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The parable of Gospers Mountain

By Vic Jurskis - posted Wednesday, 12 February 2020

In 1984, Dunphy and the Colong Foundation took new Environment Minister, Bob Carr, bushwalking in Kanangra Boyd National Park. They enthused him to create the ridiculous Wilderness Act of 1987. According to the Act, a wilderness area must be:

…in a state that has not been substantially modified by humans and their works … of a sufficient size to make its maintenance in such a state feasible, and the area[must be] capable of providing opportunities for solitude and appropriate self-reliant recreation.

The High Court Mabo decision of 1992 rejected wilderness or Terra Nullius. Green academics, bureaucrats and politicians now pay lip service to Aboriginal elders, past and present, whilst denying their monumental work across millennia to maintain a healthy and safe environment. Above all the obvious flaws in NSW Wilderness Act, the outstanding problem is a fundamentally racist denial of Aboriginal economy.


In January 1994, wildfires, in equally severe climatic and weather conditions to those faced by European settlers with green branches two centuries earlier, were uncontrollable. They burnt more than thirty thousand hectares around Sydney, claiming hundreds of houses despite the efforts of a well-equipped army of firefighters. Large expanses of three-dimensionally continuous fuels generated fire storms and ember showers. For example, a run of fire that claimed a human life spotted 800 me­tres across the Woronora River. Another jumped the Georges River. However NPWS reported that other runs un­der extreme weather were effective­ly contained in four localities as a result of prior hazard reduc­tion burning.

Since then, prescribed burning in NSW has been reduced.

Later in 1994 the Wollemi Pine was discovered by self-reliant recreationists abseiling into a fairdinkum mini-wilderness. NPWS has since kept the location secret to reduce opportunities for self-reliant recreation. In the following year, abseilers found a major Aboriginal art site in another part of Wollemi National Park at Eagles Reach. There are more than 200 paintings in 12 layers representing many generations of Aboriginal culture.

The disastrous 1994 fires gave impetus to a review of the Bushfires Act, intended to improve standards of land and fire management, which varied greatly amongst different Local Councils. Fahey's coalition government was defeated by Bob Carr in 1995 and the reforms were corrupted by green influence. NSW Rural Fires Act of 1997 specified that fire management would have "regard to the principles of ecologically sustainable development". The Nature Conservation Council, with a privileged position on the Bush Fire Coordinating Committee, ensures that these principles are misconstrued.

Lean, decentralised land and fire management was replaced by a huge top-heavy paramilitary emergency response organisation with no regard for local knowledge, experience or healthy landscapes. It is now illegal to apply fire frequently enough to maintain a safe landscape and almost impossible to apply mild fire under the onerous regulations.

The huge Wollemi Wilderness was declared in March 1999. Colong Foundation asserts that fire management can cause wildfires and species extinctions, kill wildlife, promote erosion and sedimentation and destroy old growth. It quotes Dr. John Benson, who, despite all the archaeological, traditional, historical and scientific evidence "is adamant that most forests and woodlands of Australia would not have been subject to frequent (less than ten-year) burns". When the Wollemi Pines were threatened by wildfire in 2002, Benson announced that they have been burnt before. Apparently there are remains of charred trunks with new coppice shoots. Obviously, the mini-wilderness in the ravines has recently been touched by intense fires.


In 2005, NPWS announced an phytophthora infection in the Pines and the soil. They blamed unwanted recreationists who'd left footprints and signs of campsites. NPWS staff and researchers supposedly weren't responsible because they sterilise their clothes and equipment. However phytophthora originated in Gondwana and has likely been at the site longer than the Wollemi Pines. It responds to deterioration of tree roots as a result of unnatural disturbance. I think it's most likely that the Pine's 'guardians' have caused an outbreak by all their trampling of the thin, poorly developed soils with a high content of organic matter. This is a truly unprecedented development in the mini-wilderness.

Bob Carr, in a 2014 keynote speech, reminded wilderness enthusiasts what a great job he'd done: "saving these vast, wild places preserves our rich indigenous cultural heritage". In almost the same breath he said we "must push back against" the use of natural resources because "human actions elevate species' extinction risks". This reminded me of the best-ever bumper sticker: The only true wilderness is between a greenie's ears.

A lightning strike on 26th October 2019 in New South Wales' biggest Wilderness Area started the largest ever forest fire that has occurred anywhere in the world as a consequence of a single, in this case, natural, ignition. A couple of weeks later, it was declared an emergency. Up to 3,000 firefighters, mostly volunteers, were battling the fire at any one time. It burnt uncontrolled for three months, covering an area of more than half a million hectares, with a perimeter of 1400 kilometres. It was reported to have been "tamed" by Rural Fire Service Superintendent Karen Hodges on 12th January 2020 after running into rural or residential areas and other fires.

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About the Author

Vic Jurskis has been a forester for 40 years. He has published extensively in academic journals. He is the author of Firestick Ecology: fairdinkum science in plain English (Connor Court, 2015).

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