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: Yengo (Macdonald)
NOMINATED BY: Colong Foundation on 23rd November 1998.
LOCATION: 75km north west of Sydney.
SIZE: 105,347 ha
TENURE: Nominated Identified
Existing NPWS estate
(Oct. 1993)
Yengo National Park and
Parr State Recreation Area 101,972 ha under assessment

New NPWS estate
(Oct. 1993 to Sept. 1999)
Former Crown Land 1,595 ha under assessment
Land owned NPWS 91 ha under assessment
Other tenure
Crown land 44 ha under assessment
Leasehold land 33 ha under assessment
Freehold land 1,612 ha under assessment

Wilderness Declared:

None

Wilderness Not Declared:

Yengo National Park and Parr State Recreation Area;

Size: 103,658 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 98%

Crown land;

Size: 44 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: <1%

Leasehold land;

Size: 33 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: <1%

Freehold land;

Size: 1,612 ha
Percentage of entire nomination: 1.5%

DESCRIPTION:

The geology of the wilderness area is relatively simple, consisting predominantly of Sydney Basin Triassic sandstones, which cover over two thirds of the area, and small basalt caps. In some places the Macdonald River and its tributaries have cut through the upper sandstone strata exposing older sandstones, claystones and conglomerates, deposited during the uplift of the New England Plateau. Mount Yengo (668m) and Mount Wareng (594m) are all that remains of the overlying basalt, which was gradually eroded by the area's rivers. The wilderness contains most of the Macdonald River catchment, which flows into the Hawkesbury,.

The Sydney sandstone dry sclerophyll forest types are represented by Red Bloodwood (Eucalyptus gummifera), Grey Gum (E. punctata), Yellow Bloodwood (E. eximia) and Angophora species. Forest understorey consists of Banksias, Grevilleas, Hakeas, Boronias, Lambertias, Persoonias, Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea spp) and Native Holly (Alchornea ilicifolia). Hanging swamps dominated by Melaleucas are found at the heads of several creeks (eg the Mellong Swamps). Along the banks of the Macdonald River grow Sydney Blue Gums (E. saligna) and Turpentines (Syncarpia spp.). Rainforest pockets of Coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum), Water Gum (Tristaniopsis laurina) and occasionally Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide excelsa) are found in some of the deep side gullies. Mount Yengo is home to isolated stands of Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus).

Fauna includes five threatened species: the Turquoise Parrot (Neophema pulchella); New Holland Mouse (Pseudomys novaehollandiae); Broad-headed Snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides); Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale pencillata); and the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Brush turkeys are found here in their nearest location to Sydney.

LAND USE HISTORY:

Aboriginal The wilderness area is located within land traditionally associated with the Darkinjang Aboriginal People.
European
Settlement
By the 1820's small farms working the rich alluvial soils were established in the lower Macdonald Valley, the upper Wollombi and along the Bulga. In 1835 this settlement sparked a war with local Aboriginal People. The confrontation was short-lived, and by the 1840's villages at St Albans and Wollombi had developed as part of the government's policy of consolidating the overland link with the Hunter Valley.
Logging Logging of the tall forests of Mount Yengo occurred shortly after settlement.
1966 Soil Conservation Service investigates the causes of sand deposits ruining farming along the lower Macdonald's alluvial flats. They identified burning and roading associated with logging activities on Crown land further up the river as being largely responsible for the erosion.
1979 Creation of Wollemi National Park leads to gazettal of the upper Macdonald catchment, west of Putty Road, as Putty State Forest.
1987 NSW Labor Premier, the Hon Barrie Unsworth, announces dedication of 129,000 ha Yengo National Park and Webbs Creek (later Parr) State Recreation Area (SRA).

In a concession to sawmillers extracting timber from the area, Unsworth agrees to "future cessation of logging". Park welcomed by Liberal Opposition Leader, Nick Greiner, who commits his Coalition "not to log, mine or roll back any national parks as of today".

1988 June: Newly-elected Liberal Minister for the Environment, Tim Moore, and Minister for Natural Resources, Ian Causley, convene meeting with National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Forestry Commission (FCNSW) and Forest Products Association (FPA) concerning Yengo. FPA voices opposition to the Park. Moore and Causley (via FCNSW) authorise two logging operations: one in the headwaters of Wilks Creek, north Yengo by R.A. Sweetman's of Millfield; the other in Parr SRA by the MacKintosh Group of sawmillers.

September: Director NPWS, Mr Whitehouse, in a memo to Moore comments: "The MacKintosh sawmill has now virtually exhausted all other sources of local supply, and it is appropriate in my view that this logging operation be permitted".

October: Colo Committee Secretary, Haydn Washington, discovers evidence of new logging in the Howes Range, well within the wilderness area.

November: Tim Moore's authorisation leads to logging in 3,000 ha of National Park and State Recreation Area. The Coalition legitimised the action, claiming it constituted "cleaning up operations". This was subsequently changed to "phasing out operations".

Forestry operations ceased by 1990.

HISTORY OF CONSERVATION MEASURES:

1934-1937 Area first visited by the Sydney Bush Walkers.
1976 The Helman Report identifies Macdonald Wilderness.
1986 The Wilderness Working Group, in its report to Environment Minister, Bob Carr, further recognises the area.
1987 21 December: Premier Barrie Unsworth announces gazettal of Yengo National Park of 140,000 ha and Webbs Creek (later Parr) State Recreation Area of about 38,000 ha.
1992 April: Terry Metherell MLA (Ind) (former Liberal Member for Davidson), holding joint balance of power in NSW with non-aligned independents, announces on 13/2/92 his Wilderness (Declaration of New Areas) Bill 1992 which includes the Yengo (Macdonald), less any freehold or Crown Leasehold land, for protection as wilderness under existing legislation. The Metherell Bill is shelved at the close of 1992, following Metherell's resignation from Parliament, but the wilderness assessment reports were eventually published in a manner similar to the timetable laid out by Mr Moore.
1993 29 June: A Draft National Parks and Wildlife Plan of Management due to be released for public comment and review.

21 September: Ministers for the Environment Ros Kelly (Federal) and Chris Hartcher (State) support "Blue Mountains for World Heritage" listing.

6 October: NPWS advertised for expressions of interest to conduct an investigation into the World Heritage values of the Blue Mountains with dozens of applications received.

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 as suitable for inclusion in a nomination boundary.
1996 23 September: The Government announces the Dunphy Wilderness Fund of 1 million dollars per year for 5 years to acquire privately owned lands in identified wilderness.
1998 June: The State and Federal Governments lodge a nomination to UNESCO for World Heritage listing of the greater Blue Mountains. The nomination covers Blue, Mountains, Gardens of Stone, Kanangra Boyd, Nattai, Thirlmere Lakes, Wollemi and Yengo National Parks.

July: As part of the Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) of forests in north east NSW, all potential wilderness north of the Hawkesbury River is assessed. An area of 105,348 ha in Yengo is categorised as ‘wilderness capable’ during this process.

1999 19 March: The Carr Government presents its wilderness policy to environment groups. The Government commits to complete the assessment of Yengo by the end of 1999 and determine an area for declaration by the end of 2000. If an Integrated Forestry Operation Approval has not been signed in advance of identification or if the wilderness assessment area is quarantined from the Approval area, then the identification, of nominated areas in remaining State Forest would not be constrained by the Forestry and National Park Estate Act 1998.

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:

There are a range of problems facing the maintenance of wilderness integrity. These are associated principally with: trails and 4WD abuse within the area; current sand mining operations adjacent to the park; and proposed dams.

Trails Due to the area's recent and past logging history, numerous fire trails and logging roads penetrate the wilderness from the west. The most affected areas are around Melon Creek, Webbs Creek, Homes Range and Mile Ridge Creek. A number of trails are found along Woomerah Range, with the main trail joining up with a bridle path to St Albans. A number of trails are also associated with inholdings.

With the announcement of the National Park by the Unsworth Government came a commitment to allow 4WD use of Parr State Recreation Area. Promoting off road vehicle use in the SRA may encourage further use of the adjoining wilderness area by 4WD enthusiasts.

The environmental impacts of trails on wilderness areas include: soil compaction and erosion; rubbish dumping; weed introduction and dissemination by NPWS and other vehicles; assisting feral animals to forage and disperse; enabling arsonists to light potential wildfires in remote areas; other adverse environmental impacts of off-road vehicle use and horseriding. Road access also contributes to bush rock removal, a serious problem in this area.

It is likely that the NPWS will seek to maintain a number of trails for fire management in the wilderness (ie to light "hazard reduction" fires).

Recommendations: Maintenance of management trails in wilderness areas is inconsistent with the management guidelines established under the provisions of the Wilderness Act 1987. Many of the existing trails serve little management purpose and should be rehabilitated. The wilderness area is currently surrounded by perimeter trails and these should be adequate for fire management. The best prescription to avoid fires in wilderness areas is to confine management trails to the edge, to prevent the spread of fire from outside. External fire management including trails, should also prevent fires spreading to adjoining areas from the wilderness area. Where absolutely necessary, helicopter landing areas could be cleared for fire control.

Effective fire-fighting in wilderness requires constant aerial or satellite surveillance in bush-fire danger periods to enable rapid detection and response. Such an approach eliminates the need for fire towers in wilderness areas. To effectively tackle fires in remote areas while they are still small, more fire fighters need to be trained as ‘smoke jumpers’ and helicopter crews.

Inholdings All freehold and leasehold land was excluded when the National Park was created, although it could subsequently be purchased and added to NPWS Estate.

Inholdings of freehold and leasehold lands constitute a number of management problems in wilderness areas. These include: clearing; feral animals, exotic weeds; access trails and related environmental problems; inappropriate fire management associated with burning for agricultural purposes; ecological disturbance from stock grazing; and the continued threat of unsuitable development.

The owners of one inholding, a Hereford Stud farm called "Big Yango", have cleared the north-western side of the shelf of Mount Yengo, for grazing purposes. Clearing has denuded some sections of a shelf on the mountain and has led to the introduction of exotic weed growth.

In 1998 the Phoenix Pistol Club propose to relocate from Schyville to Crown land at Mellong Swamp, adjoining Yengo National Park, degrading its natural quiet.

Recommendations: Freehold and leasehold lands within wilderness areas should be returned to the wilderness area subsequent to voluntary acquisition being negotiated with the owner. In the short term, a wilderness protection agreement or conservation agreement could be established between the NPWS and the owner as outlined in Sections 10-12 of the Wilderness Act.

Where an owner is unwilling to sell or enter into agreements other measures are available. Local councils can refuse development applications, or set conditions to protect declared wilderness areas when approving development proposals. Councils can also advise of development restrictions by placing notices on the title deeds.

Mellong Swamp Sand Mining Sandmining is occurring on private land within the Tinda Creek catchment west of the Mellong Range. Water from the extraction site flows west to Wollemi Creek and then into the Colo River.

Extraction was initially undertaken by Diamond Polymed on two three hectare "dam construction" sites. The pollution is finding its way into Wollemi National Park and undermining the wilderness integrity of the area.

Recommendations: Sandmining in this area is incompatible with wilderness protection due to the down-stream effects of mining. An alternative site should be sought that does not affect the wilderness.

Department of
Land and Water Conservation
Dam Sites
In conjunction with the possible enlargement of the Mangrove Creek Dams, the Water Resources Commission (WRC) has identified one dam site and two possible weir sites on the Macdonald River, 53, 24 and 10km north of its confluence with the Hawkesbury, for a future alternative supply to Gosford. Webbs Creek has also been identified as a possible weir site, 22km upstream of the Hawkesbury confluence. The WRC recognises that Webbs Creek contains "relatively pristine fish habitats". The WRC adds further that "it would be desirable that the National Parks and Wildlife Service consider whether dams, or parts of their storages, would really be totally unacceptable in National Parks". The Macdonald River carries huge amounts of sand, making a dam proposal unviable.

Recommendations: Limiting Sydney's urban sprawl would obviate the need for further dams. Introduction of the user pays principle 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 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: 02 9261 2400
FAX: 02 9261 2144
e-mail keith@colongwilderness.org.au

Colo Committee
Lot 35 Widden Trail
NULLO MOUNTAIN
via RYLESTONE NSW 2849
Contact: Haydn Washington Ph: 02 6379 6257

The Wilderness Society
Newcastle Branch
Hunter Heritage Centre
90 Hunter Street
NEWCASTLE NSW 2300
Contact: Glen Klatovsky Ph: 02 4929 4395
Fax: 02 4929 5940

RELEVANT CORRESPONDENCE:

Colong Foundation See files,

"Red List Macdonald/Yengo"
"Yengo, Blue Mountains".

RELEVANT ARTICLES:

Colong Bulletin 112 "Wilderness Policy Clouded"

Colong Bulletin 113 "Yengo Logging"

Return to NSW Wilderness Index