Celebrating more than 40 years of activity

Robert Griffiths, Walks Coordinator, National Parks Association of NSW Mid North Coast Branch

If you have driven on the Pacific Highway between Taree and Port Macquarie you may have noticed the Brothers (“North”, South” and “Middle”) – massive intrusions of microgranite named by James Cook as he sailed northwards. This is the heartland of the Mid North Coast and the setting for many NPA activities.

Mid North Coast National Parks are large in number but small in size. The coastal scenery is particularly spectacular. You may have never heard of Crowdy Bay, Dooragan, Hat Head or Wallingat but collectively, the Mid North Coast parks are just as significant as the large and better known parks.

The Mid North Coast NPA branch began as a single issue community group lobbying for a controversial National Park extension. The Hastings River Catchment, about 100 km west of Port Macquarie had become Werrikimbe National Park in 1975, but rainforest logging continued in the park and in the adjacent Forbes River area.

In a stand-off soon to be repeated in other areas, activists and the logging community became locked in a passionate struggle. The spectacle captured nationwide press interest and provided valuable publicity for the conservation movement.  The NPA prevailed, and the Eastern extension of Werrikimbe was gazetted in 1982.

Since those heady days there have been many changes. Suddenly without an activist focus, membership dwindled, and the group came to rely on a few dedicated bushwalkers for its continuance.  A long-time member, George Donaldson, produced a booklet covering the best local day walks, and these became popular with a new breed of members. A small group of hardy individuals took part in overnight walks in rugged and unexplored areas. Google “Green Gully Track” and imagine what it might have been like forty years ago with no tracks, no huts and no GPS.

Long term members of the group are known for their passion about coastal land management.  Projects at Diamond Head, Big Hill, Pelican Point and Dunbogan have been running for up to twenty-five years. The programme in Crowdy Bay NP, currently led by Sue Baker, has become quite elaborate and we now cooperate with NPWS and Landcare Groups in large scale dune restoration, weed control and foreshore management. Bitou Bush is a focus, but an unexpected development involves the an iconic Australian plant. Acacia saligna, a Western Australia species, was planted in Crowdy Bay National Park as a sand binder, but it has become an invasive weed. It seeds more readily than other Acacias and is proving very difficult to eradicate.

We have about one hundred and fifty members and conservation issues are high on our agenda. In recent years, however, the branch has been somewhat transformed by the upsurge of interest in physical fitness. About half the members are bushwalkers but some restrict themselves to easier walks.  We run walks on Saturdays with as many as thirty-five people participating. There is no better way to develop an interest in conservation than to walk with knowledgeable friends in remote and untouched areas.

Most of our walks are in the Lorne Basin, a scenic area which includes the “Brothers”.  Roughly circular, and about thirty-five kilometres in diameter, the basin was once thought to be the result of a meteor impact.  Most geologists now believe it to be a massive collapsed caldera. Even today, the Lorne Basin contains many examples of volcanism – large plugs (the best known is “Big Nellie”), hidden igneous dykes, and many unmapped basalt and rhyolite flows. Rainforest is well developed near creeks and on the basalt derived soils. In some of the most remote areas, ancient red cedars are thriving on rich, red soils.

Stop by next time you are on your way to the Gold Coast and feast on something unspoilt and spectacular!