Contact: Graham Burgess (President) 0416 325266
Walks Contact: Margaret Carr 0417 275977
- Download Brochure: 12 Walks in the Southern Illawarra
- Download Brochure: 20 Walks in the Wollongong and Surrounds
- Download Brochure: Illawarra Escarpment Walking Track
- NPA Illawarra Branch flyer 2018
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.
As well as our busy activities program and participation in many local events, we continue to advocate for nature protection in our unique region with particular attention to the Illawarra Escarpment and its urban interface. We keep an eye on the state of the local tracks, maintain an active Facebook page and regularly liaise with the local office of NPWS. Our president Graham Burgess often speaks for us in the media.
Mountain biking on the Illawarra Escarpment
In 2019 we joined a new coalition of concerned groups and individuals, the Illawarra Escarpment Alliance (EscA), which represents a number of environmental and Aboriginal interests. It was formed after the NPWS/Wollongong Council Draft Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy caused considerable controversy in 2018. The submissions to the strategy were very divided and this led to a public exhibition report in September this year rather than a final strategy. It recommended that an advisory group be set up to try to come to a consensus.
NPA was invited to participate in this group, so Graham and secretary Helen Wilson have been attending. The group is large, the time frame is short and there is a lot of pressure to legitimise the activity. Our ongoing view that there shouldn’t be mountain bike riding in the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area (except, as now, on management trails) is not seen as helpful as no other potential sites on the escarpment have been proposed. It is positive however to be discussing the issues with different stakeholders to understand their values. The issue of opening up our parks and reserves to more active recreational activities faces other NPA branches as well.
The recent listing of the Illawarra–Shoalhaven Subtropical Rainforest of the Sydney Basin Bioregion as critically endangered by the Federal Government adds weight to the case for protecting at least parts of the escarpment. There is a consensus that something needs to be done about closing and rehabilitating the existing extensive illegal network of trails, many of which have caused extensive damage. NPWS acknowledge that this is essential but funding it and keeping the trails closed is a huge challenge. The Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council is represented and has a very strong legal case that they should have been more seriously consulted. They are opposed to mountain biking on Mt Keira.
Lake Illawarra is a large coastal lagoon that is a prominent geographical feature in our area into which many waterways drain. We were pleased to have the opportunity to write a submission on Wollongong Council’s Lake Illawarra Draft Coastal Management Program (CMP). Unusually in our experience we found this document to be exemplary in its coverage, clarity and organisation.
While normal coastal processes would make the lake only intermittently open to the ocean, resident concern about smells and stagnant water led to a permanent opening being constructed over a decade ago. This has now set a precedent for residents to expect consistent fresh water quality and so there are continued calls for further dredging. However the permanent opening has changed the ecology of the lake and threatens damage along one shoreline. We argued that natural processes should as far as possible be respected and the diminished areas of wetland, saltmarsh and littoral forest be protected and allowed to regenerate. We were also pleased that the CMP nominally covered the whole catchment of the lake, which includes West Dapto, a large area of current and future development. This allowed us to call for more attention to green corridors and better creek management.
Mining in the catchment
Mining continues to be a major worry for us as for other branches and we have recently written two submissions on proposals for mine extensions. Wollongong Coal appears to have abandoned its plans for longwall mining and made a reasonably modest proposal to restart its Russell Vale mine. This raised the issue for us of a proposal not having major ecological impacts but still being objectionable because it contributes to rising emissions. More serious was South32’s proposal to continue longwall mining under upland swamps in the Sydney water catchment.
The release in late October of the Chief Scientist’s Report of the Independent Expert Panel for Mining in the Catchment has been disappointing. While it amasses considerable data, it does not conclude that mining constitutes a serious threat to our water supply.
Our branch’s newsletters and submissions are here
Illawarra Branch, National Parks Association of NSW Inc
PO Box 847, Wollongong NSW 2500
email: Illawarra Branch