Tree Vandals Strike Again

A substantial number of trees were destroyed and vandalised over the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend on the Jibbon Hill relic cliff dune near the old “Night Soil Depot” at the south of Spring Gully, Bundeena. At least thirty trees have been snapped off their trunks near ground level. Others have had substantial limbs snapped off.

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The environmental destruction is extensive and serious, stretching 100 metres up the dune. It threatens the important habitat this area provides to significant and protected wildlife. Both Sutherland Shire Council and local National Parks and Wildlife Management have made site visits to inspect and assess the damage.

The local community must act to stamp out this anti-social behaviour. The community needs to take collective responsibility for conserving our natural environment, a vital component of the spirit of place which binds this community together.

Bloodwood woodland with thousands of trees growing from large underground lignotubers. This woodland may be thousands of years old!

Bloodwood woodland with thousands of trees growing from large underground lignotubers. This woodland may be thousands of years old!

The trees on the Jibbon Hill relic cliff dune give the appearance of being only young saplings, but in fact these trees grow slowly in a mallee form due to the nutrient poor, deep, free draining sand of the dune. The lignotubers from which these trees reshoot after fire may be thousands of years old.

This area is vital habitat for the significant native fauna found here. A colony of Eastern Pygmy Possum live nearby and were only recently the subject of a research project by the University of New England. The Pygmy Possum are particularly active at this time of year because the several Banksia species which characterise the dune and the upland swamps immediately to the east and west are currently in flower.

Sugar gliders are also currently active in the area. This area is also a known hotspot for ring tail possum and several species of micro-bat.

The old clearing immediately next to the area of vandalism was in use over the long weekend. The Bundeena Fire Brigade were called to put out a smouldering fire.

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There may be some confusion in the community that this land is still subject to development. This land and the former Scout land are zoned E2 Environmental Conservation in the 2015 Local Environment Plan. There have been no approvals given to develop any of this Environmental Conservation land and currently neither Council or the NPWS are considering any development plans. The local community are working hard to keep this land conserved and protect its highly ecologically valuable vegetation and habitat, which are protected under the Threatened Species Conservation Act.

This major vandalism event follows a similar serious event in this area last September as well as other ongoing anti-social behaviour at this location. The accumulation of the ongoing vandalism in this are poses serious risks to the ecological integrity of this area.

In 2013 Sutherland Shire Council resolved to call for expressions of interest to develop the land for eco-tourism. In response, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage commissioned an ecological report which confirmed the high scientific and ecological values of this land and argued for its inclusion into the Royal National Park. In February, Council resolved to cancel its plans for an expression of interest and agreed to the NPWS request that the land be transferred to them for inclusion into the Royal National Park. This is underway and the addition of this land to the Royal National Park is imminent.

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The Jibbon Hill dune is the largest intact relic cliff dune in the Sydney Basin and one of the largest in south-east Australia. This elongated dune stretches about 1.5km north-south from Spring Gully to the Water Run. These dunes are comprised of marine sands which have been carbon dated to 10,000 years in age. The dunes formed when the sea-level was much lower and the coastline was several kilometers further east. At the end of the last ice age, these coastal dunes were pushed inland as the sea level rose and the coastline receded to its current level. The erosion of the Hawkesbury sandstone shoreline, which formed the dramatic sea-cliffs, halted the migration of the dunes, stranding them on the cliff tops.They have long since been stabilized by vegetation.

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National Park Trees Damaged, St George & Sutherland Shire Leader June 25, 2015.