and national parks, by NPA Publications
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Contributions to the National Parks Journal are welcome, but we may not be able to publish everything we receive; contributions may be published on NPAs website. Send articles on IBM format disk plus hard copy, photographs or illustrations to:
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April deadline: 21.1.2000
DECEMBER 1999 Vol 43 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: Roger Lembit, President; Stephen Lord, Senior Vice-President; Anne Reeves, Junior Vice-President; Brian Everingham, Secretary; Kathy McCourt, Treasurer; Beth Michie, Mike Thompson, Pip Walsh, Vivien Clayphan-Dunne, Tom Fink.
National Parks Association of NSW