Celebrating 50 years of the NPWS with 50 new national parks and additions

Grahame Douglas, Convenor, Landscape Conservation Forum

2017 saw some celebratory events to recognise the 50 years since the establishment of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in NSW. This corresponds with NPA’s 60th celebrations. So one could speculate on how to best recognise the 50th year with a present: the establishment of 50 new parks and reserves.

In response to the NSW Government’s release of the NSW Government’s Draft NSW National Parks System Directions Statement (dated November 2017), NPA prepared a reserves proposals document to provide the basis for moving forward in the area of reserve establishment. In doing so, NPA used the criteria of the Draft Directions Statement as a basis of reserve selection. The NPA’s document,  A Compilation of National Park, Nature Reserve and Regional Parks Proposals for New South Wales in 2017 has been provided to the NSW Government, Opposition, and NSW Parliamentary Greens.

This document has been developed around some key themes in an attempt to resolve outstanding reservations and ‘to clear the decks’ of community expectations and concerns prior to tackling some longer term policy issues. A long term strategic view of protected areas will identify additional areas. The areas identified in this document are not ambit claims. They represent long standing and well researched areas for which there has been ongoing community support, sometimes for many decades. They also do not seek to impose costs to future Governments for the acquisition of private land, although in the future this will be critical in establishing other protected areas (notably in the west) or finalising park boundaries associated with the areas identified in this report (eg Lake Wollumboola near Jervis Bay). These proposals are, by their nature, public lands that could be readily transferred to the NPWS.

The key themes identified in this document, and which complement those of the Draft Directions Statement are:

  • Protection of Sydney’s water catchments not already reserved as national parks (notably the Metropolitan and Woronora Catchments’ E2 zoned lands);
  • Protection of key new areas which provide recreational and conservation opportunities for the residents of south-western Sydney, notably the Upper Georges River Regional Open Space and Nepean-Bargo Gorges;
  • Protection of high conservation and iconic additions within the Greater Sydney area including Browns Forest (Blue Gum High Forest), O’Hares Creek Crown Lands, Sydney Harbour Federation Trust lands, Kellys Bush and Currarong Beach (addition to Ku-ring-gai NP);
  • Reservation of important north coast parks for the protection of koalas, coastal wetlands and river catchments including the Great Koala National Park(s), Sandy Creek, Lansdowne Escarpment, Barranganyatti, additions to Barrington Tops, Wallis Lakes and the Cattai Wetlands;
  • Reservation of key south coast reserves, including those formerly set aside as flora reserves under the regional forest agreements as part of the comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system, that protect key koala habitat, and resolve conflicting land use with coastal reserves. This would see the Murrah group of Flora Reserves added to existing parks, the extension of Jervis Bay, Mogo State Forest, additions to Seven Mile Beach and Mt Keira additions to Illawarra escarpment SCA;
  • Reservation of previously identified flora reserves within the South-west slopes (near Tumut) which have been identified as potentially part of the CAR reserve system (Micalong Swamp, Old Jeremiah, Murraguldrie and Mundaroo Flora Reserves);
  • Resolution of long standing community concerns in relation to conflicts between mining interest, logging and conservation for Gardens of Stone (Stage 2) and The Pilliga as well as a simple addition of internal TSRs to Sturt National Park;
  • Transfer of the 16 State Parks network which currently do not have protected area status but should form the basis of a State-wide system of regional parks; and
  • Protection of a marine protected area for the Sydney (Hawkesbury Shelf) Marine Bioregion, the inter-tidal zone adjoining existing coastal parks as well as wild and scenic river status for the Clyde River on the south coast.

A small number of proposals have also been identified for future investigation and/or costing but in NPA’s view warrant protection. This includes lands of far western NSW, private lands associated with the catchment of Lake Wollumboola (plus the Heritage Estates) as additions to Jervis Bay National Park, and other South Coast parks which should also be assessed under the upcoming review of the Southern and Eden Regional Forest Agreement. In the north of the State, NPA is seeking the acquisition and reservation of 175,000 hectares of state forest for the Great Koala National Park proposal as well as other areas of conservation significance.

Download the 50 Park Proposal Report