Why does Blue Mountains Conservation Society oppose Canyon Earth Sanctuary?
Nine hundred hectares of land at the head of the Grose Valley was excised from the National Park in 1967 for Canyon Colliery. The lease is due to expire in 2005. At the end of the lease, the lessees are obliged to remove all built structures and rehabilitate degraded areas, so that the area can be returned to the National Park.
Earth Sanctuaries Limited (ESL) are applying for a change to this lease so that they can operate a wildlife sanctuary and tourist facility on the site.
Former State Environment Minister Pam Allen told us that the site is not suitable for development and will be returned to the Blue Mountains National Park in due course.
Member for the Blue Mountains Bob Debus has informed the Society that an Earth Sanctuary on this site will be rejected and that the area will be returned to the National Park.
Liberal Candidate Jennifer Scott told our January general meeting that she does not support an Earth Sanctuary on this site and does not want it to be used as a political argument during the coming State Election.
And yet ESL are attempting to discredit environmental organisations and individuals who oppose them and create political dissent in the Blue Mountains in order to gain the lease.
Blue Mountains Conservation Society has no problem with ESL establishing a business on other sites which have been offered to them by Lithgow Council, nor at the ADI site at St Marys. Neither would we oppose ESL should they want to buy any existing farmland in the area (as has been their practice until recently) to raise native animals and to run an eco-tourism business.
We welcome the kind of high quality business that Dr Wamsley heads and admire his determination and his proven track record in revitalising near extinct species.
But the area covered by the Canyon Colliery is rightfully public land and national park.
If ESL were to be granted a change to the lease for a money-making concern, it would set a precedent for others to pressure State Government for "their piece of a national park".
Dr Wamsley is intending to float his company on the Stock Exchange. Who can guarantee there will be no take-over in the future by somebody less idealistic than Dr Wamsley?
Koombanda Creek is the name of the creek which flows through the Canyon Colliery leasehold. It contributes to the Grose River.
It is ESLís intention to use the waters of Koombanda Creek to service the expected 250,000 day visitors and staying guests per year, and to maintain bushfire control.
What affect will this have on the flow of the Grose River, the vegetation downstream which relies on it, and the animals and creatures which rely on that river and its vegetation?
The area is to be surrounded by a fence to exclude feral animals. A fence which excludes feral predators, e.g. foxes, cats, must also exclude native predators and other native animals.
The animals kept in the Sanctuary are on display for paying guests, and native predators, for example quolls, are locked away from their natural prey.
ESL is running a high profile campaign to influence public opinion on this issue. The main objective of this campaign is to secure the Canyon Colliery site so that the company can make profits to support other Sanctuaries.
The raising of "cute and cuddly" native animals is being used as a political tool to stir public emotions in this campaign. It is a worthwhile project which can be achieved on a more appropriate site.
The Canyon Colliery land must go back to being a vital part of Blue Mountains National Park
Stop Press - Latest News
Most of the 900 hectares of the Canyon Colliery mining lease has been returned to the Blue Mountains National Park. The portion not yet returned - 100 hectares or so - contains the mine's headworks and other facilities. Hopefully this will be returned to the park when rehabilitation is complete.
Regardless of what one thinks of Earth Sanctuaries' operations elsewhere and, indeed, regardless of what one might think of the proposed Grose Wilderness (now on public exhibition), the Grose is not a place to be carved up with fences, or handed over to private interests.
We congratulate Bob Debus and the Carr Government on this declaration!
Earth Sanctuaries Update
You may remember the conflict we had with Earth Sanctuaries last year over land at Bell that has subsequently been added to Blue Mountains National Park.
While I believe that Earth Sanctuaries behaviour during their campaign to acquire this land was unacceptable, the Society has never had anything against the establishment of an Earth Sanctuary in the Blue Mountains. Our only argument with them was their choice of site and their attempts to redirect land destined as National Park into private hands.
Good news then that Earth Sanctuaries have bought 2,000 hectares of degraded farm land in the Wolgan Valley north of Lithgow. They intend to rehabilitate this land and set up a wildlife park as a tourism and conservation business.
Good luck to Earth Sanctuaries in this venture. I personally and the Society Management Committee wish them well!