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Greens launch report calling for improved protection for the Royal National Park and Coastal Upland Hanging Swamps

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 24 Jun 2016

NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon will join Greens Cunningham candidate Cath Blakey and Hughes candidate Phil Smith to launch the ‘Protecting our precious environment' campaign.

The campaign calls for improved environmental protections for the Royal National Park and Coastal Upland Hanging Swamps.

The state-wide campaign and release of a 30 page comprehensive report on NSW's diverse natural environments and the dangers they face is supported by former Greens parliamentary leader Bob Brown.

Ms Blakey said, "Royal National Park was the first reserve in the world to be set aside for the purpose of a national park. It represents the beginnings of the conservation movement in Australia and remains highly significant in the development of the conservation and national park movements in the world. Despite this, the Park faces the threats of pollution and commercial development.

"The colliery at Helensburgh on the border of the Park to the south contains a tailings dam which is poorly maintained, and as a consequence the dam has overflowed and polluted the Hacking River with toxic materials and coal waste.

"The water catchments in the Coastal Upland Hanging Swamps of the Illawarra Escarpment above Wollongong are also at risk. These hanging swamps are home to several unique and endangered species of wildlife, but there are mine expansions proposed.

"Until these areas are afforded real environmental protections at federal and state levels, the diversity of flora and fauna that they maintain will continue to be threatened in these precious places," said Ms Blakey.

Mr Smith said, "Both of these areas in my electorate have been subject to poor governmental oversight and protection.

"In the Coastal Hanging Swamps, environmental offset policies allow developers and mining companies to damage environmentally sensitive areas in one location, as long as they conserve "like-for-like" areas elsewhere. In reality, there are no alternative similar ecosystems available.

"There have been attempts by environmental groups to acquire additional catchment area lands in the Royal National Park to protect both the catchments and crucial wildlife corridors, which have been unsuccessful.

"The Greens are committed to a sustainable way forward for the Royal National Park and Coastal Upland Hanging Swamps that protects our wildlife, our water catchments and our environment. I call on the NSW and federal governments to support the nomination of the Royal Reserves, including the Royal National Park, to the World Heritage List," said Mr Smith.

Senator Rhiannon said, "Successive governments in NSW and federally have weakened the laws that are supposed to protect the environment and regulate the impacts of development and mining.

"The Greens NSW report ‘Protecting our precious environment' is a key part of our election platform. NSW natural environments are under a range of serious threats and this election is an opportunity for people to be informed and to add their voice to the call for greater protection," she said.

Dr Brown added that "anyone who cares for the future should not vote for Labor or the Coalition. It is essential to Vote 1 the Greens".

Media contact
Cath Blakey: 0420 618 617
Phil Smith: 0412 338 687
Lee Rhiannon: Maddy Williams 0421 214 305

Background on the Royal National Park
The Royal National Park is a protected national park of 15,091 hectares located south of Sydney. The Park was formally proclaimed in 1879, making it one of the oldest declared national parks in the world it is the world.

The park was added to the Australian National Heritage List in December 2006. There are currently moves to seek World Heritage status, but these have not progressed to date. Until the Park is able to achieve World Heritage status, it will be under increasing threat from overuse and poor protection from conflicting land use struggles.

Background on Coastal Upland Hanging Swamps
The hanging swamps provide crucial water filtering services that keep most streams and rivers in relatively good health. The upland swamps in this region's water catchment are a vital part of the water catchment system. Environmental offset policies allow developers, in particular mining companies, to damage environmentally sensitive areas in one location, as long as they conserve similar - preferably "like-for-like" - areas elsewhere. However there are no alternative similar eco-systems available. Therefore The Department of Planning and Environment's current proposal would change the policy to specifically allow offsets for subsidence damage to swamps, and to allow cash payments if a like-for-like offset opportunity cannot be found.

So by adding cash to government coffers, the mining companies would be legally entitled to destroy these endangered ecosystems.

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