Destruction of Australia’s oldest National Park – The Royal scheduled to be downsized

The Royal National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the entire world. It was the first to receive the title of a national park and is only younger in terms of being a nature conservation area by Yosemite and Yellowstone. The Royal National Park is also one of the closest national parks to a city. This is one of Australias biggest boasting points as in almost all other countries one must travel hours to experience untouched wilderness, yet in Sydney one needs only to travel 40 minutes. This closeness to the city is also a major breakthrough for wildlife conservation as it acts a source of habitat which provides population of a large variety of animals shelter and food, and enables these populations to expand into neighboring urban suburbs. This enables Sydney to pertain a high biodiversity compared to other cities in the world.

Despite having the claim to being arguably the oldest national park in the world, and despite the paramount conservation value this amazing natural heritage area offers, the beautiful forests within the Royal National Park are still under threat of developers. Over a thousand trees are threatened to be cut down over multiple hectares of unaltered bush, many of which provide essential housing for possums, sugar gliders and birds. These hollows can’t be replaced by plantings, as it takes at least 80 years for a tree to mature enough to support a large enough hollow. The trees present in Spring Gully are very unique. The canopy mostly comprises of Red Bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera) which is a relatively common relative of the Eucalypt. However the Red Bloodwoods present in this area have formed in strange growths known as ‘mallee’, which is very rare for this species and yet is abundant at this particular site.

Ring-tailed Possum (Pseudocheirus perigrinus). One of the many tree dwellers set to loose their home in Spring Gully | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Ring-tailed Possum (Pseudocheirus perigrinus). One of the many tree dwellers set to loose their home in Spring Gully | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

This area is also a stronghold for the vulnerable Eastern Pigmy Possum (Carcetus nanus). This adorable marsupial is susceptible to fires which are a common in the Royal due to the practice of back burning. However Spring Gully represents one of the only areas in the entire Royal National Park which has remained unburnt for a comparatively substantial amount of time. This is evident with the presence of a large Pigmy Possum population which is present in Spring Gully. This population appears to be acting as a population stronghold for this threatened species, and provides ongoing breeding which enables the population to spread from this point.

The threatened Eastern Pigmy Possum (Cercartetus nanus) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

The threatened Eastern Pigmy Possum (Cercartetus nanus) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Two threatened frog species are also under threat from this development. The Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophryne australis), which occurs on the proposed site in the small trickles, and the Giant Burrowing Frog (Heleioporus australiacus) which would use the site as foraging habitat and breeding habitat. The development threatens both species as firstly, development build at the top of a slopes (as is planned) increases water volume, due to guttering, running down the slope. This results in increased water movement speeds which clear the accumulated leaf litter clumps in the tributaries that the Red-crowned Toadlets depend on for breeding. Furthermore, human disturbances have been known to always completely eliminated Giant Burrowing Frogs from areas mainly due to elimination of habitat, as this frog species has a large home range and requires pristine vegetation across their home range. That is why they are only found in large nature reserves and national parks. This development threatens to completely wipe out the Bundeena occurring population.

Giant Burrowing Frog (Heleioporus australiacus) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2015

Giant Burrowing Frog (Heleioporus australiacus) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2015

Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophryne australis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophryne australis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

There is one threatened snake which very likely occurs within the site boundaries. The attractive Broad-headed Snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) is one of the most threatened snakes in Australia and the Royal National Park is known to be one of their strongholds. They are a nocturnal snake and require west facing rock outcrops with lots of trees in the surrounding area. Long and behold, Spring Gully also has this particular habitat right on the site boundary. Since there has currently been no threatened surveys for nocturnal animals, which the developer should be required to employ people to do, it is unknown how abundant Broad-headed Snakes are on this site. They are a very sensitive species and will be eliminated as soon as the canopy is decimated, not to mention the increased amount of people in the area will increase the amounts of ignorant snake killings.

Hoplocephalus bungaroides

With all this biodiversity to loose, not to mention making one of Australias greatest treasures smaller still, what do we stand to gain? The developer aims to create ‘Eco-tourism’ for the area, with the installment of accommodation tents, kitchens and office. While on the surface, this may seem harmless, there are a few alarming facts which make this facade visible for what it truly is. The applicant is seeking to apply  pastoral land management to a pristine native bush. It is likely under this development plan that eventually the entire 15.5 hectares of untouched bushland will be knocked down and developed, but it wont happen instantly. The tactics most developers use is a death by a thousand cuts. First a small development, then another small development, meanwhile after each consecutive installment the biodiversity value goes down, till eventually they will argue: “Why not knock it all down for housing? There’s no threatened species here anyway…”

All in all, Eco-tourism can be great idea and can help conservation efforts if applied correctly. But if a developer is truly concerned about conservation, they will ensure to purchase a property that is already developed and does not involve the cutting down of 1000+ trees encompassed in a national park, with threatened species at stake. To stop this crime against nature from going on please visit the Spring Gully Protection website for more information and lodge your objection. The link directly to the objection form is below. We need to let the world know that our oldest relics are not compromisable.

LODGE YOUR OBJECTION