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New South Wales State of the Environment
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SoE 2009 > Biodiversity > 7.3 Reserves and conservation

Chapter 7: Biodiversity

7.3 Reserves and conservation

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7.3 Reserves and conservation

There has been an increase of 3.5% in the overall area of the reserve system, with significant additions in under-represented areas.

At January 2009, the New South Wales terrestrial reserve system covered 6.7 million hectares or 8.4% of the state. Since 2006, the reserve system has grown by 236,346 ha, an increase of 3.5%.

The representativeness of the protected area system is improving, but some subregions and vegetation classes are still under-represented, particularly in the central and western regions.

In regions where remnant vegetation is scarce, opportunities for further additions to the formal reserve network are limited and measures to promote conservation are being actively pursued, both in reserves and on other tenures.

Conservation on private and other public land plays an important role in providing greater connectivity across whole landscapes. It complements the public reserve system by expanding the range of natural values that are protected and provides buffers and corridors to enhance the network of reserves.

The system of marine protected areas now covers 345,000 ha or 34% of NSW waters. Only two NSW marine bioregions – the Hawkesbury Shelf and Twofold Shelf – do not have marine parks but a number of aquatic reserves have been established in the former while only about 10% of the Twofold Shelf lies within NSW waters.

Zoning plans are used to deliver effective multiple-use management of marine parks. New zoning plans have been implemented for the Batemans and Port Stephens–Great Lakes marine parks, and existing plans for the Solitary Islands and Jervis Bay marine parks are being reviewed for the first time.

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NSW indicators

Indicator and status


Information availability

Area of terrestrial reserve system



Area of the marine protected areas system



Notes: Terms and symbols used above are defined in About SoE 2009 at the front of the report.

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Addressing the decline of biodiversity is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing NSW. Conservation in both private and public reserves is an important part of the strategy to address this challenge.

Protected areas are the cornerstone of conservation efforts in NSW. A substantial network of protected areas, which provides a foundation for biodiversity conservation, has been established across the state. The public reserve system performs three main functions:

  • protecting the full range of habitats and ecosystems, plant and animal species, and significant geological features and landforms
  • protecting areas of significant cultural heritage
  • providing opportunities for recreation and education.

However, more than 90% of land in NSW lies outside public reserves and, in order to provide effective conservation across the whole landscape and protect the full complement of natural values, conservation measures are increasingly being directed beyond the boundaries of the reserve system.

In the marine environment a system of multiple-use zoning plans provides protection and conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems and habitats, while allowing for a wide range of beneficial uses.

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Status and trends

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Terrestrial reserve system


At 13 February 2009 the area of the NSW reserve system protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) and Brigalow and Nandewar Community Conservation Area Act 2005 (BNCCA Act) had grown to 789 parks, a total of 6,713,577 hectares, representing approximately 8.38% of NSW (Table 7.6).

Since 2006, the area protected under both these Acts has increased by 236,558 ha (3.5% of the state's area). Significant additions to the reserve system during this period include Yanga National Park (65,080 ha), Upper Nepean State Conservation Area (25,237 ha) and the Worimi reserves (1879 ha). This does not include the major purchase of 'Toorale', a property of 90,000 ha that, once gazetted, will form a major extension to Gundabooka National Park in north-western NSW, a critically under-represented ecosystem in the reserve system.

Map 7.3 shows the location of reserves in the NSW National Parks estate and reserves managed by Forests NSW, as well as the marine parks and aquatic reserves.

Map 7.3: National parks and forests reserves, marine parks and aquatic reserves in NSW

Map 7.3

Table 7.6 describes the main types of parks represented within the terrestrial reserve system and the additions during the latest period of reporting. There have been significant additions to most types of parks and these have largely focused on addressing gaps and enhancing the representation of poorly conserved ecosystems and natural values.

Table 7.6: Extent and types of terrestrial protected areas and changes since 2006

Type of protected area


Number of areas and size in ha*

Change since January 2006*

NSW national parks estate

National parks

Large areas encompassing a range of ecosystem types, allowing for recreation that is compatible with the natural features of the parks

185 (5,017,361)

12 new national parks (increase of 106,895 ha)

Nature reserves

Areas of unique interest for biodiversity, generally smaller than national parks

396 (887,866)

6 new nature reserves (increase of 27,968 ha)

Aboriginal areas

Places of significance to Aboriginal people or sites containing relics of Aboriginal culture

14 (11,717)

2 new areas (increase of 13 ha)

Historic sites

Areas of national importance, including buildings, objects, monuments and landscapes

15 (3,066)

No change**

State conservation areas

Areas it has been agreed are able to be managed for conservation, provide opportunities for sustainable visitor use and permit mining interests

110 (447,811)

15 new areas (increase of 99,765 ha)

Regional parks

Conserved areas in a natural or modified landscape which provide opportunities for recreation

14 (7,289)

3 new parks (increase of 1,760 ha)

Karst conservation reserves

Areas of limestone or dolomite characterised by landforms, such as caves and their decorative features, produced by solution, abrasion or collapse or by underground drainage

4 (4,565)

No new reserves, but an increase of 156 ha to existing reserves

Community conservation areas: Zone 1

As for national parks

27 (124,996)

No increase

Community conservation areas: Zone 2

As for Aboriginal areas

5 (21,618)

No increase

Community conservation areas: Zone 3

As for state conservation areas

19 (187,288)

No increase



789 (6,713,577)
8.38% of NSW

236,558 ha

Wilderness declarations

Wilderness areas

Remote and undisturbed areas of sufficient size to enable long-term preservation of their natural systems and biological diversity, currently gazetted over existing national parks and nature reserves

49 contiguous areas (2,057,759)

2 new wilderness areas and additions to three existing areas (increase of 138,902 ha)

Wild rivers

Waterways in near-pristine condition in terms of animal and plant life and water flow, and free of unnatural rates of siltation or bank erosion, currently gazetted over existing national parks and nature reserves



Reserved areas in state forests

State forest dedicated reserve

Dedicated reserve (Special protection) managed to maximise protection of very high natural and cultural conservation values and not available for timber harvesting (Zones FMZ1 and PMP1.3)

25,636 ha (1.29% of total native forest estate)

Increase of 542 ha Five additional flora reserves set apart (2,262.5 ha), with some reserves transferred to national parks

State forest informal reserve: Special management

Informal reserve (Special management): Specific management and protection of natural and cultural conservation values where it is not possible or practical to include them in Zone 1. Not available for timber harvesting (Zones FMZ2 and PMP1.2)

169,658 ha (8.52% of total forest estate)

Reduction of 57,428 ha
Transfer of tenure to national parks as part of the Western Regional Assessment

State forest informal reserve: Harvest exclusion

Informal reserve (Harvest exclusion): Management for conservation of identified values and/or ecosystems and their natural processes. Areas where harvesting is excluded but other management and productions activities not permitted in Zone 1 or 2 may be appropriate such as grazing or mineral exploration (Zone FMZ3a)

283,340 ha (14.23% of total forest estate)

Decline of 35,907 ha
Transfer of tenure to National parks as part of the Western Regional Assessment

Source: DECC and DPI data 2009

Notes: * As at 13 February 2009
** A 1-ha increase in the area of historic heritage has been recorded, probably due to improvement in mapping accuracy.
*** Number of rivers and their associated tributaries

Progress towards a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system

The NSW Government is committed to the objectives of building a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) system of reserves and has adopted national targets for the reservation of ecosystems set out in Directions for the National Reserve System (NRS) (NRMMC 2005). The targets are based on bioregions defined in the Interim Bioregionalisation of Australia (IBRA) (Thackway & Cresswell 1995).

Comprehensiveness is the need to conserve samples of each element of biodiversity in protected areas. The coarse-level national target is for at least 80% of the number of extant regional ecosystems to be included in the NRS in each IBRA bioregion by 2015 (NRMMC 2005).

Representativeness is an extension of comprehensiveness whereby the full variability of biodiversity is protected. The coarse-level national target is that examples of at least 80% of extant regional ecosystems should be included in the NRS in each IBRA subbioregion by 2020 (NRMMC 2005).

Adequacy is the long-term capacity or resilience of protected areas to sustain the biodiversity within their boundaries. It is dependent on the design of reserves (size, shape, configuration and location in the landscape), adjacent land uses and management regimes. There are, as yet, no specific targets for the adequacy of the NRS.

Map 7.4 shows the proportion of land in public reserves in each of the 18 bioregions of NSW. The National Land and Water Resources Audit recommended 15% as an appropriate target for the reserve system in each bioregion of Australia (CoA 2002).

Map 7.4: Reservation of bioregions in NSW

Map 7.4

The bioregions of eastern NSW are generally well reserved compared with bioregions in the central and far west of the state which are generally under-represented. Of the 18 bioregions in NSW, 11 still have less than 50% representation of their regional ecosystems within the reserves system (comprehensiveness). At a finer scale, 79 of the 129 subregions in NSW still have less than 50 of their regional ecosystems represented within the NRS (representativeness). Despite the reasonably high levels of comprehensiveness and representativeness of ecosystems in the eastern and alpine bioregions (Table 7.7), the adequacy of the reserves in these bioregions could still be improved (DECC 2008b).

The reservation goals adopted in the NSW National Parks Establishment Plan 2008 are based on the principle that existing and future opportunities for building a full CAR system will vary greatly across the state (DECC 2008b). It recognises that in regions where little native vegetation remains the prospects of establishing a formal public reserve system are limited and long-term reservation goals are adjusted accordingly.

Table 7.7: Progress towards long-term reservation objectives

NSW section of the bioregion

Area (ha)

Area in managed reserves* (ha)

Reserves (% of bioregion)

Remaining native vegetation cover (% of bioregion)

Progress towards comprehensiveness** (%)

Progress towards representativeness*** (%)

Regions where over 70% of native vegetation remains relatively intact

Mulga Lands







Channel Country







Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields







Broken Hill Complex







Australian Alps







Murray–Darling Depression







South-east Corner














Regions where 30–70% of native vegetation remains relatively intact

Cobar Peneplain







NSW North Coast







Sydney Basin







Darling Riverine Plains







South-east Queensland







South-eastern Highlands







New England Tableland







Brigalow Belt South














Regions where less than 30% of native vegetation remains relatively intact

South-western Slopes







Source: Adapted from DECC 2008b

Notes: * Area in formal reserves managed by DECCW
** Comprehensiveness target, measured against NRS target: examples of at least 80% of the number of extant regional ecosystems in each bioregion will be represented by 2015.
*** Representativeness target, measured against NRS target: examples of at least 80% of the number of extant regional ecosystems in each subbioregion will be represented by 2020.

In regions where over 70% of native vegetation remains relatively intact, the objective of building a full CAR system remains achievable. In areas with less than 70% of native vegetation, realistic long-term reservation goals are adjusted, depending on the proportion of native vegetation remaining. However, in areas where less than 30% of native vegetation remains intact, a full CAR reserve system is no longer achievable.

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Private land conservation

More than 90% of the land in NSW is outside public conservation reserves and many of the reserves in the protected area network are relatively small and isolated, rather than the large, continuous areas needed to optimally maintain diversity. In order to maintain healthy ecosystems across the whole landscape, it is necessary to look beyond the borders of the protected area network.

In regions which have been highly cleared, all remaining native vegetation is of significant conservation value so the role of conservation on private lands is critical in helping to arrest the decline in biodiversity.

Where native vegetation types are substantially under-represented in the NSW reserve system, the need for complementary conservation measures on private land is also high. Some vegetation formations are now found almost entirely on private land, with only 1% of grasslands, 3% of grassy woodlands, 3% of semi-arid woodlands and 4% of arid shrublands represented in the public reserve system.

Private land conservation schemes

The NSW Government has developed a range of measures to encourage and support conservation on private land, including conservation agreements and wildlife refuges. The variety of schemes available provides flexibility for property owners wishing to conserve biodiversity with differing levels of government assistance available, depending on the level of commitment preferred (Figure 7.5). In response to these schemes the level of involvement of private landholders in biodiversity conservation has grown substantially over recent years.

Figure 7.5: Level of commitment required and level of support provided for different private land conservation programs

Figure 7.5

Source: Adapted from DEC 2005

Conservation partnerships

The NSW Conservation Partners Program establishes and supports long-term partnerships with landholders willing to protect and conserve biodiversity and heritage values on private land. Landholders can choose from a range of options which recognise and formalise their commitment to conservation on their properties. Government support is available, matched to the level of protection provided.

Conservation agreements are voluntary, legally binding covenants that provide protection of biodiversity and natural heritage values in perpetuity. The area under the agreement is registered on the land title, ensuring that if the land is sold the agreement and management requirements remain in place. Rates relief and tax concessions are available to landholders for land subject to a conservation agreement. There are currently 245 conservation agreements covering an area of 23,319 ha.

Wildlife refuges are declared to enable landholders to nominate all or part of a property where land will be managed to retain wildlife and habitat values. A property report and management plan are prepared outlining actions needed to maintain natural values, while ensuring that other compatible property management objectives will still be achieved. A wildlife refuge declaration is free and provides landholders with the flexibility to change the status of the refuge if required. There are 647 wildlife refuges covering all or part of properties, with a total area of 1,933,000 ha.

Property registration is an arrangement that is better suited to landholders wishing to conserve wildlife on private land who prefer not to sign a formal agreement. Applicants can register all or part of a property under the Land for Wildlife or Conserve Wildlife schemes. These schemes provide information and support to assist landholders in managing wildlife and habitats, as well as networking opportunities to share experiences with other landholders with similar interests. There are 250 private landholders in property registration schemes.

Nature Conservation Trust agreements

The Nature Conservation Trust of NSW (NCT) is an independent organisation promoting nature conservation on private land. The NCT operates a revolving fund scheme that buys properties with high conservation value, registers in-perpetuity trust agreements on the title, and then resells them with the agreement on the title. Private landowners entering into covenants may access a range of benefits, including technical advice and assistance with management costs. The NCT currently owns and manages about 20,000 ha of land in NSW.

Privately owned conservation reserves

Substantial areas of native vegetation are owned and managed by non-government organisations, such as Bush Heritage Australia (BHA - formerly the Australian Bush Heritage Fund) and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC). At February 2008, BHA owned and managed 2048 ha in five reserves of high quality native vegetation, while AWC owns and manages 65,000 ha in the Scotia Sanctuary.

Management to enhance biodiversity on private land

A property vegetation plan (PVP) is a voluntary but legally binding agreement between a landholder and the local catchment management authority (CMA). While PVPs were introduced to approve clearing where overall environmental outcomes are maintained or improved, a range of PVPs are now available covering various aspects of habitat improvement, such as revegetation or restoration of vegetation and better management of land and habitat.

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Conservation on other tenures

Forests NSW conservation zones

Forests NSW uses a land classification system that sets out management intent across state forests and identifies areas of forest set aside for conservation and areas available for timber harvesting and other activities (SFNSW 1999). Through this zoning system about 479,000 ha of state forests (24% of the forests estate) is excluded from harvesting for conservation reasons. In addition, approximately the same amount is excluded from harvesting for various silvicultural reasons. These areas make a significant contribution to the protected area network across NSW.

Travelling stock routes

Travelling stock routes (TSRs) are located on Crown land. Approximately 700,000 ha of TSRs in the Eastern and Central divisions of NSW are currently being assessed for their natural values. They are largely situated in environments that are poorly represented in the formal conservation reserve system. Their frequent association with agricultural activity places them in environments that are poorly conserved and heavily disturbed.

A large proportion of TSRs are in bioregions or subregions (IBRA) which are less than 5% reserved and, in some cases, TSRs provide the best, or only, opportunity for conservation of threatened species or communities. The linear network of TSRs forms a fundamental system of landscape corridors, particularly in the sheep–wheat belt and tablelands.

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Marine reserve system

Marine protected areas are coastal, estuarine or ocean areas that are managed to conserve marine biodiversity. They range from small, highly protected areas that focus on species or community protection to large multiple-use areas that include complex linkages of ecosystems and habitats (NSW Government 2001).

The establishment of a representative system of marine protected areas is widely regarded, both nationally and internationally, as one of the most effective mechanisms for protecting biodiversity (ANZECC TFMPA 1998).

The National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas is being developed by the federal and state governments throughout Australia's marine jurisdiction. The primary goal in NSW is to establish a CAR system of marine protected areas that includes a full range of marine biodiversity at ecosystem, habitat and species levels (NSW Government 2001).

The NSW Government has adopted the system of marine and coastal bioregions as the basis for establishing and managing the NSW representative system of marine protected areas (EA 1998; CoA 2006). The integrated marine and coastal bioregionalisation of Australia (IMCRA) describes a series of bioregions for oceanic, nearshore marine and coastal waters (EA 1998; CoA 2006). There are six bioregions in NSW waters (Figure 7.6).

Marine protected areas in NSW complement a range of pollution reduction, catchment management and fisheries management programs that also contribute to marine conservation.

Types of marine protected areas

There are three types of marine protected areas in NSW: marine parks, aquatic reserves and the marine components of national parks and nature reserves (NSW Government 2001).

Marine parks are zoned to conserve marine biodiversity, maintain ecological processes and provide for a range of sustainable uses, such as recreational and commercial fishing, diving, boating, snorkelling, diving and tourism. There are four types of zones: sanctuary, habitat protection, general use and special purpose zones.

National parks and nature reserves include about 46% of the NSW coastline. Many national parks and nature reserves contain significant and extensive areas of marine ecosystems and habitats.

Aquatic reserves are declared primarily to conserve the biodiversity of fish and marine vegetation, and typically support a variety of fishing and collecting activities.

Extent of marine protected areas

An integrated system of marine protected areas is being developed in NSW, including marine parks, aquatic reserves, national parks and nature reserves, to achieve the optimum conservation of biodiversity and habitat protection (NSW Government 2001).

The state's marine parks are managed by the Marine Parks Authority. Six marine parks have been declared and zoned for multiple uses: Cape Byron, Solitary Islands, Lord Howe Island, Port Stephens–Great Lakes, Jervis Bay and Batemans marine parks. This system of marine parks covers approximately 345,100 ha (~34%) of NSW state waters (Map 7.3). No additional marine parks have been declared since 2006 but the zoning plans for Batemans and Port Stephens–Great Lakes commenced operation in 2007.

Zoning plans provide various levels of biodiversity protection in marine parks by regulating activities according to zones, regulating specific activities to manage environmental impacts, and protecting particular species.

In summary:

  • Sanctuary zones account for 12–27.5% of each marine park and provide the highest level of protection by prohibiting all forms of fishing and collecting. Activities that do not harm plants, animals and habitats are permitted, including boating and diving.
  • Habitat protection zones account for 19–73% of each marine park and conserve marine biodiversity by protecting habitats and reducing high impact activities. Recreational fishing and some forms of commercial fishing are permitted.
  • General use zones account for up to 53% of each marine park. A wide range of activities is permitted, including commercial and recreational fishing, provided that they are ecologically sustainable.
  • Special purpose zones account for up to 0.2% of each marine park and are used when there are special management needs, including protection of Aboriginal and other cultural features, or for marine facilities.

Zoning plans regulate some specific activities: for example, there are restrictions on anchoring and the use of vehicles and personal watercraft in some areas. They may also provide additional protection for species of particular significance and only some species can be taken from habitat protection zones while some species are protected throughout entire marine parks.

Management under other legislation, such as fisheries management arrangements, or protection of threatened species under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 and Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, also applies.

Total area of NSW waters included in the various zones of marine parks of each bioregion is shown in Figure 7.6.

Figure 7.6: Areas of marine park zones by bioregion in NSW waters

Figure 7.6

Download Data

Source: Marine Parks Authority data 2009

Notes: Due to rounding effects the summed totals for individual zones within a region may not equal the total percentage for the region.
Special zones are small and are only found in the Tweed-Moreton (0.05%), Manning Shelf (0.1%) and Batemans Shelf (0.2%) bioregions.

Twelve aquatic reserves cover around 2000 ha of NSW waters. Ten of these are located in the Hawkesbury Shelf bioregion around Sydney and there is one on the north coast and one on the south coast.

Coastal areas are currently protected in 62 national parks and nature reserves, covering more than 10% of NSW estuary waters. These parks include ocean coastlines, estuarine waters, shoreline and wetlands, coastal lakes, intertidal ocean beaches and rocky shores, and ocean islands. Some areas of national parks and nature reserves overlap marine parks (such as Myall Lakes) or aquatic reserves (for example, Barrenjoey Head and Towra Point).

Coastal areas that are reserved in national parks and nature reserves are located throughout all marine and coastal bioregions along the coast of NSW, from the Tweed estuary in northern NSW to Nadgee Lake in southern NSW. They range from large parks with a variety of oceanic and estuarine marine ecosystems, habitats and species (such as Eurobodalla and Myall Lakes national parks) to small parks with particular marine and coastal features (Corrie Island, John Gould, Montague Island and Tweed Estuary nature reserves).

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Threats to values in terrestrial reserves

Weeds, pest animals and altered fire regimes are identified as the three most common threats to reserve values (Table 7.8). Although weeds are a threat in more parks than either pest animals or fire, the estimated area affected is less, possibly due to the localised nature of many weed incursions.

Pest animals affect the greatest area of parks. Many pest animal species are widespread and can travel long distances, creating a greater potential for damage over wide areas. Wildfires are sporadic and vary greatly in impact as a result of intensity, frequency, season and fire history. However, the potential severity of the threat of fire is greater than either pests or weeds, and affects a greater area of the parks system at the highest level of threat described in Table 7.8 (severe).

Table 7.8: Extent and severity of most commonly reported threats to terrestrial park values

Type of threat

Number of parks identifying this threat (total parks: 759)

Estimated proportion* of parks affected (%)

Estimated extent of all threats (any level of threat)** (ha)

Estimated extent of severe threat** (ha)

Area of park system effectively managing threat*** (%)



















Source: DECC State of the Parks data 2007

Notes: * Calculated by taking the median point from categorised area data (for example, localised (<5%), scattered (5–15%), widespread (15–50%) and throughout a park (>50%))
** Level of threat includes mild, moderate, high and severe. Severe threat is defined as one that is likely to lead to a loss of reserve values in the foreseeable future if the threat continues at current levels.
*** Effective management is defined as meeting the precautionary principle, that is, that impacts on values are negligible, diminishing, or not increasing.

Climate change

Climate change is likely to exacerbate the impacts of stresses on biodiversity caused by introduced species and altered fire regimes. Changes in the make-up of reserves due to losses and gains of both native and exotic plant and animal species are an inevitable consequence of climate change. The objectives of future reserve management need to shift from preventing ecological change to managing change to minimise biodiversity loss (CSIRO 2008).

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Threats to conservation on private land

The pressures on private land conservation are much the same as those in the formal reserve system. In addition, the predominant land use will generally be a form of production, which is rarely completely compatible with purely conservation objectives. Unusually harsh climatic conditions, such as sustained drought, may periodically exacerbate the incompatibilities and highlight the pressures arising from competing land management needs on private land.

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Threats to marine protected areas

The key threats to the values of marine protected areas are largely the same as the key threats to marine biodiversity and the marine environment. They include resource use, invasive species, pollution from marine and land-based sources, and climate change (MBDWG 2008).

Resource use

Resource use includes activities such as fishing, aquaculture, mariculture, dredging and spoil dumping, exploration and extraction of minerals, oil and gas, shipping and tourism. These can affect biodiversity both directly (such as by altering habitats) and indirectly (for example, by changing food webs).

Marine protected areas are intended to conserve marine biodiversity and maintain ecological processes while providing for the sustainable use of resources. Activities that are conducted within marine protected areas are managed to ensure the sustainability of the activities and that they do not threaten their values. Some resource-use activities are restricted to particular zones or may be prohibited throughout marine protected areas.

Climate change

Climate change is expected to affect marine life in south-eastern Australian waters due to the combined effects of changes to climate and oceanographic factors, such as currents. The general effects of climate change are expected to include changes in the distribution and abundance of species (such as distributions shifting to the south along the NSW coast), changes in the timing of life cycle events (for example, spawning migrations occurring earlier), changes in physiology, morphology and behaviour (such as rates of reproduction and development) and impact on biological communities due to differential effects on individual species (Hobday et al. 2007).

Establishing CAR systems of protected areas is an integral part of the most effective response to the threat of climate change (Hobday et al. 2007; Dunlop & Brown 2008).

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Terrestrial reserve system

The NSW Government is committed to building on the reserve system in line with the principles of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness. NSW already maintains a substantial network of terrestrial conservation reserves in which much of the state's biodiversity is represented and recent additions have substantially enhanced the coverage of the reserve network.

National Parks Establishment Plan

Despite ongoing additions the reserve network is not yet complete. The NSW National Parks Establishment Plan 2008 identifies long-term objectives, and establishes priorities for building the terrestrial reserve system in each biogeographic region of NSW (DECC 2008b). It recognises that this will be part of a long-term mission that may take up to 50 years to achieve.

The broad priorities described by the plan are:

  • establishment of new reserves in many parts of far western and central western NSW, where reservation currently protects less than 5% of the landscape
  • building up existing reserves on the western slopes and tablelands
  • fine-tuning of existing reserve boundaries along the coast and coastal ranges, where nearly 30% of the landscape is presently protected.

Plans of management

Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 a plan of management must be prepared for each terrestrial park and reserve. These plans lead to better understanding of the natural and cultural features that must be protected and how to best manage them. As at June 2009, 270 plans were adopted covering 380 parks and reserves. In total, more than 4.8 million hectares are now covered by a plan of management, representing almost 73% of the reserve system.

State of the Parks

Through the State of the Parks program, the condition of parks is monitored and the management of pressures on protected areas evaluated in order to find better ways to manage these areas more effectively. A State of the Parks survey was undertaken in 2007, and the data compiled is being used to support planning and management decisions on a range of issues.

Healthy Parks Healthy People

Contact with nature and the availability of recreational opportunities can reduce the stresses of urban living and enhance community cohesion, health and wellbeing. NSW has a strong history of providing a range of recreational opportunities in its parks and reserves that allow residents and visitors to appreciate and learn about the state's unique natural environment and cultural heritage.

A target under Priority E8 of State Plan 2006: A new direction for NSW (NSW Government 2006) which relates to people's use of parks, sporting and recreational facilities and participation in the arts and cultural activities, is: 'Increase the number of visits to State Government parks and reserves by 20% by 2016'. A review of State Plan 2006 commenced in August 2009 and this may adjust some of the plan's priorities and targets.

Healthy Parks Healthy People is a program to improve the accessibility of parks and reserves, foster an appreciation of their benefits and optimise access to recreational opportunities. New visitation plans are being developed to achieve the State Plan target. Currently, the parks system caters to over 38 million visits each year.

Taskforce on Tourism and National Parks in NSW

The NSW Taskforce on Tourism and National Parks was established to provide advice on opportunities to enhance sustainable ecotourism in the public reserve system, compatible with the objectives of conservation (DECC 2008c).

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Private land conservation

Outside the reserve system, the NSW Government is working with landholders, CMAs and other government agencies to establish a range of conservation agreements over private and other public lands which contain important natural and cultural heritage values (DECC 2008b). Non-government organisations such as NCT, BHA and AWC are now making increasingly valuable contributions to conservation.

Since 2004, the variety and flexibility of the mechanisms available to support conservation on private land has been significantly expanded and refined. Such measures are increasingly targeted to provide greater connectivity across whole landscapes and complement the reserve system by protecting natural values that are under-represented, as well as providing buffers and corridors to enhance the network of reserves.

Great Eastern Ranges Initiative

The Great Eastern Ranges Initiative is a program designed to strengthen the resilience of natural systems in adapting to future environmental threats, such as climate change. To achieve this objective the aims of the program are to maintain, improve and reconnect 'islands' of natural vegetation along the great eastern ranges which extend for 2800 kilometres from the Australian Alps north of Melbourne to the Atherton Tablelands north-west of Cairns. Communities, agencies and governments in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory are all involved in this project. The NSW Government is providing more than $7 million over three years to implement the initiative in the state.

Conservation covenants: perpetual lease conversion program

The conversion of Crown leases to freehold under the Crown Lands (Continued Tenures) Act 1989 presents a unique opportunity to conserve biodiversity by placing covenants on property titles during the conversion process. Approximately 650,000 ha of freehold land title will be covenanted to provide additional levels of protection of existing biodiversity values. As at 3 August 2009, about 137,000 ha had been conserved in this way. The NSW Government has provided $13 million over four years under the City and Country Environment Restoration Program to purchase a select number of leases with high conservation value for inclusion in the public reserve system.

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Marine protected areas

The NSW Government is committed to building a network of marine protected areas that protects a cross-section of marine biodiversity in NSW in line with CAR principles.

Zoning plans are used as the framework to deliver effective multiple use management of marine parks. Since the last SoE report, the commencement of zoning plans for the Batemans and Port Stephens–Great Lakes marine parks has substantially enhanced the management of the system of marine protected areas. The current focus of improvement is to refine the day-to-day management of the existing marine parks.

Under the provisions of the Marine Parks Act 1997, zoning plans must be reviewed after their first five years of operation and every 10 years thereafter. Reviews are now being conducted for the first two parks established: Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands.

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Future directions

The ongoing commitment to building a representative terrestrial reserve system in NSW and establishing a representative system of marine protected areas should be maintained.

The building of a fully representative terrestrial reserve system that meets CAR objectives is a long-term goal that may take several decades to achieve. The NSW National Parks Establishment Plan 2008 (DECC 2008b) recognises this and provides directions for development over the next 10 years.

The main priorities for further development of the terrestrial reserve system are under-represented ecosystems and habitats, rivers and wetlands in western NSW, critical landscape corridors, lands within important water catchments and culturally significant places.

Conservation on private and other public land will play an increasingly important role in supplementing the public reserve system by expanding the range and extent of the natural values that are protected. Measures that encourage further conservation on private land should be supported and new initiatives that facilitate conservation should continue to be explored and refined.

A range of mechanisms that provide habitat protection and improve the state of native vegetation have been developed, including PVPs and BioBanking. Land management practices that maintain or enhance habitat values on private land and improve connectivity across landscapes should be encouraged and actively promoted.

The growing influence of climate change will require greater flexibility and an adjustment to the objectives of park management in future, from managing to prevent ecological change at present to managing adaptive change in ecosystems to minimise the loss of biodiversity and natural values.

A comprehensive and well-structured network of reserves, supplemented by strategically located and focused conservation measures on private land, will provide the most effective protection to mitigate against the effects of climate change.

Efforts to promote greater use and increased public awareness and appreciation of parks, reserves and protected areas will play an important role in maintaining support for reservation.

Improved coordination and integration of management of the coastal reserves in the terrestrial reserve system and marine protected areas is desirable to optimise outcomes across all marine and coastal ecosystems.

Zoning plans provide for multiple use management of all marine parks and enable a range of sustainable uses to occur in conjunction with the objectives of biodiversity conservation. The management of the marine protected area system is undergoing continuous improvement, and it is anticipated that zoning plan reviews will commence for Lord Howe Island Marine Park late in 2009 and Cape Byron Marine Park in 2011.

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Home SoE 2009 View printable page Last modified: 30 November 2009