The Gardens of Stone, so close to its counterpart, the sparkling urban landscape of Sydney, is a wonderful part of the Australian Bush. It's more spectacular and more accessible than just about any other large tract of bushland, yet it's just off the tourist track.
Here, on the Western side of the Blue Mountains, near the historic town of Lithgow, is a playground for bushwalkers, rock climbers and campers who regularly visit to see:
- Rare landforms such as pagodas, montane sand dunes and highland swamps, cliffs, natural arches, waterfalls, slot canyons, gorges and large caverns;
- Threatened plants and animals and rare vegetation communities, including two critically endangered animals restricted to the swamps; and
- Many Aboriginal rock art and other sites dating back thousands of years.
Yet this landscape of unsurpassed beauty and its unique plant and animal communities are under threat.
About 40,000 hectares of this unique pagoda bush garden is unprotected and exposed to continuous threats from mining. Several coal mines in the region have already degraded the rivers and swamps of the Gardens of Stone, and if business out here continues as usual, it is only a matter of time before the damage is beyond redemption. Much of the area is currently under State Forest tenure and does not receive effective management of its many values.
The Gardens of Stone Alliance of environment groups is leading a campaign to reserve the Newnes Plateau and other sandstone uplands adjoining the existing National Parks. Only when all of the Gardens of Stone is reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act will its beauty, its unique ecosystems and its value as a recreational haven for visitors be protected in perpetuity. And it is unique, many of its values remain unprotected, such as the best pagoda landscapes, rare montane sand dunes and peat swamps.
There are a number of threats to the Gardens of Stone. The most significant current impact is coal mining which in turn affects water quality in much of the region, causes cliff collapses, pagoda cracking and swamps to dry up.