NPWS was totally opposed to peat mining at Wingecarribee Swamp. Its
The most appropriate land use over the swamp is that of a nature
period since 1971 when the DMR granted the mining leases a considerable
body of evidence derived from intensive scientific research, strongly
substantiates the NPWS position that the swamp must be protected
of a nature reserve would provide for the effective conservation
of the significant natural, cultural, historical and palynological
values, while at the same time providing for the maintenance of
the hydrological and functional values of the swamp. In this regard
the NPWS and SWC conservation and management responsibilities would
be most effectively met.
of tenure of the swamp from the SWC to the NPWS has been negotiated
conditional upon peat mining ceasing in the swamp and in so doing
providing for the gazettal of the swamp as a nature reserve.
NPWS considers that environmental damage has already occurred as
a result of past and current mining.
to date has opened up an extensive area of swamp with an extensive
free water area now replacing what was a shrubland/ rushland peat
deposit. The free-water body now dissects the swamp and fills the
basin created by the removal of a considerable depth and volume
palynological history may have already been lost as mining has and
is taking place in the widest and deeper peat sections of the swamp.
Fragmentation and destruction of the swamp ecosystems has occurred
and will be accelerated if peat mining was to continue.
and palaeoclimatic research has still to be carried out in the swamp
and further peat mining will destroy the storehouse of information
that is held within the organic deposits.
of the swamp as a significant filter of catchment nutrients and
pollutants particularly from septic effluent seepage from Robertson
township has already been compromised but further peat mining, with
the potential to remove the bulk of the peat deposits would completely
destroy the natural ecosystem filtering and nutrient retention functions,
with a consequent change in water quality and hence habitat for
the invertebrate and amphibian fauna.
in water regimes in the swamp as a result of milling potentially
also threaten the continued existence of the small populations of
endangered plants listed on Schedule I of the Threatened Species
Act, and if mining continued at increasing rates of extraction,
physical destruction of the populations could result within the
term of any renewed leases.
of peat mining would also contribute to the spread of aquatic weeds
within the swamp, particularly willows (Salix spp) and exotic
water plants such as Glyceria maxima. The latter plant has
already colonised several areas of the swamp The weed problem predictably,
would be greatly increased if the filtering and nutrient storage
capacity of the swamp was to be further reduced by the future peat
extraction and an increase in nutrient enrichment eutrophication
of the open waters created by peat mining.
of future areas of open shallow water following peat extraction
also poses a potential major problem if European Carp (Cyprinus
carpio) were to colonise the open water areas. These fish are
bottom feeders and contribute to turbidity and water quality problems.
NPWS considers peat mining in Wingecarribee Swamp is unsustainable.
position is that this mining operation is ecologically unsustainable
and does not meet State and Commonwealth commitments and criteria
for Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD).
Wetlands Management Policy gives support to this position. The Policy
is to be applied and implemented by all Government agencies such
that there is no further degradation of wetlands in the State. The
Policy states: The ecological sustainable use, management and
conservation of wetlands in NSW for the benefit of present and future
claims (DMR I996), that only 2% of the swamp having been mined to
date and only a maximum of 4% will be mined by the end of any renewed
mining leases, the NPWS considers that it is not the percentage
of the swamp by area that is important. The important factor is
the volume of peat extracted over the term of any new lease and
the continued degradation of the total swamp ecosystem in future
years. The extraction of-even a further 'small' volume of peat will
further and exponentially increase the rate of decline and degradation
of the swamp ecosystems.
also recognises the potential for greatly increased peat extraction
capacity and the desire of the company for an approximate 10 fold
increase in production from the current 38000 tonne per annum (as
stated by the company). This would greatly exacerbate the degradation
of the swamp ecosystems and could result in all the stated extractable
peat resources being removed within the term of any renewed leases,
if they were a standard 21 year DMR lease.
by the DMR (1996) that peat would accumulate to 1.3 metres depth
over a 260 year period if leases were renewed and current rates
of mining were continued, themselves indicate that peat mining is
an unsustainable industry. Research by Hope, Kodela and Whinham
suggest very much slower rates of accumulation, as noted previously.
based on these calculations by the DMR and the mining company that
the mining operation is and will be ecologically sustainable, are
not accepted by the NPWS
mining has been recognised by the NPWS as a having a detrimental
impact on the swamp and a threat to the continued survival of the
swamp ecosystems, and flora and fauna.
has supported the nomination for listing of peat mining at Wingecarribee
Swamp as a threatening process under the Commonwealth Threatened
Species Conservation Act.
also recognises the threat to the continued existence of the rare
and endangered plants Gentiana wingecarribiensis and Prasophyllum
uroglossum and the rare dragonfly Petalura gigantea. The plant species
are listed on Schedule I Part I of the Threatened Species Conservation
Act. (1995) and a Threatened Species Recovery Plan has been developed
for the Gentian.
mining threatens the conservation and maintenance of a number of
Aboriginal and European cultural sites within the swamp.
surveys have been carried out in the swamp with 14 relic sites being
identified along the southern perimeter of the swamp: These sites
are all on the flat to slightly elevated lands on the fringe of
the swamp. Most of the artefacts recorded from these sites are silcrete
and quartz flakes of a type which suggests they are less than 4000
years old. Some of the excavated artefacts have exhibited organic
residues which suggest extensive USE of the swamp's plant resources
by Aboriginal family groups.
sites have been found within the swamp however it is possible that
Aboriginal organic implements and human remains may well be preserved
within the peat deposits. Brayshaw (1993 & 94) states that: "the
current automated peat mining procedures are unlikely to allow the
discovery of such items, and that peat mining represents the greatest
threat to the Aboriginal cultural heritage of the swamp".
sites and relics in NSW are protected under Section 90 of the National
Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) and it is an offence to knowingly
disturb or destroy any Aboriginal relics without the consent of
the Director-General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
is therefore responsible for and committed to ensuring all sites
in and around the swamp edge are protected and appropriately managed.
NPWS questions the existence of a valid Development Approval and
recognises the requirement for an Environmental Impact Statement
to be prepared before any consideration could be given to the renewal
of the mining leases.
of a valid Development Approval has been made available, to the
NPWS. This documentation was sought when the SWC and NPWS were jointly
preparing the Plan of Management for the swamp and Wingecarribee
Reservoir Special Area.
If a development
consent was granted in 1967 as claimed by the mining company it
is unlikely that an adequate environmental impact assessment was
carried out and the NPWS is unaware of any research or monitoring
being, undertaken in subsequent years by the company upon which
the impacts of the mining operation can now be considered or assessed.
to Section 237(1) of the Mining Act (1992), the Minister is obliged
to "take into account the need to conserve and protect:- a) The
flora, fauna, fish, fisheries and scenic attractions, and b) the
features of Aboriginal, architectural, archaeological, historical
or geological interest in or on the land over which the authority
or claim (the renewal of mining leases) is sought".
issue in the context of development approval is that the land within
the swamp, the subject of the mining lease renewal, is zoned 7A
under the Wingecarribee Local Environment Plan (1989). This is a
recognition of the significant environmental values of the swamp..
The NPWS position is therefore that if a valid Development Approval
does not exist, an Environmental Impact Statement would have to
be prepared under the provisions of the Environmental Planning and
Assessment Act before consideration could be given to the renewal
or granting of mining leases for the extraction of peat from the
Parks and Wildlife Service, Submission to the Mining Wardens Inquiry
into Possible Renewal of Mining Leases for the Extraction of Peat
from Wingecarribee Swamp, 1997, Exhibit 23, pp. 8-12.