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National Parks Association of the ACT
Policies – 2004
The NPA ACT was formed in 1960 as part of a national movement to create a system of properly managed national parks and to promote environmental awareness. The prime mover in its formation was a CSIRO scientist Dr Nancy Burbidge who, with a team of committed people, had a vision of “a National Park for the National Capital”. NPA ACT worked for nearly twenty-five years to achieve the creation of Namadgi National Park, which was finally gazetted on 3 October 1984.
Over more than forty years NPA ACT has also campaigned to promote the preservation of other local conservation areas and nature reserves including Jerrabomberra Wetlands, Murrumbidgee River Corridor, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Molonglo River Corridor and Canberra Nature Reserves. NPA ACT has a special relationship with Kosciuszko National Park that has common borders with Namadgi and a close interest in the Australian Alps Liaison Committee. It has also contributed to State and national issues such as the creation of Budawang and Morton National Parks, logging in the southeast forests and the National Forest Policy.
The NPA ACT contributes to conservation and promotion of environmental values through its publications, organised walks, conferences, submissions, papers, proposals and social activities. Our members bring considerable scientific, organisational and political skills to these tasks.
Following the bushfires of January 2003, the issue of restoring and preserving the Alpine National Parks took on a new magnitude. Ninety-five percent of Namadgi National Park was burnt at a level of severity that will prolong its recovery over several decades. At the same time, pressure for recreational use of all National Parks, particularly Alpine Parks, is increasing, often to the detriment of their natural values.
These NPA ACT policies will continue the work of protecting our valuable and conservation areas and promoting measures for the protection of our unique natural and cultural heritage, within the context of a very challenging economic and political environment.
NATURE AND PURPOSE OF NAMADGI NATIONAL PARK <Back to top>
- The purpose of the Namadgi National Park is first and pre-eminently the protection and enhancement of the natural values of the environment as an ecologically viable and sustainable system. It also has a valuable role in protecting Canberra’s water supply, promoting scientific research and environmental study, conserving cultural heritage both pre and post European settlement, and providing opportunities for low impact recreation.
- The NPA ACT realises that there are increasing pressures on conservation reserves in the ACT generally and specifically for Namadgi National Park to fulfil a wide range of purposes. The NPA ACT strongly believes that the protection of the natural environment is the main purpose of Namadgi National Park. This must not be traded off as demand grows for more recreational space and activities, or for the preservation of utilities and other infrastructure, which would thus endanger the Namadgi’s’ primary purpose. There should be separately identified, gazetted and managed multi-purpose recreational areas for that purpose.
- Namadgi National Park is an integral part of the Australian Alps environmental system, its landforms and landscapes. Policies and management practices of the different Parks in this system require careful and close alignment to protect their unique and inter-related values. NPA ACT supports the Australian Alps Memorandum of Understanding as an important tool for cooperative management of the Australian Alps. However, it cannot be effective unless all four governments give the Australian Alps Liaison Committee sufficient resources to be effective.
- A key element of Namadgi National Park is its unique natural landforms and panoramic scenery. NPA ACT strongly supports the protection of these essential environmental elements from any incursions or disturbances, such as communication towers, power lines, pipelines or road works.
ROLE AND PURPOSE OF OTHER NATIONAL PARKS AND CONSERVATION RESERVES <Back to top>
- From its inception NPA ACT has supported a network of national parks and nature reserves to preserve Australia’s rich and diverse natural heritage. We will continue to work with the National Parks Associations and other environmental organisations in every State and Territory to promote, protect and conserve these parks and their natural values, in line with the policies laid out in this document for Namadgi National Park and other parks and conservation reserves.
- Within the ACT, the network of Nature Parks and reserves outside Namadgi National Park are essential to the environmental health of the ACT. They are a crucial part of the ecosystems which support and sustain the wide diversity of flora and fauna in Namadgi National Park; they contain many protected or endangered species of flora and fauna; they provide recreation, even solitude, within minutes of settled areas; and they are an essential part of the Canberra landscape. The protection, preservation and improvement of these parks and reserves is therefore an essential part of the management of the Territory’s natural heritage.
- Over the past century the role of these reserves and parks has changed from merely being a backdrop to the city to being one of its most vital elements. They are now actively managed to protect wildlife and promote environmental values. Nevertheless they continue to be under direct and constant threat from vandalism, overuse and poor planning. They are often regarded as “empty space” by many involved in planning and building the city’s infrastructure and are often damaged by servicing of existing infrastructure. NPA ACT considers that:
- A detailed environmental assessment and inventory be made of all Nature Parks and reserves to determine their current state and to provide a basis on which to build an active plan of management for their repair and enhancement.
- It is essential that the development and implementation of Plans of Management through public consultation be continued and that the plans of management seek to repair any existing damage and to conserve and enhance the natural values of these areas.
- Existing infrastructure managers should be required to repair existing damage and to formally lodge and implement plans to avoid future damage.
- A moratorium be declared on any infrastructure works in these parks and reserves until the environmental assessment is completed and the plans of management are in place.
- Neighbouring National Parks and reserves in NSW and Victoria hold a special interest for members of NPA ACT who are strong supporters and users of parks such as Kosciuszko, Morton, Monga and SE Forests. NPA ACT supports NPA NSW, the Colong Foundation and other environmental groups in monitoring and protection of these parks and reserves and will continue to support their conservation and enhancement.
- Maintenance and enhancement of wilderness areas is crucial to the purpose of many national parks and, in particular, Namadgi National Park. Wilderness is a large area in an essentially natural state where modern industrial human interference has been eliminated.
- Areas not previously thought of as wilderness, that better survived the bushfires in 2003, now have special value as refuge/regeneration areas. These areas should be recognised, given special status and protected.
- All areas of moderate to high wilderness quality within Namadgi National Park and adjoining areas in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (similar to the area identified by the National Wilderness Inventory and the Australian Heritage Commission’s Commonwealth Delineation Program, including buffer zones) should be zoned and managed as wilderness under the Nature Conservation Act. It is recognised that some areas will require rehabilitation works (following disturbance from fire-fighting activity that occurred during January 2003) in order to restore them to their previous wilderness condition.
- Areas declared or zoned as wilderness should be managed for the protection and enhancement of their wilderness quality and wilderness values. In respect to Namadgi National Park this should be conducted in conjunction with the other parts of the Bimberi Wilderness in NSW, to ensure the maintenance and enhancement of the integrity and values of the entire Bimberi Wilderness Area.
- Vehicle use should be prohibited in wilderness areas. However, NPA ACT recognises that vehicles currently operated by management agency personnel for essential management activities, or scientists conducting scientific work under permit from the management agency, will access the area on established access tracks. Where possible, these tracks should be removed over time. All other vehicle access should be prohibited. No four-wheel-drive vehicles, trail bikes, bicycles or mountain bikes operated by members of the public, clubs or commercial interests should be permitted in these wilderness areas.
- No horses, horse riding related structures or works should be permitted within wilderness areas. The same applies to other domesticated animals such as camels, donkeys etc. All feral animals (which include insects and birds), weeds and non-endemic vegetation should be eradicated from wilderness areas.
- Existing structures not essential for management purposes and not of historic/cultural significance should be removed and their sites rehabilitated. No new structures should be erected or disturbance of land or native vegetation permitted within wilderness areas, except for essential fire prevention works (as described below).
- No new fire trails, four-wheel-drive tracks or roads should be constructed or upgraded within wilderness areas. Existing vehicle tracks not essential for management purposes should be rehabilitated and replanted with local native species.
- Fire prevention works and activity should be kept to a minimum and the lowest environmental impact options should be selected when planning such works and activity.
- At any given time only small groups and small numbers of people should be permitted access to wilderness areas to maintain their essential remoteness and solitude. They should be fuel-stove only areas.
- Namadgi National Park and other conservation areas in the ACT contain unique plants and animals including insects and birds, which would alone justify the most rigorous care and protection. They also contain important examples of coastal, mountain, woodland and grassland ecosystems. Namadgi National Park contains a unique mingling of these ecosystems and often marks the most northern or western extent of important species.
- NPA ACT believes that scientific research and development of sound scientific data are important in National Parks and conservation areas. We support adequate resourcing to study and detect change in species composition, distribution and frequency. Where there is disturbance caused by approved research, eg fences, traps and marker pegs, restoration of the area should be an essential part of that activity.
- Interpretative material on natural values specific to Namadgi National Park should be available at the Visitors Centre for the education and interest of park visitors. Additional signage on site should be restricted to areas where it causes minimum disturbance to the natural values and maximum impact for public education.
- Areas such as the internationally recognised Ramsar-listed Ginini Flats wetlands should be afforded the highest level of protection and care.
- NPA ACT supports the ongoing reclamation of the Gudgenby bush regeneration area and it will continue to have a high priority on its works program.
- Clearing of road and utility easements (eg electricity and gas) has caused severe damage in Namadgi National Park and other conservation areas of the ACT. NPA ACT strongly disagrees with this use of national parks and reserves but where such infrastructure already exists, it should be managed so as to reflect existing habitat within the Park, eg as endemic grassland and shrub areas.
- Where possible, existing power lines for local purposes in National Parks and conservation reserves should be replaced with low impact alternate sources of renewable energy.
- The relevant legal authorities, including police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, should actively support efforts to prevent damage to the natural values of the Park. This should include prosecuting those causing wilful damage or deliberately introducing feral weeds or animals including insects and aquatic species.
- Feral plants and animals should be eradicated from national parks and conservation areas and close monitoring maintained to ensure they do not intrude from adjacent areas. Education programs should inform park users of the need to protect these areas from incursions of feral plants and animals and promote a greater understanding of the delicate balance of the natural environment.
ABORIGINAL HERITAGE AND CULTURE <Back to top>
NPA ACT recognises that Aborigines have occupied the ACT region for thousands of years. There are many sites of special significance for Aborigines both known and yet to be uncovered. Namadgi National Park and other ACT nature reserves and recreation areas are especially important, having been least disturbed over the past 200 years. We should protect and enhance Aboriginal and cultural and spiritual links to the land, especially within the context of protecting and preserving the natural and cultural values of Namadgi National Park.
- NPA ACT recognises the interest of Aboriginal communities associated with the ACT to pursue traditional cultural activities within the Park.
- NPA ACT will foster better communication with Aboriginal people, their councils and traditional groups to promote mutual understanding and greater collaboration between us.
- NPA ACT insists that fire and forest litter management policies and practices should preserve the integrity of indigenous sites and ensure their protection.
- NPA ACT supports cross-cultural training, special programs, employment of indigenous staff in the ACT’s conservation reserves and associated activities to:
- strengthen the cultural life of Aboriginal people of the area, and
- increase our knowledge, understanding and empathy with the indigenous values of the ACT’s conservation reserves.
SETTLER AND POST SETTLER HERITAGE AND CULTURE <Back to top>
NPA ACT recognises that there are homesteads, huts, ruins, yards, fences, gravesites and other structures that contribute to the cultural heritage of Namadgi National Park and should be managed in accordance with the Burra Charter to preserve that cultural significance and keep them in good repair.
- In the event of destruction by fire or other natural causes of settler sites, NPA ACT will consider reconstruction on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the Burra Charter. Recommendations may range from rehabilitation or replacement to retention of the ruin or acceptance of loss depending on cultural significance, environmental impact and cost of replacement.
- Repair or reconstruction is appropriate only where there is sufficient evidence to reproduce an earlier state of the fabric that should be identifiable.
- Where replacement is not appropriate, the site should be rehabilitated to its previous environmental value although signage may provide indications of previous use.
- Exotic trees and plants retained on cultural sites as part of their heritage should be closely monitored and controlled.
- Appropriate scientific and historical research and assessment of cultural sites should be ongoing and utilized in determining their heritage value.
- Neither roads nor vehicles should be permitted in National Parks and other conservation reserves with the exception of pre-existing through roads, current public general-access roads and existing management roads. There should be no roads in wilderness areas.
- Road design and maintenance should be sensitive to the natural values of the reserve. Care should be taken to avoid unnecessary damage when reconstructing or maintaining existing roads.
- If a road is constructed in an emergency, eg a bushfire, it must be rehabilitated as soon as possible once the emergency has passed.
- Roads should be open to the public only when they can be used by conventional 2-wheel drive vehicles. There should be no exclusive provision for all-terrain vehicles.
- NPA ACT supports the Park Management Plan’s restrictions on road usage depending on weather conditions and the need for maintenance work.
- Vehicles should not be allowed to travel off-road.
- Roads and tracks not required for visitor use or management purposes should be closed, rehabilitated and revegetated.
To retain the essential character of Namadgi National Park and other nature reserves within the ACT, commercial development should be restricted as follows:
- Commercial huts, roofed or semi-permanent accommodation and networks of camping/walking facilities should not be established in Namadgi National Park, Canberra Nature Park and other nature reserves in the ACT.
- There should be only basic camping accommodation run by Environment ACT with pit or composting toilets eg as provided at Orroral or Mt Clear. Accommodation providing more services and options is available less than 30 km away in Canberra, Cooma or Adaminaby or on holiday farms in the region.
- Retail outlets should be confined to Visitors Centres (eg. Namadgi National Park Visitors Centre that sells maps and publications about the park’s natural and cultural values and its history).
- Businesses or hiring outlets for recreational and camping gear should not be constructed within Namadgi National Park, Canberra Nature Park and other nature reserves.
- A database of organisations and companies, both commercial and non-commercial, which use the Park or reserve system should be kept by ACT Parks and Conservation Service. Limits should be set to group sizes, and codes of conduct should be provided and enforced.
- All organisations that charge fees for commercial services should be licensed to operate by ACT Parks and Conservation Service. The conditions for obtaining the licence and renewing it, should be based on complying with the code of conduct set to protect the natural and cultural heritage. Licence charges should be estimated on a sliding scale according to the yearly profit made (or on a per-user scheme). A flat rate should be set for non-commercial groups. Proposals for licences for commercial activities should be notified in the Canberra Times before being granted enabling objections to be lodged before licenses are issued.
- A buffer zone of at least 5 km (see Land Use in Close Proximity To National Parks And Conservation Areas Policy) should be established between Namadgi National Park’s boundaries and any commercial development or businesses, including those that may occur if proposals for rural village clusters eventuate.
- Any sponsorship arrangements should not provide for signage within the park.
- Gudgenby Homestead should be reserved for Park Management use only.
Conservation is the primary management objective for Namadgi National Park and nature reserves in the ACT. Recreation activities in, and access to, these reserves should not compromise this primary management objective. Recreation and access are secondary considerations.
Motorised Vehicle Access
- The use of motorised vehicles for non-management purposes should only be allowed on public roads and fire trails open to the public and speed should be limited to 60 kilometres per hour.
- The current network of roads and fire trails open to public motorised access in Namadgi National Park should not be expanded.
- Old Boboyan Road should only be used for management purposes except for the section to Yankee Hat carpark.
- Clubs whose main activities are off-road driving rather than conservation or environmental protection (such as 4WD clubs) must not be able to trade their participation in work parties for additional vehicle access to closed areas as a reward to club members.
Mountain bikes should be restricted to formed roads and access should not be permitted in Wilderness areas. On accessible fire trails and tracks a speed limit of 25 km/hr should be imposed.
- Horse riding in Namadgi National Park should be restricted to designated management tracks east of Old Boboyan Road, and outside the proposed wilderness area centred on Booth Range. In other conservation areas, existing access for horse riding should not be expanded. NPA ACT would prefer no horse access to national parks.
- The route Blue Gum Creek-Bushfold Flats-Booroomba Creek should be closed to horse riding.
- Horse riding should require a permit system to manage numbers and key access, and observance of the Australian Alps Horse Riding Code should be mandatory.
- NPA ACT accepts the operation of existing facilities for recreational riding camps on the Bicentennial Trail though we would prefer the Bicentennial Trail was rerouted outside the park. Any other such facilities should be closed.
- Environment ACT should establish monitoring benchmarks to determine the extent of horse impact (e.g. weed spread, track damage, dung dispersal) on Namadgi National Park and other conservation reserves of the ACT.
- Facilities for downhill skiing or snowboarding should not be provided in Namadgi National Park.
- Locations with fireplaces in Namadgi National Park should be monitored for impact of fire wood collection and if unacceptable impact which cannot be ameliorated is identified, the fireplaces should be removed.
- All the Bimberi Wilderness, any new wilderness areas, and all areas above 1500 metres in Namadgi National Park should be “fuel stove only” areas.
- People should be required to carry in firewood below 1500 metres in areas where use of fallen timber could compromise the existing ecosystem, particularly areas that survived the 2003 bushfires and are providing refuge for fauna and flora.
NPA ACT supports the development of fire management plans for all parks and conservation reserves and would expect to be consulted on such a plan for Namadgi National Park.
- NPA ACT supports the view expressed in the Bushfire Management Plan (BFMP) 2000-2002 that deliberate burning for conservation purposes in Namadgi National Park is inappropriate. Depending on the future frequency of wildfires in the area, this could, however, be reviewed from time to time as more research information becomes available.
- NPA ACT recognizes the need for and supports research into bushfire fuel management and fire suppression in natural areas. We support strategic fuel reduction only when it is shown to assist wild fire suppression, fire penetration into, or escape from, Namadgi National Park and if it maintains biodiversity and other natural values.
- NPA ACT accepts the necessity for localised fuel reduction around communication installations and other structures in Namadgi National Park and other conservation reserves in the ACT.
- NPA ACT recognizes the need for farmers and forest managers to undertake prescribed burning in surrounding farmland and forests provided the land managers take appropriate action to ensure that fires do not propagate into Namadgi National Park.
WEED AND FERAL ANIMAL MANAGEMENT <Back to top>
The control of pest species in the ACT has been the subject of three important ACT government policy documents, The ACT Nature Conservation Strategy (1998), the ACT Weeds Strategy (1996), and The Vertebrate Pest Management Strategy (2002). The Nature Conservation Strategy is a policy framework for a coordinated and strategic approach to biodiversity protection and sustaining the ecological processes which support that diversity.
NPA ACT supports the principles put forward in these documents.
- NPA ACT recognizes the long-term nature of pest management. Ideally all species should be eradicated from the park, but for many that will not be practicable. Therefore an attainable goal needs to be set for each pest. We acknowledge that there are programs to control numbers and limit damage of some animal and plant pests within the Park some of which have been demonstrably successful.
- NPA ACT supports substantial funding for weed and feral animal control in Namadgi National Park, and recognises that this will be a major expenditure for the park. Monitoring is needed to ensure that potential problems from animal pests such as fish, insects and horses are recognised as soon as they are apparent, so they can be tackled immediately. There must be adequate resourcing to monitor change by trained staff who know the park well enough to detect changes in a wide range of natural phenomena, such as species composition and distribution.
- To reduce the spread of invasive weeds and fungi there should be a wash down requirement for management vehicles, plant and equipment, particularly when seed is being shed by invasive weeds, when vehicles and 'quads' are taken off road, or when moved from one catchment to another.
- Park management must exercise precautions against introducing fungal or viral pathogens into sensitive areas.
- Pest control strategies need to be coordinated across borders.
- All plantations, horticulture or crops close to national parks and reserves must have a buffer zone between them and the park or reserve border, and a monitoring and control program for propagating wildings.
- The management of pest species must allow for advances in knowledge of control techniques. NPA ACT recognizes that biological control of some pests may offer the best long term solution to their control. NPA ACT will support and encourage research and increased ACT and Federal Government funding for biological control with proven safeguards.
WALKING TRACKS FOR NAMADGI NATIONAL PARK AND OTHER ACT CONSERVATION RESERVES <Back to top>
A track is any access formed by or for human passage on foot. This includes categories such as walks, paths, tracks, trails and routes.
- Tracks should provide a wide diversity of walking experiences for visitors whilst protecting the values of Namadgi National Park consistent with the objectives of the management plan. They should:
- enable a variety of visitors to enter, experience and enjoy the Park and its values in appropriate ways;
- provide for a variety of benefits by selecting locations that make notable features accessible to visitors through appropriate design and construction;
- ensure that the total impact on the natural environment is minimal;
- afford a reasonable degree of convenience and safety to walkers, dependent on the classification of the track;
- promote environmental education and provide interpretation of the Park's features;
- divert visitors away from areas which are being given special protection;
- separate walkers from vehicular traffic.
- The location and classification of tracks should be carefully planned to comply with management objectives and be shown on management plans, drawings and maps. Tracks should provide examples of scenery, landforms and features, ecosystems, communities, native wildlife and recreational opportunities. The classification should also take into account environmental aspects, general management issues, likely numbers of users, reasons for the existence of the track, the terrain and costs of construction and future maintenance. Interpretive and guiding signs and other facilities should be provided appropriate to the track classification. Tracks should be properly maintained to the standard applicable to their classification.
- Existing tracks which are inconsistent with the management plan should be closed and allowed or assisted to re-vegetate.
- The management plan may limit the frequency of visits, number of walkers and permits through areas where there are no specific tracks or routes as required by environmental considerations. In particularly sensitive areas or where the number of walkers is high, consideration should be given, after assessment of acceptable impacts, to restricting the number of walkers allowed on tracks.
- The environmental impact of a formed track, including its visual impact should be minimised by careful planning, location, design and construction, which takes account of the local setting of the track. Sound engineering principles relevant to stability, drainage, surface material and maintenance requirements should be observed. Special features such as steps, safety fences and safer stream crossings should be provided as appropriate.
- Hardening of tracks through resistant surfaces and in special cases, provision of boardwalks, should be adopted to meet planned access requirements, amount of foot traffic or nature of the country traversed. Tracks suitable for people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities may be provided where appropriate.
- Visitors using tracks should be educated not to deviate from tracks, to reduce environmental impact and maintenance costs and to enhance safety.
LAND USE IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO NATIONAL PARKS AND CONSERVATION AREAS <Back to top>
- NPA ACT considers that management of land in close proximity to any national park or conservation area is a critical part of protecting their natural values.
- In particular, the ACT Government has a special responsibility to ensure that management of leased areas bordering Namadgi National Park is consistent with the protection of the environmental values of the park as a high priority.
- Managers of land bordering on Namadgi National Park and other conservation reserves should have a duty of care to these reserves and their natural values.
- Recreational, horticultural or cropping activities undertaken in areas bordering Namadgi National Park and conservation areas must meet specific criteria to prevent adverse impact on these areas through the spread of weeds or wild seedlings.
- A functional buffer zone (we suggest fifteen kilometres) should be established around Namadgi National Park from which known pests and plants that would threaten the park are banned.
- NPA ACT supports measures to prevent grazing incursions from surrounding leaseholds and the prosecution of repeat offenders.