The proposal to mine a 16 kilometre stretch of the promised Stockton Bight National Park is too extensive, too destructive and covers too long a period of time.
Prior to the 1995 election, Bob Carr promised the establishment of the Stockton Bight NP as a first step in Labor’s coastal policy. He reiterated the promise for the national park on achieving office. Had the Carr Government honoured their promise, this magnificent Stockton Bight barrier sand-dune system would not be under this threat.
An environmental impact statement (EIS) to mine mineral sands from an extensive area of the promised NP will soon be determined by Port Stephens Council.
Less than a month before the EIS was exhibited, the Hon Edward Obeid, Minerals Minister, revoked Mining Reserve No 3050, which had prevented mining of the 4-kilometre long WWII firing range immediately north of the existing mineral sands operation. This was a reckless act.
Stockton Bight is an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon containing significant Aboriginal sites. It is an important aquifer recharge area and has a unique reversing dune field, backed by old growth coastal woodland and captured dunes. The outer barrier system extends 28 km from Newcastle to Anna Bay in the Port Stephens local government area.
Stockton Bight was proposed for a nature reserve by the National Trust in their document Hunter 2000, prepared at the request of the State Planning Authority of NSW in 1972. NPA and others have also supported conservation of the Bight.
The national park proposal only extended over Crown areas designated as water reserves or proposed water reserves, and public reserves. The lands had nominal conservation status prior to the incorporation of the Hunter District Water Board, after which they were transferred to the Department of Land and Water Conservation. They are now directly threatened by mining, sand extraction and urbanisation.
Please write to the Premier, Bob Carr (Parliament House, Sydney 2000). Ask the Government to halt the further destruction of this most distinctive landscape, and to honour the promise to declare the Stockton Bight National Park.
Walk Against Woodchips 2000
If you missed out last year, now is the time to grab your place in the team for Walk Against Woodchips 2000.
WAW 2000 will leave Parliament House, Canberra, on 27 November and arrive at the Daishowa woodchip mill near Eden on 8 December.
Coordinator for this year’s walk, Paul Dickson of The Wilderness Society in Sydney, is urging walkers to register early. "We have limited places and last year’s walk was such a huge success that we don’t expect any trouble filling them," he says.
Organisers expect their route this year will take them through some of south-eastern Australia’s most marvellous forests, including important wilderness areas condemned to be woodchipped under the Southern Regional Forest Agreement.
"Eden is the obvious place for the finale of the walk as it is the Daishowa operation there that chips almost 98% of timber felled in the region," according to Paul. "While our main aim is to see an end to woodchipping, we are also keen to use the walk to build links with local communities and to raise awareness of alternatives to woodchipping."
To enquire, register or make a donation, contact WAW@wild.net.au; or phone Paul on 02 4227 2097.
Save Malabar Headlands
The little-known natural bushland on both sides of the Anzac Rifle Range in the Eastern Suburbs is threatened by possible development.
This unique bushland earned the distinction of being listed on the National Estate and is the largest, highest quality bushland in the Eastern Suburbs. It has Aboriginal and wartime sites; and has more than 140 species of birds and 300 plant species, including threatened species. It is the last area that contains the nationally endangered plant community, the Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub. The site also forms an integral part of the yet to be completed Eastern Beaches Coastal Walk.
The land is under Commonwealth management and the Federal Government promised to put this area into the national parks system ten years ago. But nothing has been done. Instead, the same Government proposes to sell the western part of this precious bushland to housing developers.
"Save Malabar Headlands" Group will endeavour to ensure the inclusion of this unique land into the national parks system.
We need the support of bush lovers. "Save Malabar Headlands" Group meets twice a month. If you would like to become involved, contact the group on 9315 7935; or write to PO Box 6023, Malabar 2036; or have a look at the website at www.egroups.com/group/malabar
Conservation groups from all over Australia gathered in Melbourne in July to discuss our involvement in marine conservation, and to develop a strategy for the South-east Regional Marine Plan (SERMP). This is an initiative under the Commonwealth Oceans Policy which aims to set up a system of marine protected areas representative of ecological regions around Australia. The management plan for the SERMP, which is expected to take about three years, is the first plan to be considered under the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas.
The South-east Region covers the southern portion of NSW waters, extending around Tasmania through to South Australia. The forum was organised by NPA Victoria and was attended by non-government conservation reps from all States and Territories. The two main outcomes include, firstly, the development of an initial planning framework in which major conservation objectives were outlined. These should be implemented within the management plan and subsequent regional marine plans (RMPs). Under the Oceans Policy, RMPs are aimed at the integration of ecosystem-based planning and management by incorporating commercial and conservation interests.
The second outcome identified major conservation issues for the South-east Region, for example the establishment of fully protected ‘no take’ areas.
NPA would like to see government staffing resources increased so that regional assessments can rapidly identify areas for protection. The sooner we have marine protected areas established, the better we can advance efforts for 15% of waters to be fully protected sanctuary areas, and the closer we are to achieving real conservation outcomes for marine biodiversity in our waters.
The forum was an important step for conservation groups Australia-wide, to consolidate and build an effective marine conservation plan for the negotiation process ahead.
Marine Project Officer
in western Sydney
In August the NSW Government released the State Salinity Strategy and pledged $52 million to fight salinity. Salinity has long been recognised as a major environmental problem in the State’s west (see also April NPJ). With almost 500,000 hectares of NSW affected by salinity, the problem threatens the State’s agriculture and river systems.
Salinity is a symptom of rising water tables, which for much of the State has been caused by land-use changes since European settlement. Large-scale vegetation clearance and the introduction of annual crops and pastures have increased the recharge of aquifers by rainwater. As water tables have risen, they have dissolved salts deposited deep within the soil and transported them towards the surface.
Irrigation can also lead to rising water tables. As the salt moves closer to the surface, it can affect the roots of crops and native vegetation. There are also major impacts on river ecosystems. The Macquarie River at Narromine currently carries 230,000 tonnes of salt each year1.
Salinity is not just a problem in the State’s west. The Cumberland Plain in the Sydney Basin has also been affected. Extensive clearing of vegetation has occurred in western Sydney, originally for agriculture and more recently for urban development. Salinity is a growing issue for home owners in some of Sydney’s newer suburbs. Vegetation removal is combined with additional water loads in urban areas, and this can cause rapid rises in water tables. Additional water may come from altering surface and sub-surface flows, and even from over-watering gardens.
In affected areas, vegetation along drainage lines will change and bare patches may appear on sports grounds and other open areas. Roads and pipes can be damaged, and home owners may find their house foundations starting to sink or shift. Heritage buildings and cemeteries are particularly susceptible to damage from salinity.
The Department of Land and Water Conservation is beginning to take some action in western Sydney to counter the problem, but both the State and local governments need to do much more in terms of remediation and regional planning.
1 Department of Land & Water Conservation (1999) "Salinity Predictions for NSW Rivers within the Murray Darling Basin", cited in the NSW Salinity Strategy, DLWC, Sydney