Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Colong rebuts its critics and detractors

“Former Environment Minister and Federal candidate for Macquarie Bob Debus should not criticise environment groups for defending national parks (Lithgow Merc 8-5-07). T he Colong Foundation for Wilderness and the National Parks Association of NSW oppose the precedent of the Emirates resort development in a Blue Mountains' World Heritage listed national park. If built, it will be the first Australian resort to be moved into a national park after its initial approval. I won't stand silent witness as such an unreasonable ‘two card trick' is played out ,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“Debus said that our stance was “ not reasonable in the real world ” but the Colong Foundation did not object in principle to the original resort's approval on private land. We are happy for jobs in Lithgow but are now disenchanted with the Emirate's subsequent park grab”, he said.

“The Emirates assured Blue Mountains environment groups that none of its original 2005 proposal would be on national park land, but now it is. When environment groups first heard of the land swap, the Emirates did not say why they wanted a piece of the park. Environment groups only found out it was for development, just before Christmas last year, when the modified concept plan came out”, Mr Muir said.

Sam Haddad got it wrong too

“Sam Haddad, Director General of the Department of Planning slammed Colong over our claims that the feral proof fence restricted park visitors (Lithgow Merc 8-5-07). But to quote Planning Minister Frank Sartor's media release of April 22 “ The resort will be surrounded by a 10-kilmetre security fence to keep out feral animals, celebrity seekers and the paparazzi .” So, I see, Mr Haddad's fence regulation will allow for park visitors, but not others?”

“Mr Haddad's department needs to lift its game. The main reason for the resort's modified approval last month was to allow for its relocation into the Wollemi National Park. Any credible Planning Department would insist that a developer provide very detailed reasons to justify its demand for the relocation into a World Heritage Area. Yet the Emirates modified concept report did not provide any reasons, but promoted the land swap instead.”

“The pyrrhic victory of a published map locating the resort facilities in the national park with the Minister's approval is too late. As I requested, the NSW Dept of Planning should have required public circulation of that map for comment before approval. Yes, Sam, the modification report under NSW planning laws did say that the resort was going into the national park, but it explained very little about this critical issue of moving the resort into the park,” he said.

“In addition, the fauna sanctuary aspect of the eco-resort may be developed after the resort is built. Good one; especially seeing that the resort annexes 450 hectares of national park for the sanctuary, as well as all the land swap land – an effective net loss from the park of 600 hectares. Meanwhile the Wolgan River has dried up, and the resort's dependence on Carne Creek may mean no flows into the World Heritage Area downstream. All up, the proposal looks set to be an expensive mistake,” said Mr Muir.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 9550 3615 (ah)