Protect Wollemi National Park, save our World Heritage

Protect Wollemi National Park, save our World Heritage

Forming part of the vast Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Wollemi National Park is home to many unique species, including the last wild stands of the Wollemi pine. Shockingly, this spectacular, biodiverse-rich wilderness is under threat.

The Wollemi pine, AKA the Dinosaur tree.

In a nutshell

Wollemi is special because:

Home to the last wild stands of the Wollemi pine

Part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

Home to a global centre of evolution for the species that make Australia, Australia

A culturally significant place for the Wiradjuri, Dharug, Wanaruah and Darkinjung people

Why is it under threat:

Bushfires made worse by climate change

Coal mines proposed on the doorstep of the World Heritage Area

UPDATE 2/11/21: The Wilderness Society has been campaigning for the NSW Government to walk away from their planned coal releases on the western fringe of the World Heritage-listed Wollemi National Park for over a year now. We provide the following comments on Deputy Premier and local MP Paul Toole’s statements in Budget Estimates today that he will oppose the opening up of this area for coal exploration.

This is a fantastic outcome—but together we need to keep up the pressure to make sure the Deputy Premier follows through on his promise.

Email the Deputy Premier and let him know you expect him to seal the deal!



The vast extent of Wollemi can be seen from the top of the Pagoda Lookout Trail. Image: Tim Beshara

Back in 1994 a botanist, David Noble, found something astonishing while exploring the labyrinthine sandstone formations of Wollemi National Park: a pine tree from the time of the dinosaurs when Australia was part of the supercontinent of Gondwana. It was thriving in a patch of rainforest in a canyon, deep within the national park; evidence of just how ancient and untouched this wilderness is. So precious is the discovery that the National Parks and Wildlife Service keeps the location secret.

Just a couple of hours' drive from Sydney, the second largest national park in New South Wales is a diverse landscape of mountain rainforests, sandstone pagoda outcrops, swamps, forests growing on rich basalt soil and spectacular cliffs. The astounding geology, flora and fauna here meant it received national park status back in 1979.

Wollemi forms the largest and most-intact part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. This World Heritage Site was inscribed to protect the best examples of what makes Australia, Australia. It was established to recognise its exceptional diversity of eucalypts and other quintessential Australian flora like banksias, waratahs, tea-trees, she-oaks and wattles. It is a global centre for the evolution and diversification of these types of plants.

And because of the variety of plants and the environments they create, there is an abundance and diversity of fauna too, including one-third of Australia’s bird species (265), 50 mammals, 30 frogs and over 60 species of reptiles. These include the vulnerable glossy black-cockatoo, spotted-tailed quoll and the critically endangered regent honeyeater.

Keep an eye out for pairs of Gang Gang cockatoos.

The Wiradjuri, Dharug, Wanaruah and Darkinjung people have a strong and ongoing cultural association with their traditional lands and waters in this region. There are 120 Indigenous sites within the park, some of which can be found from easy walks from the Ganguddy-Dunns Swamp campground. Rock art in Wollemi is thought to be between 2,000 and 4,000 years old, with the significant site at Eagle’s Reach containing depictions of animals long since extinct in the area. It’s thought that there could be more like it.

The iconic Pagoda rock formations of Wollemi National Park. Image: Tim Beshara

The high sandstone plateau comprising the World Heritage Area has largely protected the ecology from climatic changes, enabling species like the Wollemi pine to survive for 60 million years. However, the worsening effects of the climate crisis are finally threatening to wipe out the remaining pine trees. The pines were famously rescued by a specialist fire team during the 2019–2020 bushfire season, the destructive extent of which hadn’t been seen in Australia before. Sixty-five percent of Wollemi National Park was burnt.

In a move that would compound the effects of climate change, the NSW government has shockingly earmarked areas for new coal mines right up against the national park and the World Heritage Area. We simply can’t allow coal mines on the doorstep of our World Heritage.

Why is it under threat?

The NSW government recently released their proposal for new coal leases across the state. Many are in globally significant places that are unlike anywhere else on Earth and have already been impacted by devastating bushfires. Burning more coal will only make the climate crisis harder to tackle, and lead to more catastrophic bushfire seasons like that of 2019–2020.

Eight areas have been flagged for coal exploration, including spectacular forests that border our precious national parks such as Wollemi and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Some of the sites under threat are currently being assessed by the Australian Heritage Commission as part of a process to add them to the World Heritage Area itself.
 


Ganguddy-Kelgoola is one of the proposed coal leases bordering the Wollemi National Park and Wilderness Area and covers a precious area of bush known as Coricudgy State Forest. The forest is home to nationally listed threatened species including the critically endangered regent honeyeater, endangered glossy black cockatoo and the endangered spotted-tailed quoll. Some of the targeted area is at the top of the catchment for Wollemi Creek, one of the most important wild rivers zones in the state. These ancient rivers, flowing through deep gorges would be exposed to toxic run-off from coal mining. 

Coal exploration puts this spectacular natural area of deep gorges, river valleys and eucalyptus forest—which continues to hold significance to Wiradjuri, Dharug, Wanaruah and Darkinjung people—at risk. Cultural heritage in the surrounding forests of the World Heritage Area earmarked for development is at risk of being lost forever.

The best chance to stop devastating projects like this is before they even start. Together, we can stop these dirty coal proposals progressing to the next step.

What can you do?

Ganguddy (Dunn's Swamp) on the Cudgegong River. Image: Tim Beshara.

The best time to stop a project is before it even starts, as we proved last year when the Federal Government proposed oil and gas exploration at locations near the World Heritage Areas of Ningaloo Reef and Gutharraguda (Shark Bay). We acted quickly and the government had no choice but to remove the possibility of oil and gas exploration from these globally significant sites.

On 3 November, the NSW Deputy Premier announced he will kill off plans for a new coalfield on the doorstep of the Wollemi National Park.

We need to keep up the pressure to make sure the Deputy Premier follows through on his promise that he will oppose the opening up of this area for coal exploration. Email the Deputy Premier and let him know you expect him to seal the deal!

If we act now we can protect our World Heritage Areas in NSW. Some of the sites identified for coal mines, including Coricudgy State Forest, are currently being assessed by the Australian Heritage Commission as part of a process to inscribe them on the National Heritage List. This is a step towards including them in the World Heritage Area itself.

These areas at risk are objectively of World Heritage Value and should be treated as such.