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GARDENS OF STONE ALLIANCE
NSW Gov urged to protect Gardens of Stone to boost Lithgow's tourism economy
Local environmental groups are urging the NSW Government to provide a much-needed boost to the Lithgow economy by reserving 39,000 hectares of internationally significant bushland that is critical for the region's growing tourism industry.
The Gardens of Stone Alliance -- formed in 2014 by the Lithgow Environment Group, Blue Mountains Conservation Society, and Colong Foundation for Wilderness -- believe the region's environmental and scenic values offer significant opportunities to a community hit hard by declining jobs in coal mining and power generation.
Gardens of Stone Alliance spokesman Dr Stephen Allen said the NSW Government should immediately move to create a state conservation area to protect 39,000 hectares of land containing giant pagoda rock formations, sandstone escarpments, slot canyons, pristine rivers and waterfalls, along with significant Aboriginal sacred sites.
"The Lithgow community, west of Sydney, already suffers above average unemployment as the result of the closure of the Wallerawang Power Station and a global shift away from coal," Dr Allen said.
"Meanwhile, the neighbouring Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area sees more than $150 million directly injected into the local economy each year by visitors, resulting in strong, sustainable jobs growth.
"There is absolutely no reason the Lithgow region can't be part of this thanks to the amazing array of natural beauty and significant ecology on the community's doorstep.
"Peer reviewed scientific investigation of this region found geological, archaeological and ecological features of international importance, many of which have world heritage value.
"The Gardens of Stone Alliance is urging the NSW Government to act with urgency to reserve this area as a state conservation area, which is a critical step towards transitioning the economy of Lithgow away from a declining coal industry and towards a vibrant tourism economy similar to the neighbouring Blue Mountains."
Dr Allen said community members will hold a rally next month just north of Lithgow in a currently-unprotected area of scenic and environmental significance to highlight the importance of the issue.
"Instead of investing in the tourism future of Lithgow, the NSW Government is instead allowing these significant pagoda landscapes to be degraded by long-wall coal mining," he said.
"Rather than make the same mistakes as the Victorian Government, which failed to put in place an economic transition plan for the Latrobe Valley ahead of the closure of coal mines and power stations, the State Government needs to act now to secure Lithgow's economic future."
Media opportunity: Community rally and banner event