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Private Member's Statement - It's Time to Declare a Southern Highlands National Park

14th May, 2024.

In this Private Members Statement, Judy calls on the Government to declare a Southern Highlands National Park:

Imagine a continuous tree canopy that stretches over 50 kms, with gorges, protected lands, mountains and valleys filled with beautiful lakes. Imagine all of this land in the ownership of the State through different Departments and Agencies. I imagine many of you would think this would be something that any Government should want to protect.

This is the nature of what we have in Wollondilly which has a number of parcels of land that is under the jurisdiction of state agencies and we have the chance to protect it.

From Wilton in the north that connects the Cataract Dam and the Nepean River, south following the top of the Illawarra Escarpment and Bargo River along the Bargo State Conservation Area, continuing South and adjoining Macquarie Pass National Park in the South to include Mount Lindsay, Mount Gibralter and Mount Alexandria, continuing south towards the lands at Kangaloon.

Animals know no boundaries that we studiously keep on our computers that ultimately mean nothing. If a Koala can travel hypothetically through all of these lands, should we not treat them all the same and protect them for all of us to enjoy? Do we seriously think the koala will care if it's in a parcel of land that is under assessment of a Government agency? 

Th Government has an opportunity here which I have sought support from the Environment Minister who has disappointingly shown no imagination here for what we could do.

The Dharawal National Park from Appin to the stretches of Wollongong was declared with underground mining and two major roads that are to the North and South of the area. The next area that was to be declared but planning ceased due to a change of factional leadership of the NSW Liberal Government in 2017-19. The good work commenced under the Labor Carr era, and continued under Liberal O’Farrell / Berejiklian period, but unfortunately ended too soon.

As the lands are mostly Crown Lands there is no cost to the declaration, the option for extra services, regeneration, education and recreation facilities that come with a National Park would be at the option of the Government. All I ask is for the ball to start rolling and study this area for its ultimate declaration. 

An additional and unexpected benefit of this declaration could be the movement of the biodiversity credited lands for the Wilton and Appin growth area that was placed on private land owners without their say by the former Government. Moving these credits then declaring the National Park would prevent this land being used for credits for any other development.

The declaration of this new park that would connect the lands together from North to South would allow the connection of the Hawkesbury Nepean rivers which have significance for the local Aboriginal Communities of Dharawal, Durag and Gundengurra. The area has significance to the local Aboriginal community with Aboriginal artwork along the Bargo River Gorge and Aboriginal stories of the area such as the story of Migadan, the spirit of the river, extending across the landscape of the river catchment, beyond the boundaries of the Area and over various land tenures. The story lines of the local Aboriginal people centre on the Gorge and Bargo River in the north. With Mermaids Pool and the Nepean River, this winding 5.5km river that flows in the Bargo Gorge provides beautiful freshwater swimming areas with over a dozen pools that are surrounded by cliffs, cascades and heavy vegetation.

A good friend of this river system and the Bargo Gorge Landscape Conversation area in particular is Rowland Ware, a Wollondilly local who for years has come to Community Forums in Wollondilly Shire Council and spoken about the gorge. If it were not for Rowland and his fellow bushwalk, nature and conservationist friends we would not have that area protected. According to a letter from the Minister I am told there is no willingness for the Government to declare this due to multiple claims and different land holdings. The same answer was given years ago about Dharawal but it is now protected, the same also about the Bargo River Gorge area, it's time we are inventive about things and work towards protecting what we have now, before it's too late.