Media Release: Rivers Running Foul in Royal National Park 

Camp Gully Creek 7 Sept 2022 Bob Crombie 2

Conservation groups are calling on Environment and Heritage Minister James Griffin to take immediate action to stop repeated pollution incidents in Royal National Park. 

National Parks Association (NPA) CEO Gary Dunnett said ‘the Hacking River, the water that runs through the heart of Royal National Park, has been impacted by yet another spill of coal waste.  Last week we inspected Red Cedar Flat, about a kilometre downstream of where waste from Peabody’s Metropolitan Colliery reaches the Hacking River.  The sight was truly unbelievable, the river looked more like flowing tar than the crystal-clear water you’d expect in the deep rainforest of our first national park’.  

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre spokesperson Dr Catherine Reynolds said “This event is particularly shocking, but we saw similar coal sludge pollution last year, and in 2020.  We put in a formal submission to NPWS in August last year.  Peabody were fined $15,000 earlier this year, but it’s a pittance to a company that size.  Camp Gully creek now appears barren of the aquatic life, and we are concerned about the extent to which this coal sludge is bioaccumulating in the riparian zones downstream.” 

 “The government must take action and ensure this terrible damage along the full length of Camp Gully Creek and the Hacking River is remediated.”   

‘This company has shown they cannot be trusted to operate anywhere near the Royal National Park.’ Dr Reynolds said.  ‘This incident indicates they cannot be trusted to mine underneath Woronora Reservoir either.’ 

In response to multiple reports about the most recent spill the NSW EPA issued a “Prevention Notice’ to stop Metropolitan Collieries from discharging coal waste.  

‘It’s way past time to rely upon the EPA tinkering with Peabody’s licence to discharge pollution into Royal National Park’ stated NPA’S Gary Dunnett.  ‘Environment Minister Griffin needs to fix this mess by instructing NPWS to investigate these repeated assaults on Royal National Park.  This travesty needs to be cleaned up, with a full restoration of the Hacking River and prosecution under the National Parks and Wildlife Act for the appalling damage the park has been suffering’.   

‘We call on Minister Griffin to take decisive action to preserve the legacy of those visionary parliamentarians who established Royal National Park nearly 150 years ago.  No-one who witnesses the foul waters running through Royal could doubt that legacy is in dire peril.   



Gary Dunnett, National Parks Association 9299 0000

Catherine Reynolds, Sutherland Shire Environment Centre


Peabody Energy’s Metropolitan Colliery at Helensburgh is a surface facility for the mining operation currently taking place a few kilometres away underneath Woronora Reservoir, which is part of the Great Sydney Water catchment. 

The location of Peabody’s Metropolitan Colliery is shown on google maps:,+Helensburgh+NSW+2508/@-34.1866893,150.9988999,141m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x6b12dd105c3527ed:0x7ad633325ac483f!8m2!3d-34.1888272!4d150.9909739

The holding dams where the coal sludge waste material is kept are visible on this link, as well as the discharge outlet pipes which lead down to Camp Gully Creek.  The coal slurry is overflowing from those pipes into the creek.   Zooming out will make it apparent how close the mine is to the Royal National Park.  Camp Gully Creek joins the Hacking River which flows through the Royal National Park past the iconic Lady Carrington Drive, down to Audley Weir, and from there out to Port Hacking. 

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre put in a nine page submission to the National Parks and Wildlife Service about a pattern of similar recurring pollution events in August last year.  The Centre also made representations to Greens MLC Cate Faerhmann who raised the question of previous coal spills in parliament in July 2021:

In November last year Cate Faehrmann raised the issue in parliament again.  Don Harwin MP replied on behalf of then Environment Minister Matt Kean:

Don Harwin subsequently gave assurances on 2 December, that  

“The EPA will continue to adaptively regulate the colliery, and new improvement programs will be added as needed to protect the waters that flow into Royal National Park.” 

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre members inspected Camp Gully Creek 14 August 2022 with Dr Wright, a recognised expert in the field of freshwater ecology, water quality, and the science and management of water pollution.  This was reported by the St George Shire Standard / Daily Telegraph.  The pollution subsequently became worse, despite assurances from Peabody that the company took its environmental responsibilities seriously.   

Greens MLC Sue Higginson inspected the site Friday last week 9 September.  She advised she has raised the issue again with the NPWS and the EPA.  Peabody was issued with a “Prevention Notice’ on 9 September. 

As yet the company have not been fined or asked to remediate the damage. 

Please contact  for Media Resources including: 

  1. Video taken of Camp Gully Creek on Friday, 9 September Dr Catherine Reynolds 
  1. Video of Sutherland Shire Environment Centre Member Cooper Riach inspecting the coal slurry waste on Saturday 10 September 
  1. Three photos of coal sludge in Camp Gully Creek taken by Sutherland Shire Environment Centre Member Bob Crombie 7 September  
  1. One photo of Camp Gully Creek inspection by Sutherland Shire Environment Centre members with Greens MLC Sue Higginson on 9 September  

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