Nattai wilderness under threat


By David Brazil and Keith Muir

SYDNEY — The Nattai wilderness — 75,000 hectares of rugged, spectacular bushland to the south-west of Sydney — is under threat from developers while the state government does nothing.

The Nattai wilderness adjoins the southern end of the Blue Mountains National Park and contains some of the most spectacular gorges and timbered rocky country in the greater Blue Mountains area. In 1988, the Colong Foundation for Wilderness and the Total Environment Centre proposed that the area be gazetted as a national park.

Minister for the environment Tim Moore has failed to take action on this issue for three years, and the area is now at risk.

Last year, the failure of the government even to declare its interest in dedicating the Nattai National Park forced the Land and Environment Court to allow a gigantic hard rock quarry on its scenic southern rim.

Now a Nattai land-holder has applied to the Wollondilly Shire Council for permission to clear, farm and log the forests in the very heart of the wilderness area. So far all appeals to the minister, the Water Board and the National Parks and Wildlife Service for immediate protection of the wilderness have gone unheeded.

The consequences of development in such an environmentally sensitive area go far beyond wilderness values. Rod Bennison, executive officer of the National Parks Association, believes that "the proposed logging and clearing for a market garden may have enormous repercussions for the quality of Sydney's water supply. It will add to the mounting siltation and turbidity of Lake Burragorang, thereby adding to the incidence of toxic algae blooms." The Nattai River feeds directly into Lake Burragorang, and the land in question lies within the Water Board's catchment area.

By allowing this sort of development within the catchment area, the Water Board and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are failing to meet their responsibility to protect the Sydney water supply and ensure that one of the last large areas of unprotected wilderness in the Sydney region is preserved.

The protection of this important wilderness area is a test case of the Greiner government's ability to protect wilderness values. The Nattai National Park should be the subject of a positive decision by cabinet, not lost by the approval of a pre-emptive logging and farming proposal.