Wollemi

Wollemi

Wollemi National Park is home to many unique species, including the last wild stands of the Wollemi pine. It has a long past, make sure it has a living future.

A culturally significant place for the Wiradjuri, Dharug, Wanaruah and Darkinjung people, Wollemi and the massive World Heritage Area it's a part of are of global significance.

The Wollemi pine, AKA the Dinosaur tree.

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.

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: Dan Down.

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.

"The age of these pines, which date back to the time of the dinosaurs, shows the importance of preserving large areas of natural land as national parks and wilderness areas for future generations to explore and maybe uncover more of their secrets."—David Noble.

Wollemi is also home to some of Australia's rarest animals, such as the critically endangered regent honeyeater, the endangered spotted-tailed quoll and brush-tailed rock wallaby.

Areas adjacent to it, like Ganguddy-Kelgoola are indistinguishable from the park itself and deserve the same levels of protection. Indeed, Ganguddy-Kelgoola is home to two state forests that are currently being assessed for addition to the National Heritage List, as a step towards inscribing them in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. This is a place that deserves our respect—and our care.

Download our guide to Wollemi National Park

Wilderness Journal Issue #014

Wilderness Journal Issue #014

In our special issue of Wilderness Journal, read how the Rylstone community courageously opposed coal mining on the doorstep of Wollemi and, in his own words, read the story of how botanist David Noble discovered the national park's famous pine.

Watching over Wollemi

Thanks to your support, we were able to spend two days filming spectacular footage of what’s at stake in Wollemi National Park if the NSW government puts a coal mine on its doorstep. The drone flies across neighbouring areas of World Heritage value that you won’t be able to tell apart—which part is a World Heritage Area and which part was earmarked for coal exploration?

On 4 May, the NSW government finally ruled out the third coal lease site on the doorstep of Wollemi, after tens of thousands of people like you signed submissions and wrote to MPs, and supported our initiatives like this drone footage to show what was at stake if coal mining took place here.

Remarkable biodiversity

Wollemi National Park has been an ark of biodiversity for tens of millions of years, evidenced by the age of its famous Wollemi pine. Part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Wollemi exhibits an exceptional diversity of eucalypts and other quintessential Australian flora like banksias, waratahs, tea-trees, she-oaks and wattles.

And this extraordinary diversity of plants sustains an abundance 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.

A cultural landscape

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 at least 120 First Nations cultural sites within the park, some of which can be found on 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.
“We’ve been taking the magic out of the land for far too long. Now we need to put some of the magic back.”—Peter Swain, Dabee Clan, Wiradjuri nation.
In Wilderness Journal Issue #014, read about the significance of Wollemi to Peter Swain. Peter is from the Dabee clan of the Wiradjuri nation, where his ancestors have lived for thousands and thousands of years.

Protecting World Heritage

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

The best time to stop a dirty fossil fuel project is before it even starts. We proved that recently at sites near Ningaloo and Gutharraguda (Shark Bay)—and now we’ve proved it again in Wollemi.

By acting quickly, we were able to knock three coal lease areas on the head before they even got to the stage of coal exploration. On 4 May 2022, the NSW government officially ruled out releasing a third area earmarked for coal exploration on Wollemi’s border after receiving more than 26,000 emails from Wilderness Society supporters. And it's the most spectacular and precious of all.

This area, Ganguddy-Kelgoola, is home to two state forests that are currently being assessed for addition to the National Heritage List, as a step towards inscribing them in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. 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.

Coal exploration would have put 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.

Thanks to your support, Ganguddy-Kelgoola is now safe.

We need to keep up pressure on the NSW government to protect them forever.