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SoE 2012 > Biodiversity > 5.3 Reserves and conservation


Biodiversity chapter 5

5.3 Reserves and conservation

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5.3 Reserves and conservation

The area of the reserve system has grown by 5.7% since 2009, with significant additions to under-represented areas.

At January 2012, the New South Wales terrestrial reserve system covered almost 7.1 million hectares or 8.8% of the state. Since the beginning of 2009, the reserve system has grown by 380,247 hectares, an increase of 5.7%.

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

In regions where remnant vegetation is scarce, opportunities for additions to the public reserve network are limited and measures to promote conservation on private land and other tenures are being pursued.

Conservation on both private and public land provides greater connectivity across landscapes. Conservation measures beyond the public reserve system expand the range of natural values that are protected and provide buffers and corridors to enhance the network of reserves.

The system of marine protected areas covers 345,100 hectares or approximately 34% of NSW waters and most NSW marine bioregions are well-represented.

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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 2012 at the front of the report.

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

Protected areas are the cornerstone of conservation efforts in NSW. The state's public reserve system comprises a substantial network of protected areas which:

  • conserves the full range of habitats and ecosystems, plant and animal species, and significant geological features and landforms in NSW
  • protects areas of significant cultural heritage
  • provides opportunities for recreation and education.

However, more than 90% of land in NSW is not in the public reserve system. To provide effective conservation across the whole landscape and conserve all natural values, measures are increasingly being focused on public and privately owned areas outside the reserve system.

In the NSW marine environment, six marine parks with multiple-use zoning plans conserve marine and coastal ecosystems and habitats, while permitting a wide range of beneficial uses. Twelve aquatic reserves protect important marine habitats and nursery areas.

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Status and trends

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Terrestrial reserve system

Extent of public reserve system

At 1 January 2012, the area of the NSW public reserve system protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and Brigalow and Nandewar Community Conservation Area Act 2005 had grown to 861 parks, a total of 7,080,934 hectares, or approximately 8.83% of NSW.

Since 1 January 2009, the area protected under both these Acts has increased by 380,247 hectares, an additional 5.7% of the total area reserved. Significant additions to the reserve system since January 2009 include Toorale National Park and State Conservation Area (85,251 hectares), the Riverina Red Gum Reserves (106,364 ha), South-Western Cypress Reserves (54,387 ha) and further additions to the Brigalow and Nandewar Community Conservation Areas (22,277 ha).

Map 5.3 shows the location of national parks and reserves managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and reserves managed by Forests NSW, as well as the marine parks and aquatic reserves.

Map 5.3: National parks and forest reserves, marine parks and aquatic reserves in NSW

Map 5.3

Table 5.8 describes the main types of protected area in the terrestrial reserve system and the additions between 2009 and 2012. There have been significant additions to most types of protected area and these have largely focused on addressing gaps in the system and enhancing the representation of poorly conserved ecosystems and natural values.

Table 5.8: Extent and types of terrestrial protected areas in NSW and changes since 2009

Type of protected area


Number of areas (size in hectares)

Change since January 2009

NSW national parks and reserves

National parks

Large areas encompassing a range of ecosystems, allowing for recreation that is compatible with the area's natural features

199 (5,188,434 ha)

14 new national parks (increase of 171,223 ha)

Nature reserves

Areas with significant biodiversity values, generally smaller than national parks

417 (942,761 ha)

21 new nature reserves (increase of 54,985 ha)

Aboriginal areas

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

19 (14,171 ha)

5 new areas (increase of 2,454 ha)

Historic sites

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

16 (3,023 ha)

1 new area (overall decrease of 43 ha)

State conservation areas

Areas managed for conservation while providing opportunities for sustainable visitor use and permitting mining

125 (554,370 ha)

16 new areas (increase of 113,679 ha)

Regional parks

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

19 (22,354 ha)

5 new parks (increase of 15,065 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 (5,172 ha)

No new reserves, but an increase of 607 ha to existing reserves

Community conservation areas: Zone 1

As for national parks

34 (132,464 ha)

7 new parks (increase of 11,162 ha)

Community conservation areas: Zone 2

As for Aboriginal areas

5 (21,661 ha)

No new areas, but an increase of 43 ha to existing areas

Community conservation areas: Zone 3

As for state conservation areas

23 (196,524 ha)

4 new areas (increase of 11,072 ha)



861 (7,080,934 ha)
8.83% of NSW

380,247 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

51 contiguous areas (2,091,318 ha)

2 new wilderness areas and additions to 15 existing areas (increase of 207,314 ha)

Wild rivers

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

7 rivers and associated tributaries

No new rivers and associated tributaries

Reserved areas in state forests

State forest dedicated reserve: special protection

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

29,177 ha (1.33% of total native forest estate)

4,773 ha reduction with transfer of estate to NPWS for addition to national parks

State forest informal reserve: special management

Informal reserve (special management): allowing 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.)

167,177 ha (7.59% of total forest estate)

Reduction of 57,428 ha

State forest informal reserve: harvest exclusion

Informal reserve (harvest exclusion): managed for conservation of identified values and ecosystems and their natural processes. In these areas, timber harvesting is excluded but other management and production activities not permitted in Zone 1 or 2 may be appropriate, such as grazing or mineral exploration (Zone FMZ3a).

229,544 ha (10.43% of total forest estate)

Decrease of 52,230 ha Transfer of tenure to NPWS as part of the Western Regional Assessment

Source: NPWS and Forests NSW data 2012

Note: Data is as at the beginning of 2012

Progress towards a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system

The NSW Government is committed to building a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) system of reserves and has adopted national targets for reserving ecosystems which are set out in Australia's Strategy for the National Reserve System 2009–2030 (NRMMC 2009) and the NSW National Parks Establishment Plan 2008 (DECC 2008c). The targets are based on bioregions and subregions defined in the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) (Thackway & Cresswell 1995).

'Comprehensiveness' requires that each recognised ecosystem is represented in protected areas. The broad national target is for at least 80% of regional ecosystems to be included in the national reserve system (NRS) in each IBRA bioregion by 2015 (NRMMC 2009).

'Representativeness' means that the full variability of biodiversity within each ecosystem is protected. The broad national target is for at least 80% of regional ecosystems to be included in the NRS in each IBRA subregion by 2025 (NRMMC 2005).

'Adequacy' is the long-term capacity of protected areas to sustain the biodiversity within their boundaries. The viability of reserves in achieving their conservation objectives depends on their size, shape, configuration and location, as well as the land uses and management regimes on adjacent land. No specific targets have been established for the adequacy of the NRS, but wherever possible, reserves are located in areas where there is still relatively good habitat connectivity. In this way, reserves form the foundation of efforts to retain and reconnect habitat and establish corridors to facilitate species' migration in a changing climate.

Map 5.4 shows the proportion of land in public reserves in each of the 18 bioregions of NSW. The National Land and Water Resources Audit landscape health assessment recommended that 15% of the area in each bioregion should be protected in public reserves (CoA 2002).

Map 5.4: Reservation of bioregions in NSW

Map 5.4

The bioregions of eastern NSW are generally well-represented in the reserve system compared with bioregions in the centre and far west of the state which are mostly under-represented. However, significant progress has been made recently in adding under-represented areas to the reserve system. The same map in SoE 2009 showed four bioregions (NSW South Western Slopes, Darling Riverine Plains, Riverina and the Broken Hill Complex) with less than 2% of their area reserved. Now, only the Broken Hill Complex has this level of representation and coverage has improved in all four bioregions. These figures demonstrate that the new additions to the reserve system have been targeted effectively to under-represented areas.

Of the 18 bioregions in NSW, four still have fewer than 50% of their regional ecosystems included in the reserve system. At a finer scale, 29 of the 129 subregions in NSW still have fewer than half of their regional ecosystems represented in the reserve system.

Despite the relatively high levels of comprehensiveness and representativeness of ecosystems in the eastern and alpine bioregions (Map 5.4; Table 5.9), the adequacy of the reserves in these bioregions could still be improved.

The goals 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 2008c). 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 remaining, realistic long-term reservation goals have been adjusted, depending on the proportion of native vegetation intact. However, in areas where less than 30% of native vegetation remains, a full CAR reserve system is not practically achievable. Table 5.9 describes progress in meeting CAR objectives across the state.

Table 5.9: Progress towards meeting long-term reservation objectives in NSW bioregions

NSW section of the bioregion

Area (hectares)

Area in formal reserves managed by NPWS (hectares)

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 Eastern Queensland







South Eastern Highlands







New England Tableland







Brigalow Belt South














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

NSW South Western Slopes







Source: Adapted from DECC 2008c; NPWS data 2012

Notes: The NRS target for comprehensiveness is for at least 80% of extant regional ecosystems in each IBRA bioregion to be protected in public reserves by 2015. Ecosystems in a bioregion are excluded from the calculation where they lie along the margins of the region and their occurrence is relatively insignificant.
The NRS target for representativeness is for at least 80% of extant regional ecosystems in each IBRA subregion to be protected in public reserves by 2025. Ecosystems in a subregion are excluded from the calculation where they lie along the margins of the region and their occurrence is relatively insignificant.

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Private land conservation

To maintain productivity and healthy ecosystems across whole landscapes, areas need to be conserved beyond the borders of the public reserve system. Many reserves are relatively small and isolated, rather than being the large, continuous areas needed to optimally maintain biodiversity. As more than 90% of the land in NSW lies outside the reserve system, private land conservation can play a key role in enhancing landscape connectivity and resilience, and protecting threatened species, populations and ecological communities.

Where native vegetation types are substantially under-represented in the public reserve system, complementary conservation measures on private land are important. In many regions that have been highly cleared, all remaining native vegetation has significant conservation value. Some native 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 contained in the public reserve system.

Table 5.10 shows the area of private land subject to the various conservation programs in NSW discussed below. To date, this area amounts to around 3,215,750 hectares or about 3.9% of NSW.

Table 5.10: Areas of land subject to a private land conservation agreement in NSW at 30 June 2012

Conservation measure


Area (hectares)

Conservation agreements


135,855 ha

Wildlife refuges


1,936,198 ha*

Property registration


62,487 ha**

Conservation covenants

Not available

1,000,390 ha

PVPs in perpetuity

Not available

80,820 ha



3,215,750 ha

Notes: * 10–20% is dedicated to conservation; 80–90 % is managed with compatible land uses.
** Includes around 30,000 ha of natural bushland and 4000 ha of rehabilitated bushland.

Private land conservation programs

The NSW Government has developed a range of measures under its Conservation Partners Program to encourage and support conservation on private land. The options available provide flexibility for property owners wishing to conserve biodiversity and natural heritage on their land. Differing levels of government assistance are available, depending on the level of commitment preferred.

The level of involvement of private landholders in biodiversity and natural heritage conservation has grown substantially over recent years in response to the various options now available, which are described below.

Conservation agreements are legally binding covenants that are entered into voluntarily to protect biodiversity and natural and cultural heritage values in perpetuity on private and other public lands. 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. Rate relief and tax concessions are available to landholders for land subject to a conservation agreement. There are currently 344 conservation agreements protecting 135,855 hectares of high conservation value land in NSW.

Wildlife refuges are legal declarations that enable landholders to voluntarily 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 currently 670 wildlife refuges providing protection for all or part of properties covering a total area of 1,936,198 hectares in NSW.

Property registration: This arrangement suits landholders wishing to conserve wildlife on private land who prefer not to enter into a legal agreement. Applicants can voluntarily register all or part of a property under the Land for Wildlife scheme. This scheme provides information and support to assist landholders in managing wildlife and habitats, as well as opportunities to share experiences with other landholders. There are currently 845 private landholders registered in Land for Wildlife committing more than 62,487 hectares of land to wildlife conservation in NSW.

Property vegetation plans

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 native vegetation clearing by offsetting other areas for conservation, 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. Some PVPs are agreed to in perpetuity for the permanent protection of native vegetation. More information on PVPs can be found in Biodiversity 5.2.

Conservation covenants: perpetual lease conversion program

The conversion of Crown leases to freehold under the Crown Lands (Continued Tenures) Act 1989 has enabled conservation covenants to be placed on property titles during the conversion process. Over a million hectares of private land are subject to conservation covenants in NSW.

Nature Conservation Trust

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 an in-perpetuity trust agreement on their title, and then resells the properties 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 has purchased 21 properties under this scheme, protecting 21,865 hectares of high conservation value land.

Privately-owned conservation reserves

Some high conservation value properties in NSW are owned and managed by non-government organisations, such as Bush Heritage Australia and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Most properties are legally protected in perpetuity under conservation agreements. Bush Heritage Australia has five properties in NSW: Scottsdale (1328 hectares), Burren-Burren (411 ha), Brogo (120 ha), Tarcutta Hills (432 ha) and Sylvan Reserve (54 ha). The Australian Wildlife Conservancy owns and manages Scotia Sanctuary in NSW (65,000 ha).

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Conservation on other tenures

Forests NSW conservation zones

Forests NSW uses a land classification system in state forests that sets out management intent and identifies areas set aside for conservation (SFNSW 1999). Through this zoning system, about 426,000 hectares of state forest (19%) are excluded from harvesting for conservation reasons. A similar amount of land is also excluded from harvesting for silvicultural reasons. These areas make a significant contribution to the protected area network in NSW.

Travelling stock routes

Travelling stock routes (TSRs) are authorised thoroughfares for moving stock from one location to another. On a TSR, grass verges are wider and property fences are set back further from the road than is usual, so the stock can eat the vegetation.

TSRs are located on Crown land, and are often found in environments that are poorly represented in the public reserve system, heavily disturbed and in poor condition. In many of these areas, TSRs remain in relatively good condition and provide the best or only opportunity for improved conservation of threatened species or communities. They form a fundamental network of corridors connecting fragmented landscapes, particularly in the sheep–wheat belt and the tablelands. The natural values of approximately 700,000 hectares of TSRs in the eastern and central divisions of NSW are currently being assessed.

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Marine protected areas

Marine protected areas are coastal, estuarine or oceanic areas that are managed to conserve marine biodiversity. Some are small, highly protected areas that focus on species or community protection. Others are large multiple-use areas that contain complex ecosystems and habitats which are managed within a multiple-use framework to provide various levels of protection while permitting recreational and commercial uses (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 established by the Australian and state governments throughout Australia's marine jurisdictions. The primary goal in NSW is to establish a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) system of marine protected areas that includes the full range of biodiversity, ecosystems, habitats and species (NSW Government 2001).

The integrated marine and coastal bioregionalisation of Australia (IMCRA) describes a series of bioregions for oceanic, near-shore marine and coastal waters (EA 1998; CoA 2006). The NSW Government has adopted this framework for establishing and managing a representative system of marine protected areas in NSW (EA 1998; CoA 2006). There are six bioregions in NSW waters (Map 5.3).

Types of marine protected areas

There are three types of marine protected area 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 and tourism. There are four types of zone: sanctuary, habitat protection, general use and special purpose.

Aquatic reserves are declared primarily to conserve the biodiversity of fish and marine vegetation and protect important habitat or nursery areas. The type of protection and the activities permitted vary among reserves.

National parks and nature reserves: Many national parks and nature reserves contain significant and extensive marine ecosystems and habitats.

Extent of marine protected areas

An integrated system of marine protected areas is being developed in NSW to conserve marine biodiversity, recover threatened species, and allow for the sustainable use of resources (NSW Government 2001). Marine protected areas are located in all marine and coastal bioregions along the coast of NSW, from the Tweed estuary in northern NSW to Nadgee Lake in southern NSW.

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 hectares (around 34%) of NSW state waters (Map 5.3). No additional marine parks have been declared since 2006 but the zoning plans for Batemans and Port Stephens–Great Lakes marine parks began operating in 2007.

Twelve aquatic reserves cover around 2000 hectares 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.

Marine and coastal areas are protected in 62 national parks and nature reserves within the terrestrial reserve system (2004 data), covering more than 10% of NSW estuary waters and incorporating about 46% of the NSW coastline. These areas include ocean coastlines, estuaries, coastal lakes, wetlands, intertidal areas, ocean beaches and rocky shores, and islands.

Some national parks and nature reserves adjoin marine parks, such as in the Myall Lakes region, or aquatic reserves, such as at Barrenjoey Head and Towra Point.

Figure 5.6 shows the area of NSW waters included in marine parks in each bioregion.

Figure 5.6: Area and percentage of each marine park zone in force in NSW bioregions

Figure 5.6

Download Data

Source: Marine Parks Authority data 2009

Notes: 'Total (all zones)' refers to the percentage of each bioregion in NSW waters incorporated into marine parks (not the total % of zones within parks).
Special purpose zones are very small and are therefore not shown in the figure. They cover 0.05% of the Tweed–Moreton bioregion, 0.1% of Manning Shelf and 0.2% of Batemans Shelf.

Zoning plans

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. The purpose and characteristics of the different zones (shown in Figure 5.6) are described below.

Sanctuary zones comprise between 6 and 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 comprise 14–73% 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 comprise up to 16% of each marine park. A wide range of activities is permitted, including commercial and recreational fishing provided they are ecologically sustainable.

Special purpose zones are very small and apply to 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. Only some species can be taken from habitat protection zones while some species are protected throughout marine parks.

Protection under other legislation, such as controls on fisheries operations under the Fisheries Management Act 1994, or protection of threatened species under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, also applies.

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Threats to values in terrestrial reserves

Park managers have identified the five major threats to national parks and reserves as weeds, pest animals, fire, illegal activities, and habitat and species isolation (Table 5.11). Weeds are a threat in the most parks due to localised or scattered infestations, but the area affected is less than that affected by pest animals. Weeds mainly threaten biodiversity, particularly threatened species, native flora and ecological communities. Many pest animal species are widely distributed and can travel long distances and damage large areas. For more information on the impacts of pest animals and weeds, see Biodiversity 5.4.

Table 5.11: Extent and severity of the threats to park values most commonly reported by NSW park managers

Type of threat

No. of parks identifying this threat as a concern

Estimated severity of impact (proportion of park area affected)

Total area of all parks affected












Pest animals














Illegal activities







Habitat isolation







Source: NPWS State of the Parks data 2010

Notes: The estimated severity of impact is calculated by taking the median point from data for the following categories: mild threats – localised (<5% of area); moderate threats – scattered (5–15%); high threats – widespread (15–50%); and severe threats – throughout a park (>50%). A severe threat is defined as being likely to lead to a loss of natural values in the foreseeable future if it continues at current levels.

Bushfires occur sporadically and vary greatly in their impact due to the intensity, frequency and season of occurence as well as the recent fire history of the area affected. Their severity has been moderated since the last survey due to above-average rainfall and improved management. When fire does occur, however, the potential severity of the threat is greater than the threat posed by either pest animals or weeds. For more information on the impacts of bushfires, see Biodiversity 5.5.

Illegal activities such as trail biking, vandalism, dumping, stock encroachment and pig dogging are increasing but the impacts tend to be localised. These activities affect biodiversity, particularly threatened species and native flora, and Aboriginal cultural values, and have a negative effect on the experience of visitors to parks.

Parks where habitat or species isolation are a concern typically lack connectivity with other natural areas as they:

  • consist of remnant vegetation within a cleared landscape
  • are internally fragmented in design with a series of parcels of land separated by other land tenures
  • contain internal physical barriers, such as major roads, that limit opportunities for recruitment or migration of some native fauna.

Climate change

Climate change is likely to:

  • exacerbate the impacts on biodiversity caused by fragmented landscapes, introduced species and altered fire regimes
  • alter the representativeness of reserves due to losses and gains of native and exotic species and ecosystems.

To manage the impacts of climate change, the objectives of future reserve management should shift from preventing ecological change to managing change to minimise the loss of biodiversity (Dunlop & Brown 2008).

The most important strategies for managing the effects of climate change in NSW reserves are building ecological resilience, improving landscape connectivity, ensuring effective fire management, and identifying priorities for pest and weed control.

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Threats to conservation on private land

The pressures that affect protected areas on private land are much the same as those affecting public reserves. These include weeds and pest animals, fire regimes, climate variability such as drought and flood, activities such as firewood and bushrock collection, stock encroachment, and different neighbouring land uses.

Where the primary land use is a form of agricultural production, some activities may not be completely compatible with specific conservation objectives. Land managers may need to address potential threats from agricultural land uses that threaten conservation values. Unpredictable events, such as bushfires or sustained drought, may periodically exacerbate these threats and highlight the pressures arising from incompatible management objectives on private land.

To enable private landholders to successfully manage their land for conservation in the long term, it is critical to maintain monitoring and support services. Support includes continuing to recognise that private landholders' legal commitments to protect and conserve biodiversity and natural heritage are in the public interest through rate and tax concessions.

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Threats to values in marine protected areas

The key threats to marine protected areas include overuse of resources, invasive species, marine pollution, land-based impacts and climate change (MBDWG 2008).

Resource use

Resource use includes fishing, aquaculture, mariculture, shipping and tourism, dredging and spoil dumping, and exploration and extraction of minerals, oil and gas. Marine protected areas conserve marine biodiversity and maintain ecological processes while providing for the sustainable use of resources. They work in concert with other programs that manage resource use. Activities conducted in marine protected areas are managed to ensure they are sustainable and do not threaten protected area values. Some activities are restricted to particular zones or may be prohibited throughout marine protected areas.

Invasive species

Invasive species are mainly associated with the shipping industry and ballast water exchange, but can also be associated with the aquarium industry and recreational boating (MBDWG 2008).

Invasive species are managed in marine protected areas by:

  • restricting ballast water exchange
  • ordering the removal of boats with heavily-fouled hulls from marine parks
  • conducting monitoring programs to detect invasive species
  • on-site management to enable a rapid response to threats
  • maintaining or improving the health and resilience of the marine environment.

Marine pollution

Marine pollution includes debris from boating and shipping activities, nutrients from aquaculture, and spills or leakage of oil and toxic substances from the mining of oil, gas and minerals from the seafloor (MBDWG 2008).

In marine parks, zoning and operational plans aim to reduce the overall threats by eliminating, regulating or reducing the activities with the highest risk to marine park values. Many activities that may cause pollution are managed by agencies other than the Marine Parks Authority, but close relationships exist with these agencies to manage the risks.

Land-based impacts

Land-based sources of pollution that can impact on marine biodiversity include pesticides, heavy metals, nutrients, sediment and litter (Hobday et al. 2006; MBDWG 2008). The land-based activities most likely to affect the marine environment are foreshore development, sewage outfalls, and stormwater or catchment runoff.

Land-based threats are managed by locating marine protected areas where the threats are relatively small or through land-use planning, management of catchments and pollution reduction programs.

Climate change

Marine life in south-eastern Australian waters is increasingly being affected by the combined effects of changes to weather patterns and oceanographic factors such as currents. The effects of climate change on the marine environment (Hobday et al. 2006) are expected to include:

  • changes in the distribution and abundance of species such as the southward movement of species along the NSW coast in response to higher temperatures
  • changes in the timing of life cycle events, such as earlier spawning migrations
  • changes in physiology, morphology and behaviour, such as the rates of reproduction and development
  • impacts on biological communities due to different effects on individual species.

Comprehensive, adequate and representative systems of protected areas are an effective response to the threat of climate change (Hobday et al. 2006; Dunlop & Brown 2008). They can build resilience by returning areas to a more natural condition and will be important in assessing the impacts of climate change by providing benchmark areas for monitoring.

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Established responses

NSW 2021

NSW 2021: A plan to make NSW number one (NSW Government 2011) is the Government's 10-year plan for NSW. Under Goal 22 – 'Protect our natural environment', the plan contains the following target: 'Protect and conserve land, biodiversity and native vegetation' to be achieved through the following strategies:

  • 'Identify and seek to acquire land of high conservation and strategic conservation value, for permanent conservation measures'
  • 'Establish voluntary arrangements with landowners over the next decade to bring an average 20,000 hectares per year of private land under conservation management and an average 300,000 hectares per year of private land improved for sustainable management'.

The priority actions associated with this target are to 'work with catchment management authorities (CMAs) and local community groups to protect and improve habitats on private lands'. Actions to conserve biodiversity and native vegetation include:

  • 'Purchase and protect strategic areas of high conservation value and ensure more green spaces across Sydney and NSW through the $40-million Green Corridors Program'
  • 'Establish more national parks including a new national park to protect the sensitive Dharawal State Conservation Area and continue the reserve establishment program'.

These targets and activities are described in greater detail under Responses in Biodiversity 5.1.

Additions to the terrestrial reserve system

Since 1 January 2009, over 260 additions were made to the reserve system across 15 NSW bioregions. These included 60 additions to parks in the Great Eastern Ranges and additions to over 40 areas protecting lowland coastal ecosystems. There have also been significant additions to:

  • semi-arid grasslands and woodlands in the Murray–Darling Depression, Cobar Peneplain, Riverina and Mulga Lands bioregions
  • river red gum forests mainly in the Riverina bioregion
  • the creeks and upland swamps in the south of Sydney in Dharawal National Park
  • the blue gum high forests and associated biodiversity in the Berowra Valley National Park north of Sydney.

Plans of management for the terrestrial rserve system

Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, a plan of management must be prepared for each terrestrial park and reserve. These plans identify the natural and cultural features that must be protected and specify ways to best manage them. By 1 January 2012, a total of 331 plans had been adopted, covering 472 parks and reserves. In total, more than 5.5 million hectares are now covered by a plan of management, representing around 79% of the reserve system.

Managing threats in the terrestrial reserve system

Pest and weed management: The management of pests and weeds in reserves focuses on areas where native animals and plants are the most threatened or where pests are likely to affect neighbouring land. Key strategies in managing these threats include:

  • regional pest strategies – by June 2012, updated strategies for 2012–15 had been developed for all reserves
  • identifying and prioritising sites where biodiversity is at greatest risk from widespread pests and weeds
  • threat abatement plans such as those for the fox and bitou bush
  • the Management Plan for Myrtle Rust on the National Parks Estate (OEH 2011b).

Fire management: Fire is managed in national parks and reserves by reserve fire management strategies (FMSs) which are map-based plans for managing fire. At 30 June 2009, all parks and reserves were covered by an adopted FMS. Around 580 separate strategies cover more than 6.6 million hectares across 793 reserves or reserve areas. Since June 2009, NPWS has acquired about 70 new reserves for which strategies are being prepared.

The FMSs feed into the NPWS annual program of hazard reduction burns. In 2009–10, favourable conditions allowed a record 93,000 hectares to be burnt in 269 operations to reduce fuel loads, particularly on the urban edge of parks.

Following the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, a $106.9-million bushfire protection package was announced by the NSW Government, resulting in the development of the Enhanced Bushfire Management Program. This program has enabled the annual hazard reduction program for NSW parks to be doubled and provided further resources for remote area fire suppression.

Sustainable tourism and visitation

The NSW Government provides a range of recreational opportunities in its parks and reserves that allow residents and visitors to appreciate and learn about the state's natural environment and cultural heritage. A Sustainable Tourism Action Plan was developed in 2010 which aims to encourage more people to visit parks and stay longer, while conserving the natural values of parks.

Private land conservation

Outside the public reserve system, the NSW Government is working with landholders, CMAs and other government agencies and non-government organisations, such as the Nature Conservation Trust, Bush Heritage Australia and Australian Wildlife Conservancy, to establish a range of conservation arrangements over private and other public lands which contain important natural and cultural heritage values (DECC 2008c).

Audit of marine protected areas

The NSW Government is committed to implementing an evidence-based marine parks policy that balances conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment and delivers tangible results. The Government commissioned an independent scientific audit of NSW marine parks to help deliver on this commitment.The audit has now been completed and the Report of the Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks in NSW (Beeton et al. 2012) released.

Zoning plans for marine protected areas

Zoning plans are used to deliver effective multiple-use management of 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. Since SoE 2009, reviews of zoning plans for Jervis Bay, Solitary Islands and Lord Howe Island marine parks have been conducted.

Amendments to the Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands zoning plans commenced on 1 March 2011 but were repealed on 26 May 2011 by the newly elected NSW Government pending its written response to the Report of the Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks in NSW (Beeton et al. 2012). The existing zoning plan for Lord Howe Island Marine Park remains in place, with options to address key issues to be developed with the local advisory committee.

The Marine Parks Amendment (Moratorium) Act 2011 commenced on 16 September 2011 and introduced a five-year moratorium on declaring marine parks, altering the area of existing sanctuary zones, classifying new sanctuary zones, and conducting zoning plan reviews.

Operational plans for marine protected areas

An operational plan is required for each marine park, which details the strategies and actions needed to meet the key objectives of the park and provides a basis for assessing the performance of marine park management in meeting these objectives. New operational plans for Batemans Bay, Port Stephens–Great Lakes and Cape Byron marine parks commenced in 2010.

Strategic research framework for marine protected areas

The Marine Parks Strategic Research Framework 2010–2015 (MPA 2010) provides guidance to marine researchers on the principal research and monitoring needs of marine parks in NSW for the next five years.

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Developing responses

Private Land Conservation Working Group

In March 2012, the Private Land Conservation Working Group was established to advise the NSW Government about how it could better support the conservation efforts of private landholders and non-government organisations. The working group reviewed existing private land conservation programs in NSW and those operating in other states, nationally and internationally and identified some emerging trends in private land conservation.

Great Eastern Ranges Initiative

The Great Eastern Ranges Initiative aims to maintain, improve and reconnect natural areas along a 3200-kilometre corridor stretching from the Grampians in Victoria, through the ACT and NSW, to the Atherton Tablelands in north-eastern Queensland. The objective is to provide healthy, functioning landscapes that will enable species to survive and adapt to environmental threats. Communities, agencies and governments are all involved in this project. The NSW Government is providing more than $4.4 million up to 2015, through the NSW Environmental Trust, to implement the initiative in NSW.

Ecological risk assessment for marine biodiversity in NSW

An ecological risk assessment of NSW marine biodiversity commenced in June 2011. The results of the assessment will reveal how effective marine parks are in conserving biodiversity and provide a guide for managing threats and stressors in future.

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Future opportunities

The main priorities for further development of the terrestrial reserve system are to continue to incorporate under-represented ecosystems and habitats, rivers and wetlands into reserves and establish landscape corridors and buffers to enhance the resilience and flexibility of reserves.

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 will be actively supported and new initiatives that facilitate conservation will continue to be explored and refined.

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 reserves and conservation. An important objective in future park management will be to improve public accessibility to parks.

The NSW Government is preparing a response to the Report of the Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks in NSW (Beeton et al. 2012). This response will help to determine the future management arrangements for marine protected areas.

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Contents SoE 2012 View printable page Last modified: December 2012