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Speech: Royal National Park

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 11 Oct 2011

Adjournment speech, Tuesday 11 October 2011

South of Sydney, stretching along the coastline from Cronulla down to Stanwell Tops, is the stunning Royal National Park. I am proud to be supporting a strong community campaign to win World Heritage listing for the Royal National Park, and also the nearby Garawarra State Conservation Area and Heathcote National Park. These three parks represent an extraordinary mixture of natural antiquity and cultural histories. The Royal National Park is already recognised on the National Heritage List. There is a strong case for them to gain World Heritage listing, and the community based campaign is growing in support as more people learn about the values of the parks and understand the significance and benefits of winning World Heritage status.

I am deeply committed to this effort to gain international heritage listing for Royal National Park and the associated parks. In 1975 I visited this national park each week to conduct field studies for my honours thesis, The nature of sclerophylly: ethylene and the growth of Banksia species under water logged conditions. It was a wonderful year for me, exploring the hanging swamps, heathland and sandstone ridges that make up the beauty of this park. The Royal National Park was the first designated national park in Australia and the birthplace of the Australian conservation movement. It was the scene of one of the first environmental protests in Australia and, I understand, possibly the world. From 1920 through to 1927, there was a successful campaign to stop logging within this national park.

The three parks deserve increased protection and recognition due to their exceptional natural beauty, diverse vegetation and geomorphology and outstanding Hawkesbury rock formations. The Royal boasts dramatic sea cliffs and caves, golden beaches, rambling inlets and the Port Hacking River. It is home to iconic features, such as the figure-of-eight pools, Palm Jungle and the Bulgo sea caves, which further contribute to the outstanding natural scenery.

As well as these natural heritage values, the landscape is scattered with evidence of the cultural continuity of its Aboriginal people, with many ceremonial sites, burials, middens and occupational sites and rocks. This exquisite country was settled over tens of thousands of years ago by the Dharawal people. You will find evidence of the Aboriginal occupants and their artistic and spiritual expression in this park. There is an Aboriginal calendar of the Royal National Park, not based on the sun; rather, it is a resources calendar. It is absolutely wonderful to see because it tells the story of what is important in the Royal, and ties events, movements and activities to natural phenomena. These cultural landscapes represent a unique example of the combined works of nature and humans, a designation used in article 1 of the World Heritage convention that determines if a site qualifies for World Heritage listing.

The Royal National Park, Garawarra State Conservation Area and Heathcote National Park share one of the richest concentrations of plant and animal species in temperate Australia. These areas exemplify the biodiversity of the ecosystems of the Sydney Basin Bioregion and display the continuing ecological and biological processes of adaptation. The drift of Australia from Gondwanaland and the long periods of isolation make Australia one of the great evolutionary stories of the planet. In this dry continent there are only a few surviving remnants of Gondwana biota, including those surviving in moist ecosystems in the Royal National Park. The Sydney Basin's abundant diversity of eucalypts provides an outstanding record of the evolutionary processes associated with global climatic changes during the late tertiary and quaternary periods.

The case for World Heritage listing for the Royal National Park and nearby parks can be compared to the case that was made for the Greater Blue Mountains region to gain World Heritage listing. In 2010 a group called the 'First National Park' formed a campaign for World Heritage listing of this park and the two associated parks. I congratulate Bob Walshe, Phil Smith and Bob Crombie for the leading work that they have done and for the information they have provided to me. They have certainly inspired my work on this campaign. The Greens are proudly backing this work to get this area World Heritage listed. I will continue to work with the local community to build the case, and I acknowledge the support of my colleague Senator Larissa Waters, the Greens federal environment and natural heritage spokesperson. We think these parks are special and deserving, and we would love you to join us and add your voice to the call. The First National Park group is building the case, winning community support and taking this proposal to the government. I congratulate them on their efforts to date and their long-term vision for Sydney and the nation's future. I look forward to one day visiting these World Heritage listed parks in Sydney.


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