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Messages from the Executives

Sydney's catchment lands
Catchments managed for nature conservation provide the cleanest water

The major loss of confidence in the quality of Sydney’s water supply in 1998 was a stark reminder that this principle is still the most cost-effective way of keeping water supplies healthy and clean. The resulting inquiry by Peter McClelland recommended separating the catchment functions of Sydney Water into a new Sydney Catchment Authority. SCA would become a land management regulator, with strong powers to deliver clean and healthy stored drinking water, and NPWS would manage the innermost catchments.

However, two years after the water scare, the inner catchment lands – lands adjacent to Lake Burragorang, the vast southern metropolitan catchments, Lake Yarrunga on the Shoalhaven and other smaller holdings in the Blue Mountains and south-west Sydney – have not been transferred to NPWS.

NPA has run a long campaign to transfer these lands to NPWS management as national park or nature reserve, dating back to our original support for Myles Dunphy's Greater Blue Mountains park proposal. The catchment area’s high biodiversity values would in this way be recognised and professionally managed, with the additional benefit of strong legal security to ensure any future move to raise Warragamba Dam could only occur with approval from Parliament.

The transfer of the catchment lands has been promised many times by the Carr Government since 1995.

In 1996, the Government approved the immediate transfer of major parts of Lake Burragorang foreshore lands held by Sydney Water, but this was refused by the independent Sydney Water. Now, under SCA management which is government controlled, there appears to be support for their transfer.

For the southern metropolitan catchments, the issue is more complex. Underground coal mining takes place underneath this area. A recent study by SCA highlighted the area’s high conservation value, rare vegetation types and threatened species. These lands, together with the unprotected Bargo River Crown lands, form an important east–west link with Royal NP and the Blue Mountains. But mining activities have taken place with little scrutiny of their impact. The disappearance of the Cataract River underground illustrates this well. Special legislation is needed to ensure ecologically based interim management of these lands by NPWS, followed by automatic reversion to nature reserve once mining ceases.

It is now time to secure our catchment lands. Write to the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Bob Debus (at Parliament House, Sydney 2000), seeking the immediate transfer of all the SCA-held lands to NPWS.

Andrew Cox
Executive Officer

NPA walk from Mt Ku-ring-gai to Hornsby

Put your boots on for NPA 
– Bushwalking Open Day

For the opportunity to participate in a recreational activity that is suitable for young and old alike, join us on our open day bushwalk, Sunday 26 November, in Sydney and across the State. NPA offers the largest bushwalking program in NSW – it is a great way to meet people, get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of our national parks. Non-NPA walkers most welcome.


For more information ring Karen on 02 9299 0000

Commonwealth lands in Sydney – for conservation or short term $$?

There are many hectares of valuable bushland in the Sydney area still in the hands of Commonwealth departments. We can be grateful that these lands have been protected from the local developers up to now. These public lands were assigned to the Commonwealth for defence purposes, but the current Federal Government and their bureaucrats have the mistaken idea that they own the lands and can therefore sell them off without regard for the community or heritage values.

In 1979, the then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and NSW Premier Neville Wran finalised with goodwill and statesmanship a transfer of land both from and to the State through a Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU clearly states that the Defence lands will be returned to the State once their needs have ended. This arrangement was to apply for ten years and then be subject to further negotiation. Alas, such goodwill and understanding is absent today!

It has been necessary for local community groups and peak environment groups such as NPA, NCC and others to become active to save these precious pieces of bushland.

Sydney Harbour foreshore sites Middle Head and Georges Heights, Woolwich, Cockatoo Island and the Artillery School at North Head, are now under the control of a Commonwealth Interim Trust, thanks to community pressure. However, the much-amended Bill to establish the Trust is still to be agreed by the Government.

The Australian Defence Industries (ADI) site at St Marys, the Air Services Radio Station at Shanes Park and the disused Rifle Range at Malabar are covered elsewhere in the Journal. The Defence site at Randwick, with its valuable wetlands, is still an example of proposed exploitation.

Vigilance and campaigning are still essential.

Peter Caldwell
Executive member

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