PO Box A96, Sydney South NSW 1235 Ph: (02) 9233 4660 Fax: (02) 9233 4880

Media Release 1April 1997 embargo until 6.00 am on 2 April 1997

Strife in Wingecarribee Wetlands Critical Decision By National Parks and Wildlife Service on Peat Mining Fight

The National Parks Association (NPA) today urged the National Parks and Wildlife Service not to grant permission for peat mining operations in the Wingecarribee Swamp to destroy the endangered plant, ‘Yellow Loosestrife’ (Lysimachia vulgaris var. davurica) that grows in the peat.

"The Service is being pressured to urgently approve the destruction of part of the Yellow Loosestrife population in the swamp to allow continuing peat mining operations. Although the plant is numerous within the swamp, this is the only place in Australia that the plant occurs," said Noel Plumb, NPA Executive Officer, "and the swamp has already been cut to half of its original extent."

At the same time the Service and four other government agencies (the Environment Protection Authority, Sydney Water, the Heritage Council and Department of Land and Water Conservation) are in the Mining Warden’s Court opposing renewal of peat mining leases in the Wingecarribee Swamp.

"We are concerned that the Service is rushing its decision on the application from the miner, Emerald Peat, rather than at the least require a full Species Impact Statement. This is the very least the Service should do, given the need to exercise the utmost caution in protecting biodiversity and fragile wetland ecosystems."

"The steady destruction through peat mining of an outstanding, perhaps unique, wetland which is rich in biodiversity and listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia and on the Register of the National Estate is a classic test of politicians’ and bureaucrats’ real commitment to protect the environment."

"Approval would be a great mistake," said Mr David Tranter, spokesperson for the NPA’s Southern Highlands Branch. "The mining company is already without various licences or authorities which the community would expect if such an operation was to be permitted. The company lacks a licence to extract water or a licence to return turbid, acid water to the swamp after peat extraction, let alone an up to date licence to mine. Nor has it produced any evidence that it has a valid planning consent for its operations despite repeated requests."

"The Service’s decision will be a test both of the effectiveness of the Threatened Species Conservation Act and the determination of the Service to protect endangered species with every legitimate means available. The Service has recently been criticised for a lack of vigour in using its powers to protect the environment but we expect it to be resolute on this matter," concluded Mr Plumb.

For Comment : Noel Plumb 9233 4660 or 018 975 075 or David Tranter 048 85 1334

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