Alix Goodwin, CEO National Parks Association of NSW
Sydney Marine Park
On 16 August, the NSW Government released its draft plan to protect the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion through the creation of a new marine park. The marine park, based on the Sydney Harbour National Park model, was to be made up of a network of 25 sites to be managed under three zones: sanctuary zones, new conservation zones and special purpose zones. One month later following an aggressive and misleading campaign by recreational fishers, equivocation by NSW Labor on sanctuary zones, and an announcement by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers that they would run candidates in coastal electorates, Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair backflipped on the inclusion of sanctuary zones, the highest level of protection for marine life. This announcement pre-empted the outcome of public consultation on the draft plan and was taken despite strong community support including from those living and working adjacent to the marine park sites.
To say this decision was disappointing is an understatement. It had all the hallmarks of the reversal of the decision to ban greyhound racing by former Premier, Mike Baird. It also represents yet another rejection of science-based policy. Sanctuary zones increase the diversity and abundance of marine life. A meagre 2.4% of the proposed park was to be afforded sanctuary zoning.
Until relatively recently, NPA had led the campaign for the establishment of a Sydney Marine Park. When it became apparent that the NSW Government’s proposed marine park was at risk, NPA branches and members heeded the Nature Conservation Council of NSW’s call to urgently lodge a submission and contact their local MP indicating their support for the marine park.
Despite uncertainty about the effect of the decision to remove sanctuary zones from the draft plan, NPA lodged a comprehensive submission prepared by members of South Sydney Branch. The submission recommended the inclusion of an additional 12 sites as well as the expansion and changes to the zoning of a number of the sites proposed by the NSW Government.
Warragamba Dam Wall
The Berejiklian Government is planning to raise the Warragamba Dam wall by 14m, at an estimated cost of $690 million. If the proposal proceeds it will put the listing of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area at risk due to the impacts this will have on 4,700 hectares of wilderness, 65 kilometres of wild rivers, Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, and threatened species. The plan is being driven by developer interests related to inappropriate plans to double the number of people living and working on the Hawkesbury-Nepean floodplain by 134,000.
In mid-September, the Berejiklian Government introduced legislation to facilitate the raising of the dam wall by enabling temporary inundation of the area affected without the need for a licence or lease under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. While the legislation provides for the preparation of an environment management plan, the Act provides no guidance on what this should include. It also gives responsibility for the plan’s implementation to Water NSW. This is contrary to the 1998 inquiry into Sydney Water which recommended that the National Parks and Wildlife Service should manage Special Areas for both water quality and broader ecological considerations, a recommendation that was adopted by the then Government.
The legislation pre-empts the outcome of the environmental impact statement which is not due to be completed until mid-2019. The legislation was subject of a short inquiry by the Legislative Council Standing Committee on State Development. NPA made a submission to the inquiry and also appeared as a witness.
NPA is firmly of the view that the Warragamba Dam wall should not be raised and that alternative flood mitigation strategies should be adopted.