Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Nepean River - protection removed, despite increased risks

“Last night the NSW Government passed legislation[1] that removed protection from a ten kilometre reach of the Nepean River at a time when BHP-Billiton has started coal mining in the same area ,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“The loss of the Devines Weir Special Area removes responsibility from Sydney Catchment Authority for anything that would happen to the Nepean River following coal mining at Douglas Park[2]”, he said.

“The reach of the Nepean that lost its protection passes under the Twin Bridges on the Hume Highway at Douglas Park.  This is the same bridge that has been strengthened, hopefully so that it can withstand any earth movements associated with coal mining”, Mr Muir said.

“The Government is not, however, strengthening protection for the affected reach of the Nepean River. The river stands to be subject to cliff falls, river bed cracking, water loss and pollution by the emission of toxic water and methane gasses”, he said.

“Loss of Special Area Catchment protection also could see housing popping up along the cliff tops of the scenic Nepean, along that wonderful gorge that everyone can see from the Hume Highway at Douglas Park.  This will be especially the case if Planning Minister Frank Sartor's further de-regulation schemes to weaken our planning laws proceed”, he said.

Almost 1000 hectares of Crown lands at Devines Weir and the environmentally sensitive O'Hares Creek catchment also could be privatised now that the protection has gone.  The Department of Lands is converting Crown lands to freehold land right across the state at a great rate, including pristine wilderness.  In advancing the legislation, Environment Minister Koperberg did not give any assurances that the Crown lands in these former water supply catchments would not be sold off,” he said.

“Over 900 hectares of Crown land that the Department of Environment and Climate Change propose for addition to the Dharawal State Conservation Area have lost interim protection.  It will be a lot harder to protect these lands as supervision of the underground coal mining and other land uses will not be subjected to Sydney Catchment Authority oversight”, said Mr Muir.

This decision is another example of the windback in environment protection over high conservation value public land in NSW, Mr Muir said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)

[1] Sydney Water Catchment Management Amendment Bill 2007, schedule 7

[2] Douglas Area 7, Appin West Colliery longwall panels 702-704 by BHP-Billiton