Currently NSW's has 877 protected areas covering 7 million hectares (about 9% of the state). This is an important achievement, and NSW can be justly proud of its reserve system, however with many significant areas remaining unprotected, there is still lots more work to do. In NSW, 6 bioregions and 49 subregions have less than 5% of their area protected and 11 subregions have no protected areas at all.
The New South Wales National Parks Establishment Plan 2008 highlights the range of areas and ecosystems where the establishment of more reserves is a high priority. These include all the far western bioregions; riverine forest communities of the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and Darling rivers; box eucalypt woodlands and native grasslands; iconic places of special significance to Aboriginal people; and important existing and future climate change refuges.
NPA’s Reserves Establishment Committee identifies strategic opportunities for expanding the NSW protected area system, particularly in underrepresented areas and ecosystems, and develops reserve proposals and submissions to government.
Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative
The basic principle behind the development of the NSW protected area system is the Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (‘CAR’) principle.
This means that the NSW reserve system has to be:
- Comprehensive- it must include examples of all regional ecosystems, and their associated biodiversity, within each bioregion. (NSW is divided into 18 bioregions, which are large areas that are characterised by particular natural features, geology and environmental processes, and distinctive ecosystems and species. These are further divided into 129 subregions.)
- Adequate- it must include enough of each type of ecosystem to maintain the ecological functions of that ecosystem and allow species and populations to survive and remain strong in the long term.
- Representative- it must include areas that encompass the finer-scale diversity and variability of habitats within each regional ecosystem, and must include multiple samples as insurance against local catastrophes like disease or fire.