Towra Point Nature Reserve

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Towra Point Nature Reserve
New South Wales
Towra Point aerial.jpg
Aerial photograph of Towra Point and surrounding waters.
Towra Point Nature Reserve is located in New South Wales
Towra Point Nature Reserve
Towra Point Nature Reserve
Nearest town or city Kurnell
Coordinates 34°00′23″S 151°09′55″E / 34.00639°S 151.16528°E / -34.00639; 151.16528Coordinates: 34°00′23″S 151°09′55″E / 34.00639°S 151.16528°E / -34.00639; 151.16528
Established August 1982 (1982-08)[1]
Area 6.03 km2 (2.3 sq mi)[1]
Managing authorities NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Website Towra Point Nature Reserve
See also Protected areas of
New South Wales

The Towra Point Nature Reserve is a protected nature reserve that is located in southern Sydney, New South Wales, in eastern Australia. The 603-hectare (1,490-acre) reserve is situated on the southern shores of Botany Bay at Kurnell, within the Sutherland Shire.[1] The reserve is protected under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance as an important breeding ground for many vulnerable, protected, or endangered species. The Towra Point Aquatic Nature Reserve is located in the surrounding waterways.

History[edit]

Kurnell was inhabited by the Dharawal people, and there are three middens and one relic that still remain today at the Towra Point Nature Reserve.

Captain Cook mapped Botany Bay when he landed in 1770, including Towra Point. Early European colonalists ran horses and cattle on Towra Point, despite the poor condition of the land for such a purpose. In 1827, "Towra Point" and "Towra Bay" were recorded as local names by the surveyor Robert Dixon. Another name known for the area was "Stinkpot Bay".[2] In 1861, Thomas Holt bought Towra Point, and divided it into paddocks for grazing or growing corn. Sheep grazing was particularly disastrous, and many thousands of sheep died of footrot and are buried at Towra Point.[3] In the late 1870s, Thomas Holt began oyster farming at Weeney Bay in Towra Point.[4][5] In 1935, the Parks and Playgrounds Movement of NSW opposed an application to mine for shell at Towra Point.[6] During World War II, a radar station was established, and a causeway built.[4][5] In 1946, Towra Point was considered as a location for a second Sydney airport.[7]

In the 1960s, movement began to preserve Towra Point led initially by the President of Sutherland Shire, Arthur Gietzelt,[8] and Tom Uren, the then Federal Minister for Urban Affairs.[9] In March 1969, the then Prime Minister, John Gorton ruled out Towra Point as a potential site for a second airport, citing community noise problems.[10] The opening to Botany Bay was dredged in the 1970s to assist shipping, but this refracted the wave patterns in the bay, focusing them on Towra Point, causing erosion.[11]

Following lobbying by Ray Thorburn,[12] the reserve was bought by the Commowealth in 1975, attempting to fulfill obligations to JAMBA, which would come into force in April 1981.[1] This was the first time that the Australian Government had bought land for nature conservation purposes within a state.[13] On 10 September 1979 the oil tanker World Encouragement spilled approximately 95 tonnes (105 short tons) of crude oil into Botany Bay. Mangroves at Quibray Bay, Weeney Bay and Towra Point were impacted - 100 hectares (250 acres) of mangroves were affected, and 4.4 hectares (11 acres) died.[14] In 1982, Towra Point was officially made a nature reserve. It was declared a Ramsar site (or wetland of international importance) in 1984, at the time meeting Ramsar criteria 1, 2, 3 and 6. In 2009, Towra Point met Ramsar criteria 2, 3, 4 and 8.[15] In 1987, the Towra Point Aquatic Nature Reserve was created, covering 1,400 hectares (3,500 acres) in the waterways surrounding Towra Point.[1] Towra Point Nature Reserve also attempts to meet the Federal government's obligations to CAMBA, which came into force in 1988. The Friends of Towra Point volunteer group was founded in February 1997 and they do such activities as bush regeneration, seed collection, vegetation surveys and habitat creation for the little tern. They also coordinate the annual Clean Up Australia Day activities at Towra Point. Habitat creation involves sandbagging the eroding Towra Lagoon, nest tagging, and clearing areas around nests.[16] In 2004, a A$1.5 million dredging project was undertaken to cut off Towra Spit Island from the rest of Towra Point to provide a fox-free environment.[17] In 2010, artificial roosting posts were installed by the Office of Environment & Heritage to supplement the roosting habitat in the area.[18] In 2013, the Botany Bay National Park and 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of land including Towra Point Nature Reserve were to be included on the State Heritage Register.[19]

Habitats[edit]

Saltmarsh and mangroves make up a large part of Towra Point Nature Reserve.

Towra Point, atop an ancient river delta deposit, has many distinct habitats - these diverse habitats are part of why Towra Point is a Ramsar site. The habitats of the Reserve are:

Species[edit]

Towra Point Nature Reserve is home to many endangered, vulnerable, protected and exotic species. This list is from the NSW Government's Environment and Heritage department website - a comprehensive listing, including numbers, scientific names, and protection status, can be found at this link.[20]

Birds[edit]

Amphibians[edit]

Mammals[edit]

Reptiles[edit]

Plants[edit]

Human effects[edit]

The ecosystem surrounding Towra Point has been impacted as a result of human interaction.

Positive effects[edit]

Looking west from the air over Towra Point

Humans can maximise the area of healthy, functioning intertidal wetlands by minimising their impacts and by developing management strategies that protect, and where possible rehabilitate these ecosystems at risk.

The following are positive ways of trying to protect or rehabilitate intertidal wetlands.

  • Exclusion – Those responsible for the management of wetland areas often facilitate public access to a small, designated area while restricting access to other areas. Provision of defined boardwalks and walkways is a management strategy used to restrict access to vulnerable areas, as is the issuing of permits whilst visiting Towra Point Nature Reserve.
  • Education – In the past, wetlands were regarded as waste-lands. Education campaigns have helped to change public perceptions and foster public support for the wetlands. Due to their location in the water catchment area, education programs need to teach about total catchment management programs. Educational programs include guided tours for the general public, school visits, media liaison, information centres, conference presentations, interpretive signage, publications and facts sheets. Staff should also include education officers.
  • Action – too little is known about the intertidal wetland system to successfully reinstate all natural conditions. Management plans focus on the rehabilitation of the site and the removal of human-induced stresses. For example, fox and rabbit baiting, removal of weeds (at Weedy Pond).
  • Design – Design interventions have proved successful in minimising sources of natural stress. At Towra Point Beach, for example, there is a sandbag wall to help prevent salt water from leaking into the fresh-water Towra Lagoon.
  • Legislation – Legislation and regulations are used to protect Towra Point Wetlands. Conventions that Australia has signed in regard to Towra Point Wetlands are the Ramsar Convention, the Japan Australia Migratory Bird Agreement and the China Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA). Legislation that Australia and New South Wales has passed in regard to Towra Point Wetlands are the Australian Wetlands Policy, the New South Wales Wetlands Management Policy (1996) and the State and Environmental Planning Policy 14 on Coastal Wetlands.

Negative effects[edit]

  • Changed wind patterns – due to high-rise near some wetland areas e.g. Bicentennial Park South, at Rockdale.[citation needed]
  • Alteration of water flows – through construction of roads.
  • Removal of resources for urban and industrial land uses – These also increase turbidity and toxins in the water supplied to mangroves. (The removal can also result in changed energy flows and nutrient cycles, affecting food chains for both sedentary and migratory fauna)
  • Replacement of wetland areas – for parks, playing fields or pasture.
  • Destruction of sea grasses – in areas adjoining wetlands can affect energy flows and nutrient cycles as species levels will be affected.
  • Introduction of exotic species – e.g. foxes, rabbits, sheep, cattle, pigs. – change energy flows and nutrient cycles. Birds are particularly affected, for example the little tern.
  • Indirect influences from adjacent sites – e.g. weed infestation (lantana – Towra Point) – carried into the wetlands by horses from the nearby stables.
  • Trampling – from illegal access
  • Threat of oil spills – Kurnell Refinery near Towra Point, 31 oil spills between 1957 and 1987 averaging 49,000 litres (11,000 imp gal; 13,000 US gal).[15]
  • Recreational horse-riding – on the Reserve and unsupervised recreational use of the reserve (e.g. dog walking)
  • Boating – disturbs wildlife in the park, and creates pollution.
  • Fishing – kills fish, which affects the food chains operating within the reserve.
  • Erosion of Towra Beach – due to wave refraction from the Sydney Airport runway which causes the freshwater Towra Point Lagoon to become saline
  • Fragmentation of the Reserve – by private land ownership
  • Bay development – in general, including the Sydney Airport runway and the oil refinery. There have also been concerns that the Sydney Desalination Plant will impact negatively on the Reserve.
  • Illegal rubbish dumping – has occurred both in the reserve and near the entrance. In late 2004, a large amount of dumped asbestos was discovered.
  • Land Destabilisation – due to extensive mining of the larger dunes on Towra Point during the twenieth century it has been suggested that if the site was ravaged by strong enough storms breaks in the point could occur and breach the gentle lagoons of Towra Point.[21]
  • Runoff – due to most of the surrounding land being used for urban and industrial purposes.[15] Stormwater from the Kurnell Refinery runs through the Ramsar-listed area of Towra Point Nature Reserve.[22]

Management of the reserve[edit]

Traditional[edit]

The traditional objectives for the management of wetland areas were built around the use of wetland resources for food, shelter and tools. Grey Mangrove wood, for example, was used to make shields, shells were made into fishing hooks; and marine animals were used for food.

Contemporary[edit]

  • Identify management goals and objectives – Today management plans for wetlands focus on the preservation and sustainable use of sites for recreation, conservation and education purposes. This may involve some exclusion zones but many areas are open to recreational and educational activities.
  • Define management unit and boundaries – The "management unit" for many intertidal wetlands is often difficult to define because of the large number of stakeholders. For example the Towra Point wetland has input from NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, NSW Fisheries, Sutherland Shire Council, Friends of Towra Point and recreational users.
  • Develop and implement management plans – An intertidal wetland is a dynamic system. As our knowledge of ecosystems has increased community attitudes have changed. Communities are now demanding that these ecosystems are protected and effectively managed.

Care has been taken to develop management plans that are both realistic and flexible. They need to take into account scientific and technological advances, changing social and political attitudes and variations in the level of funding. Management plans also need to be consistent with Australia’s international obligations under JAMBA, CAMBA and RAMSAR.[23]

Applicable legislation and international environmental law[edit]

International environmental law[edit]

Ramsar Convention (1971), JAMBA (1981), Bonn Convention (1983), CAMBA (1988), ROKAMBA (2006), the Partnership for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and the Sustainable Use of their Habitats in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway (2006),[15] Convention on Biological Diversity (1992).

Federal environmental law[edit]

As the Towra Point area is Ramsar listed, this attracts the operation of the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Regulations. Section 17B provides that a person is guilty of a criminal offence if (a) the person takes an action [see:s.523]; and (b) the action results or will result in a significant impact on the ecological character of a wetland; and (c) the wetland is a declared Ramsar wetland.

State environmental law[edit]

In addition to land use planning law, the following Acts are applicable National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW), Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW), Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW)[15] and applicable SEPPs (e.g. State Environmental Planning Policy No 39—Spit Island Bird Habitat).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Towra Point Nature Reserve: Park management". Office of Environment and Heritage. Government of New South Wales. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "Origin of the names of suburbs and other places" (PDF). Sutherland Shire Council. May 2013. 
  3. ^ Molloy, Fran (20 March 2000). "Kurnell Sands Demand Shift in Attitude". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Historical Maps Collection: Botany Bay, by Cook". State Library of Queensland. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Towra Point Nature Reserve". Sutherland Shire. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "PARKS AND PLAYGROUNDS". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 10 May 1935. p. 5. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  7. ^ "Second Sydney Airport — A Chronology" (PDF) (PDF). Chronology No. 2 2001–02. Department of the Parliamentary Library; Australian Government. 2002. ISSN 1328-746X. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "Federation Chamber: CONDOLENCES: Gietzelt, Hon. Arthur Thomas, AO". Parliament of Australia. 12 February 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Looking back: biodiversity legislation". National Parks Journal. April 2005. [dead link]
  10. ^ "TASMANIA: Sydney Airport: Towra Point Development (Question No. 1918)". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Rough ride for bay's fragile beauty". The Sydney Morning Herald. 20 July 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "Death Of Mr Ray William Thorburn". Parliament of Australia. 11 February 1986. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "Mangrove area to be reserve". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (ACT: National Library of Australia). 21 March 1975. p. 3. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "World Encouragement, Botany Bay, September 1979". Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Australian Government. 10 September 1979. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c d e "Towra Point ECD" (PDF). Local Land Services: Greater Sydney (PDF). Government of New South Wales. 
  16. ^ [1][dead link]
  17. ^ "It's the call of the mild - one good tern deserves a little help". The Sydney Morning Herald. 4 December 2004. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  18. ^ Curtin, Jennie (31 March 2010). "Towra Point wetlands". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  19. ^ "Botany Bay National Park bound for heritage register". The Sydney Morning Herald. 24 November 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "Environment & Heritage | NSW BioNet". Environment.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  21. ^ "Towra Point Nature Reserve" (PDF). Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (PDF). Ramsar. April 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  22. ^ "Water Management Report: Appendix E: Water and Wastewater Management" (PDF). Environmental Impact Statement (PDF). Caltex Australia. 3 May 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  23. ^ "Towra Point Nature Reserve: Plan of Management" (PDF). NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (PDR). Government of New South Wales. July 2001. ISBN 0-7313-6208-X. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Second Sydney Airport : report on Commonwealth-State consideration Towra Point, Wattomolla and Mascot extension, Environmental Impact Reports Pty Ltd, 1973 

External links[edit]