NPA's Illawarra Branch has a varied program of outdoor activities, including bushwalking, camping and paddling. These are published in the Activities program.

Meetings 

Illawarra Branch business meetings are held quarterly. All members are invited to attend and contribute to the discussion. The Branch also holds occasional social events and information nights.

2015 Annual General Meeting

The 2015 Illawarra Branch AGM was held on September 12, again at the wonderful venue, The Mud Brick House, at Yallah TAFE horticultural college in Wollongong’s southern suburbs. The AGM, which included a committee election, was well received by the sizeable group of members and visitors who attended.

The formal part of the meeting was followed by an excellent presentation by guest speaker Elira Reynolds, resident of Jamberoo, branch member and student at UOW, on Quolls in the Illawarra. She is part of the research group Team Quoll which has been studying quolls and why their populations are so low. The team is about to launch a crowdfunding campaign. Elira supplied an image of the quoll footprint that walk leaders could be encouraged to be alert for. This was followed by a sociable afternoon tea.

Illawarra Branch Committee

The new committee elected at the 2014 Annual General Meeting consists of:

  • Graham Burgess, re-elected President
  • Pam Robinson, Vice President
  • Helen Wilson, Secretary
  • Joy Williams, Treasurer
  • Margaret Carr (who replaces Col Meharg), Activities
  • Committee members: Gleniss Wellings, Jan Liddiard, Julie Jones and Margaret Carr.

Thanks go to all for accepting these positions. Since the meeting we have also had a number of other people offer to work for the Branch which has been very much appreciated.  

Current Projects

The branch continues to work with Wollongong Council and other stakeholders on protecting nature in the region, with a focus on the Illawarra Escarpment. We are particularly committed to  the development of The Grand Escarpment Walk. President Graham Burgess is also a committee member of the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative Illawarra to Shoalhaven partnership. Members Peter Turner and Ann Brown have made extensive submissions on mining related matters.  

Graham and Secretary Helen Wilson met in September with local MP Ryan Park on two escarpment matters which he has been reported as supporting: the inappropriate proposal for an adventure playground on the summit of Mt Keira, and the possible extension of Memorial Drive to connect with Bulli Pass, thus encouraging more traffic over this sensitive landscape.  Since the question of development on Mt Keira receives so much public attention, the branch has expressed its position in the following statement:

NPA Illawarra statement on proposed development of Mt Keira Adventure Playground
or other tourism facilities on the Illawarra Escarpment

The Illawarra branch of the National Parks Association of NSW wishes to express concerns about possible
threats to the Mt Keira summit from inappropriate development. In particular we have concerns about the
prospect of a high impact adventure playground development on this site.

Because of its proximity to the city, Mt Keira is a special part of the Illawarra Escarpment, itself a highly valued
asset. It is also highly unstable and environmentally sensitive. Except for a small section owned by Wollongong
Council, the site forms part of the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area (IESCA). The primary function
of this tenure, managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is conservation.

As well as appropriate consultation with NPWS, we submit that any plans for this site should proceed in
accordance with Wollongong Council's recently revised Illawarra Escarpment Strategic Management Plan
(IESMP). This lays out some of the values of the escarpment to the community, including biodiversity, heritage,
scenic, recreational and economic values (Section 4).

Similar principles, as set out in this statement, should equally be applied to other areas of the Illawarra
escarpment under threat of development.

Biodiversity values

The Illawarra Escarpment is a biodiversity “hot spot” of rare and restricted plant communities. It holds
significant landscape for Aboriginal and European communities in the past. It contains the most extensive area
of rainforest in the Sydney Basin and is one of six rainforest concentrations in NSW. The red cedar and other
trees have been cleared out, but the IESCA contains a third of the escarpment's rainforest within the local
government area and most of the region's rainforest types.

The Illawarra Sub Tropical Rainforest occurring as isolated pockets in rich volcanic soils in the escarpment
foothills of Mt. Keira, Mt Kembla and Wongawilli are listed as endangered ecological communities.
Conservation of rainforest is a high priority because they are rare, restricted in area and provide a core habitat
for a number of significant species.

The IESCA spans an ecological transition zone in the vicinity of Mt Keira/Mt Kembla and contains the ecological
limits of southern and northern coastal plant species. The area between these two mountains contain many
fine examples of forest trees, fig trees adorned with aerial roots, rainforest species and tree ferns. These rare
plant communities should have minimal disturbance.

Scenic values

The views from the escarpment are unsurpassed along our coastline, so much so that the Illawarra view is
listed as a ‘scenic view of state wide significance’ on the register of the National Trust of Australia. (NSW).
This should not be further disturbed by unnecessary inappropriate infrastructure.

Another scenic value of the escarpment is as a vegetated backdrop to the Wollongong coastal plain. Any
degree of vegetation clearing and or installation of intrusive facilities would not be consistent with this value.
Indeed many people see such intrusions as blots on a special landscape.

Recreational values

The IESMP sets out the important view of the 'escarpment as a destination for ecologically sensitive recreation'.
NPA is a conservation and bushwalking organisation and we are keen to see the development of appropriate
facilities for the low impact activities of nature lovers. We have particularly promoted the development of a
north-south Illawarra Escarpment Walk which would ultimately link the Royal and Morton National Parks. NPA
has campaigned against high impact use of bush tracks such as by mountain bikes, trail bikes and horses. We
are also opposed to any damaging off track use.

Economic values

The Plan sees limited opportunities for 'local employment including tourism'. This is likely to be the major
justification for any development on Mt Keira. We understand the Illawarra Escarpment including the IESCA
and other land tenures provides the opportunity for visitation and income for the Wollongong region. We
recognise there are opportunities for this income to be increased by improving opportunities for visitors to enjoy
the area. For example the NPA is supportive of dining and possibly function facilities being located at Mt Keira,
although the design of such facilities must fit well with the natural environment and be environmentally
sustainable.

An environmentally sustainable and integrated economic and environmental tourism strategy needs to be
created for tourism activities on the escarpment. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, NPWS and
their Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area Draft Plan of Management (June 2011) must be part of
that strategy. A holistic approach to conservation and well-managed human use must be developed. A tourism
strategy for Mt Keira summit precinct or other locations on the escarpment must be a win-win for Wollongong
and the environment.

We note that visitors who come by train from Sydney and other locations have some opportunity to access the
IESCA at a few locations in the north of Wollongong and at Mt Kembla by a limited bus connection. But there
is no public transport connection to Mt Keira Summit Park or Bulli Tops tourist centre and dining complex.
Public transport must form part of an overall tourism strategy.

We submit that ideas such as that spearheaded by Destination Wollongong for a drawcard facility of adventure
thrill seeking tourism which is aimed at driving the Illawarra regional growth plan cannot proceed until the
above-mentioned strategy is in place.

Site sensitivity

There are also significant constraints on this site owing to its geology. The soils of the escarpment are highly
erosive, derived from weathered shales and claystones. This means they are rated as having extreme erosion
hazard and are prone to mass movement due to the high rainfall the escarpment receives and its steep
gradients. The plant roots offer soil stability particularly in rainforests, where the trees have dense root mass
close to the surface. If the trees are removed for infrastructure there will be soil loss and land instability. The
movement of the land is ongoing within the IESCA. The sandstones are undermined by shales and rock falls
occur, exacerbated by the high heavy rainfall, run off and groundwater. Landslips from past mining activities
also occur, resulting in closure of lookouts and walking trails.

In light of these values and constraints, we have particular concerns over the proposals for an adventure
playground on the Mt Keira Summit Park and adjoining areas. Such high impact activities are not suitable for
the escarpment. The site is too fragile and environmentally sensitive to withstand any significant development.
Nor would we support any other facility that has the potential to degrade the biodiversity or environmental
significance of the escarpment. In particular those areas zoned E1 such as the IESCA are not up for
negotiation. These are protected areas and must remain so. We must seek to enhance and add to these areas.

As well as noting the values of the escarpment discussed above, the Illawarra Escarpment Strategic
Management Plan lists guiding principles including (Section 2.5):
• any development of the escarpment should result in an overall conservation improvement to the
escarpment
• Ecologically Sustainable Development principles should be applied in managing the assets of the
escarpment

Such principles should establish that any development on Mt Keira summit will be severely constrained, lest
it result in degradation of the rare vegetation or of ecosystems, affect stability or impact on the visual amenity
of the Illawarra Escarpment.

We urge stakeholders to take due care to ensure that any proposal for the site is in keeping with the
Illawarra Escarpment Strategic Management Plan

Contacts

Branch President: Graham Burgess ph. 0416 325 266

Mailing Address

Illawarra Branch
PO Box 847, Wollongong 2520.

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Newsletters

Walks in the region

Walks in the Wollongong area

Illawarra Escarpment Walking Track

Parks in the region

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

Budderoo National Park

Comerong Island Nature Reserve

Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area

Jervis Bay National Park

Macquarie Pass National Park

Seven Mile Beach National Park