NSW WILDERNESS RED INDEX

Published by the Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd (September 1999)
2/332 Pitt Street Sydney 2000 ph 02 9261 2400; fax 02 9261 2144
email keith@colongwilderness.org.au web site colongwilderness.org.au

NAME: Bundjalung
NOMINATED BY: Clarence Environment Centre, 9th May 1996.
LOCATION: 50 km north-east of Grafton, 10 km south of Evans Head.
SIZE: 19,000 ha
TENURE: Nominated Identified
Existing NPWS estate
(Oct. 1993)
Bundjalung National Park 7,200 ha under assessment

New NPWS estate (Oct. 1993 to Sept. 1999)
Former State Forest 900 ha under assessment

Other tenure
State Forest 2,100 ha under assessment
Freehold Land 3,300 ha under assessment
Marine component 5,500 ha under assessment

Wilderness Declared:

None

Wilderness Not Declared:

Bundjalung National Park;

Size of nominated area: 8,100
Percentage of entire nomination: 43%

State Forest;

Size of nominated area: 2,100 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 11%

Freehold land;

Size of nominated area: 3,300 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 17%

Marine component;

Size of nominated area: 5,500 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 29%

DESCRIPTION:

The Bundjalung Wilderness represents the only coastal river, dune and beach system, between Nadgee on the Victorian border and Fraser Island in Queensland, to have substantially retained significant wilderness qualities over a large area. The key feature of this area is the undisturbed catchment of the Esk River which lies behind the frontal dune system. The sand masses which comprise the area have formed during varying sea level stages in the Quaternary between 10,000 and 120,000 years before the present. A substrate of indurated sand or ‘coffee rock’ lies between the sand body and Clarence Basin sedimentary rock. This layer is largely impervious to water and controls the hydrology of the dune and freshwater swamp system. This trapping of fresh water within the sand body ensures constant flows in the Esk River and a significantly lower salinity than is typical in coastal rivers. The lower reaches of the river feature several major sand bars which protect the freshwater reaches upstream from tidal water intrusion of sea water.

Vegetation in the area includes Swamp Sclerophyll forests, Wet and dry sclerophyll forests, heathlands, sedgelands, saltmarshes and mangroves. Occasional patches of subtropical palm rainforest also occur. Plants listed as endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 include Phaius tankervilleae, Acronychia littoralis and Rutidosis heterogama.

There are 44 fauna listed as endangered including the Regent Honeyeater, Little Tern, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Bush Stone-curlew, Yellow Bellied Glider, Rufous Bettong and Little Bent-winged Bat.

LAND USE HISTORY:

Aboriginal The coastal Bundjalung people traditionally occupied the area including the wilderness proposal.

European Settlement

Grazing Devils Pulpit State Forest has been used for grazing since early this century. Most of the area, however, was sparsely used.

Logging

1913 Devils Pulpit State Forest of 4,427 ha is dedicated.
1930 Mororo State Forest of 1,655 ha is dedicated. Selective logging commenced for poles and fencing timber along with firewood extraction.
1970-81 Logging undertaken in Devils Pulpit State Forest.

Mining

1894 Platinum is discovered in the Jerusalem Creek area.
1960s Mineral sand mining commences on a large scale in the coastal dune systems in the area.
1968 Simm report on new reserves and mining along the NSW north coast recommends that sand mining and prospecting should be permitted for 20 years in the majority of the new reserves, including most of the Jerusalem Creek (Bundjalung ) proposal.
1977 Government ceases granting sand mining leases in existing or proposed National Parks. Around 740 ha of the northern part of Bundjalung was been mined along the foredunes causing a serious loss of wilderness values.

Military

1940 Military commences target practice in the coastal strip south of Evans Head. The northern part of Bundjalung National Park has continued to be used for bombing practice up to the present.

HISTORY OF CONSERVATION MEASURES:

1964 Local Iluka community prevents sand mining in the Iluka littoral rainforest.
1968 January: The Simm report recommends several new coastal reserves including around 7,000 ha at Jerusalem Creek (Bundjalung). It is also proposed to allow sand mining in most of the new reserves, defeating the purpose of reserving these areas.
1976 Iluka Nature Reserve is dedicated.
1980 Bundjalung National Park is gazetted over former Crown land, including the military bombing range.
1996 January: A draft Plan of Management for Broadwater and Bundjalung National Parks and Iluka Nature Reserve is exhibited. The plan proposes a ‘primitive area’ zoning for the Esk River catchment and also recognises the potential to ultimately declare a wilderness area within the park pending a change in human activity patterns and natural recovery of sand dunes from earlier mining.

May: Nomination for Bundjalung Wilderness submitted by the Clarence Environment Centre. This includes a proposed 5,500 ha marine extension to the National Park.

1997 August: The plan of management for Bundjalung and neighbouring parks is adopted. The plan prescribes the Esk River ‘primitive area’ and acknowledges the wilderness nomination and ensuing National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) assessment process.
1998 December: The Forestry and National Park Estate Act 1998 is passed by State Parliament. Additions of 1,260 ha from Mororo State Forest are made to Bundjalung National Park of which around 900 ha is within the wilderness nomination. The high conservation and potential wilderness lands in Devils Pulpit State Forest are left unreserved, although an informal State Forest reserve is established, and the area is open to further consideration if the underlying lease is purchased. No wilderness additions are declared in this reservation process, despite the passage of two years since this and other nominations were submitted.
1999 19 March: The Carr Government presents its wilderness policy to environment groups. The Government commits to complete the Bundjalung assessment and determine area for declaration by the end of 2000.

20 March: The Carr Government commits to fund the Dunphy Wilderness Fund beyond its anticipated expiry in 2001 and maintains a logging moratorium over wilderness leasehold lands, including leasehold State Forest areas.

23 March: The office of Premier Bob Carr gives undertakings to the Total Environment Centre that leasehold State Forest under further consideration for reservation as wilderness will not be logged.

THREATS:

Forestry The areas of remaining State Forest, totalling 2,100 ha are presently excluded from logging only by Ministerial discretion (informal reserves). The boundaries of such reserves may be amended by the Minister for Forestry at any time. These areas are subject to further consideration for reservation by the Government.

Recommendations: These areas of state forest should be placed under a full moratorium while the purchase of the grazing lease is negotiated by the NPWS.

Four Wheel Drive Vehicles Forestry roads and beach areas have provided access for 4WD vehicles into the nominated wilderness area for some years.

The use of off road vehicles in wilderness areas is highly detrimental to the environment. Vehicles can severely damage fragile dune and wetland systems and on beaches are particularly disturbing to the habitat of threatened species such as the Little Tern. The driving of vehicles along beaches is generally prohibited in areas under the jurisdiction of local government and only occurs in National Parks due to pressure from the user groups involved.

Recommendations: As consistent with public beaches managed by local councils, no vehicles should be permitted on beaches within NSW coastal parks. The intertidal zone should be gazetted as part of the park to formalise control with the NPWS. Trails within the western part of the wilderness area should be allowed to revegetate. The adjoining State Forest areas should be used for fire management to increase wilderness values in the park.

Dredging The Esk River retains low salinity levels due to the presence of numerous major sand bars in its lower reaches which impede tidal waters. The dredging of navigation channels along this river would place the freshwater nature of its upper reaches at risk and would also allow for damaging power boating activities within the wilderness.

Recommendations: No dredging should be permitted in the lower Esk River. The bed of the river should be added to the park as far downstream as the southern park boundary.

CONTACT ORGANISATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS

Clarence Environment and Social Justice Centre
PO Box 1073
Grafton NSW 2460
Contact: Daryl Thompson (Secretary) Ph/fax: 02 6643 1863

North East Forest Alliance
C/- Big Scrub Environment Centre
123 Keen Street
LISMORE NSW 2480
Contact: Susie Russell Ph: (wk) 02 6550 4481
Mob: 018 672 044
Fax: 02 6550 4433
e-mail: gladneys@tpgi.com.au

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