Featured National Park
Brian Everingham, President Southern Sydney Branch, National Parks Association of NSW
You will find Yarriabini National Park a short distance south of Macksville or, if travelling from further south, roughly 45 km from Kempsey. Turn into Albert Drive at Warrell Creek and follow the signs for ‘Yarrahapinni Mountain’ or ‘Yarriabini National Park’. This is the beloved backyard of one of the great members of NPA, James Tedder, now deceased. This patch of land lies to the east of his home at Grassy Head and it is him and other local conservationists that we can thank for the protection, gazettal and effective management of this land. Mind you, Jim would also add that the park is not yet complete. We know he wished for the lands north of The Pines picnic area and along Way Way Creek Road to be added to the park and, perhaps, one day we shall see his wish fulfilled.
Yarriabini National Park was originally reserved as Yarrahapinni National Park on 1 January 2003 and then had its name changed after consultation with the local Aboriginal community. Both names mean “koala rolling down mountain”.
The park was formed as a result of the North East Regional Forest Agreement and expanded in 2010 with the addition of the Middle Head section. It had formerly been Yarriabini State Conservation Area. The park is now 2,192 hectares1.
The park forms part of the Macleay Hills, the northern watershed for the Macleay Valley and the southern edge of the Nambucca catchment. It extends to the coast at Middle Head and visitors will notice Mount Yarrahapinni (elevation 498m), Cooks Knob and Scotts Mountain. Much of the underlying geology is sedimentary but there are granite intrusions. Since the slopes are quite step, there is a high risk of erosion, especially as this area receives good rainfall.
Because of its location on the Mid North Coast, its varied geology and its varied soils and slopes the park contains a range of ecosystems, including littoral rainforest, coastal grasslands dominated by kangaroo grasses (Themeda triandra), lowland rainforest, tall open forests and dry open forest. Keen botanists might discover Austral Toadflax, Grove’s Paperbark, Nambucca Ironbark, Milky Silkpod and White Beech, to name but a few.
It follows that there is also a high diversity of animals for such a small site that is helped by the park being linked “via existing vegetated and fragmented corridors to the Macleay estuary and coastal lowlands, and via the forests of Ngambaa Nature Reserve, Tamban State Forest and other public and private lands to New England National Park and other parks along the Great Escarpment”2. However, past forestry practices have had an impact on the structure of the forest and there is now a dearth of hollow bearing trees. It would be good to know that mammals that were once present, such as the Koala and the Yellow Bellied Glider, can once more make their home here.
Mount Yarrahapinni, Scotts Mountain and Middle Head are all closely associated with the Ngambaa People, but are also highly significant to the Gumbaynggirr and Dunghutti peoples. Their connection to Country is recognised at a delightful mosaic at The Pines picnic area.
Explorers soon were followed by cedar getters, and timber harvesting was then established as the predominant land use. Its legacy is obvious with stumps, some with board slots, old trails and snigging tracks throughout the park. Tourism appears to have dated beyond the 1930s. In this decade, for example, The Pines picnic area was first established, complete with a plantation grove of non-endemic hoop pines. It was expanded and updated in the 1950s.
There is a draft plan of management relating to this park, and as to be expected some of the most contentious issues relate to recreational opportunities.
Apparently, the plan to close some management trails that are surplus to requirements and a drain on resources has led to some opposition, especially to the idea that they could no longer drive to the summit of Mount Yarrahappini. The Tower Precinct on Mount Yarrahappini has also caused some concern. It has a series of ugly towers and it has also been abused by 4WD activity. As the area is not within the park, though Part 11, it would make sense to try to get the occupants to help with the upkeep of the site.
Another important site is The Pines picnic area. This is an old forestry picnic ground that has been turned into a great facility by NPWS and any management of it is truly operational, although some tree removal is required to make it safe.
The other main issue is a proposed long distance walk called the Smilax Trail and a proposed campsite on a dry ridge. It is unlikely to be used often. More importantly, it ends at the beach at Middle Head and has been laid out to avoid important Aboriginal sites.
It is a delight to visit and is a credit to local conservationists who have long been associated with the history of NPA.
1. There are also several Part 11 lands within the park, including the main site used by telecommunication towers on the summit of Mount Yarrahapinni, two quarry sites in the centre of the park and all park roads and management trails.
2. Yarriabini Draft Plan of Management, OEH 2015