NSW WILDERNESS RED INDEX

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

NAME: Bungonia
NOMINATED BY: Colong Foundation, Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs and The Wilderness Society 23 October 1996. On 15 May 1997 the nominating groups along with NPA submitted amended boundaries to the nomination .
LOCATION: 35 km east of Goulburn.
SIZE: 40,000 ha (nominated)
TENURE: Nominated Identified
Morton National Park 20,500 ha under assessment
Bungonia State Recreation Area 2,600 ha under assessment
Vacant Crown Land 3,700 ha under assessment
Leasehold land 12,000 ha under assessment
Freehold land 1,200 ha under assessment

Wilderness Declared:

None

Wilderness Not Declared:

Morton National Park;

Size of nominated area: 20,500 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 51%

Bungonia State Recreation Area;

Size of nominated area: 2,600 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 6%

Crown land;

Size of nominated area 3,700 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 9%

Leasehold land;

Size of nominated area: 12,000 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 25%

Freehold land;

Size of nominated area: 1,200 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 3%

DESCRIPTION:

The gorge country of the Shoalhaven River and its tributaries dramatically dissects an area of geological transition from the Lachlan Fold Belt in the west and south, to the Triassic Hawkesbury sandstones of the Sydney Basin in the east and north. The gorge slopes expose the tightly folded Upper Ordovician shales, slates, phyllites and quartzites of the Lachlan Fold Belt. Prior to faulting, folding and uplift, most of these folded sediments, part of the Adaminiby Group, were formed in sea floor conditions. The present day landscape is moderately to heavily dissected with deeply entrenched streams, cliffs and scree slopes . The western part of the area contains Late Silurian - early Devonian marine sediments, most notably three major limestone units featuring significant Karst formations .

On the exposed ridges dominant species include Eucalyptus sieberi, E. agglomerata and E. mannifera. The slopes and creek lines tend to support E. bosistoana, E. cinerea and E. eugenoides. Within the gorges on slightly better soils, patches of E. tereticornis, E. melliodora, E. macrorhyncha and Casuarina cunninghamiana predominate.

A form of semi-deciduous rainforest vine thicket occurs at its southern limit on south and east facing slopes on the lower Shoalhaven Gorge. These thickets are usually less than four hectares and also represent the western limit of rainforest in the Illawarra region. Dominant tree species are Toona ciliata var. australis, Ficus coronata, F. rubigonosa, Backhousia myrtifolia, Dendrocnide excelsa and Melia azedarach. Some of the rainforest species have shown an ability to regenerate after disturbance by fire.

Several threatened species of native animals have been recorded including the Koala (Phascolarctus cinereus), Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) and Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa).

LAND USE HISTORY:

Aboriginal The Shoalhaven river formed the boundary between the territory associated with the Wandandian Aboriginal tribe and the Wodi Wodi to the north . Recent archaeological surveys are revealing a pattern of widespread and, in specific locations, intense Aboriginal occupation. Recent dating of 12,600 - 11,200 years for a site in the area suggests that occupation of the area was more ancient than previously thought.
Grazing The surrounding tableland country has been extensively grazed with livestock since the 19th century. Much of the upper Shoalhaven and Endrick catchments are under grazing leases, although the land is considerably more marginal for supporting cattle or sheep than on the tablelands.
Mining Alluvial gold mining commenced on the Shoalhaven River as early as the 1850s.
1904 Silver, gold, copper, tin, lead and zinc ores were discovered at Tolwong on the western edge of the wilderness and the Tolwong Mining Company was active there until its liquidation in 1912. The Crown lands of the Tolwong area have been precluded from addition to Morton National Park for some years due to the marginal deposits of minerals, including gold.
1921 Limestone quarrying commences north of the Bungonia Gorge at Marulan South on a small scale.
1970-71 Minister for Mines authorises the substantial revocation of reserves 2263 and 2755 on the northern side of Bungonia Creek to allow for a southward expansion of Australian Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd’s (APCM) quarries on two new leases. Mining has continued and proliferated since this time, encroaching into the gorge to the very edge of Bungonia Canyon.

HISTORY OF CONSERVATION MEASURES:

1872 The Bungonia Caves Reserve of 563 ha was proclaimed for public recreation. Other reservations followed.
1934 Myles Dunphy and members of the National Parks and Primitive Areas Council (NPPAC) agitate for the establishment of Tallowa Primitive Reserve of 7,700 ha, including parts of the Shoalhaven River and Bundanoon Creek. This was essentially Australia's first Wilderness Area.
1937 Myles Dunphy submits proposals for the southern sections of what was to become Morton National Park. Proposals for a Shoalhaven River Primitive Reserve of 146 sq. miles followed in 1938.

Mark Morton MLA submits his proposal for a 60,000 acre National Park for the Preservation of Native Flora and Fauna, basically comprising the northern corner of today's Morton National Park.

1938 Morton Primitive Reserve, a Crown Reserve of approximately 45,000 ha is gazetted, Australia's first park dedicated for the protection of wilderness values.
1943 NPPAC formally submits Clyde-Budawang National Park to the Department of Lands, along with Snowy-Indi National Park, Beecroft Peninsula (Jervis Bay) Primitive Reserve and Shoalhaven Gorge Primitive Reserve.
1959 Jack Beale MLA moots the concept of an extended Morton National Park, which is subsequently supported and endorsed at a public meeting in Milton as "a National Park in the Shoalhaven-Endrick-Clyde area".
1962 National Parks Association of NSW also submits a proposal to the Government for a park encompassing the Shoalhaven-Clyde Rivers area, including the Budawang Range to Clyde Mountain.

Under-secretary of Lands responds by promising a review of the situation in five years, creating an excuse for inaction.

1967 National Parks and Wildlife Act changes the Morton Primitive Reserve to a National Park.
1970 Announcement to further extend the Park to Pigeon House meets opposition from local logging, mining and grazing interests. Final boundaries are a compromise between commercial interests and the proposals of conservationists. Between Fitzroy Falls and Sassafras (the area that contains Ettrema) on the Nowra/Nerriga Road there were numerous exclusions from the Park. These included Freehold, Crown Leases, Mining Reserves, Crown Lands and water catchment areas, and exclusions due to the Shoalhaven Scheme (water supply).
1972 The Sydney Speleological Society form the Bungonia Committee to campaign for the protection of Bungonia Gorge from limestone quarrying. They are unsuccessful in preventing the extension of the quarry into the gorge to the northern edge of the slot canyon.
1974 Bungonia State Recreation area is gazetted over former public reserves and Crown Land.
1978 Morton National Park placed on the Register of the National Estate.
1979 National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Occasional Paper No 2 lists Ettrema Creek and Shoalhaven River as "Wild and Scenic Rivers".
1994 A preliminary assessment of the Colong Foundation’s 1989 Blue Mountains for World Heritage proposal by the National Herbarium identifies most of the Sydney Basin sandstone National Parks, including Morton, as suitable for inclusion in a nomination boundary.
1996 October: a nomination for the Bungonia Wilderness is submitted by Colong Foundation, Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs and The Wilderness Society as part of a broad nomination for 23 additions or new areas in eastern NSW, provisionally identified through the Forestry Interim Assessment Process (IAP)
1997 May: The nominating groups and the National Parks Association submit proposed amendments to the October 96 nomination, including a rationalisation of the upper Shoalhaven gorge nomination boundary to restrict encroachment onto neighbouring plateau clearings. The amended area is 40,063 ha.
1998 29 April: In order to meet a deadline for June 1998, the reference committee for the Blue Mountains World Heritage nomination adopts a streamlined boundary for the proposed World Heritage Area which excludes the outlying plateau areas of Morton National Park and Metropolitan Water Catchments.
1999 19 March: Government confirms that Ettrema additions will be assessed and exhibited by the end of 1999.

20 March: The Carr Government commits to fund the Dunphy Wilderness Fund beyond its anticipated expiry in 2001.

31 May: The National Parks and Wildlife Service undertake an assessment of wilderness values in the southern forest regions. The investigation area includes cover the North Ettrema wilderness assessment study area of 26,500 ha and the West Ettrema (Bungonia) wilderness assessment study area of 39,000 ha, the latter area including private lands near Sassafras.

THREATS:

Mining The Department of Minerals and Energy has, in the past, objected to the Vacant Crown Lands in the wilderness becoming national park. The Tolwong Mining Reserve near the Shoalhaven River has also not been added to Morton National Park and continues to elude dedication due to possible gold resources. This reserve, plus the Tolwong and Touga inholdings, limits the likelihood of adequately connecting the wilderness with the neighbouring Ettrema declared wilderness for the time being.

The environmental impacts of gold mining include: siltation, sedimentation and chemical pollution of water catchments resulting from extraction processes; soil erosion and collapse of tailings piles; cyanide and heavy metal pollution of waterways; disturbance of aesthetic qualities of the natural environment; noise pollution associated with transport of materials; and the introduction of weeds and feral animals along access roads.

The disastrous quarry adjacent to Bungonia State Recreation area is gradually removing much of the hillside opposite the Bungonia Lookdown. It is now essential to ensure that no further areas of Crown land in the Bungonia or Barbers Creek catchments are leased for limestone extraction. Upon completion of extraction, the company must be required to refill the scar caused by the quarry and revegetate the area with local species.

Recommendations: Mining is not acceptable in wilderness areas and no exploratory or extractive mining should be permitted. Mining inholdings should be added to the Park estate following adequate rehabilitation to the satisfaction of the NPWS and subsequent to expiry of the title.

Inholdings The freehold and leasehold in the upper Shoalhaven and Endrick gorges have considerable impacts on the wilderness area. Burning by farmers has led to a number of severe bushfires escaping into the park, and the Sassafras Road provides off-road vehicles with easy ingress into the wilderness. Illegal grazing by sheep and cattle in the Tolwong and Touga areas is having a significant impact on the adjacent vegetation, and domestic cattle are allowed to stray into National Park areas. Feral animals such as pigs and goats are presently populating the park from upstream areas and are degrading natural values along with displacing native species.

Recommendations: Freehold and leasehold land within the wilderness area should be progressively purchased and added to the park with the Dunphy fund. Where immediate acquisition cannot be achieved, a conservation agreement should be negotiated as an interim protection measure.

Dams The plans for the Welcome Reef dam include a 66m high dam wall that would inundate approximately 15,300 ha of land and extend some 50km up the Shoalhaven River, to the vicinity of Braidwood, 30km up Mongarlowe River and 20km up Boro Creek. This would threaten the area’s wilderness quality by regulating the flows of the wild Shoalhaven River.

Recommendations: Limiting population increases in Sydney would obviate the need for further dams. Introduction of more effective user pays water charges would discourage current waste of water and lead to a drop in demand. Recycling of water, already an economic proposition for some industrial users, would prevent the wasteful one-way flow of valuable fresh water into the ocean, and reduce the need for bigger dams. Recommendations for alternative ways of meeting Sydney's water supply needs are given by Grunmuller and Bacher (1991) and Macquarie University Graduate School of the Environment (1992).

CONTACT ORGANISATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS

The Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd
2/332 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Contact: Keith Muir (Director) Ph: (w) 02 9261 2400
FAX: 02 9261 2144
e-mail keith@colongwilderness.org.au

The Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs
GPO Box 2090
Sydney NSW 2001
Contact: John Macris (Conservation Officer) 02 9526 7363
e-mail jmacris@amaze.net.au

RELEVANT COLONG BULLETIN ARTICLES:

Colong Bulletin 138, May 1993, p6, "Unwelcome Reef Dam".

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