Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

BioBanking credibility sinks as Conservation Site undermined

“The assertion that BioBanking agreements permanently protect conservation areas has been proven false by a coal mining proposal south of Sydney,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“The very first BioBanking site in NSW, the 80 hectare St Marys Towers site at Douglas Park, is not safe.  The BioBanking regime has failed its first test because it did not consider the negative impact of a large underground coal mining proposal by BHP-Billiton,” Mr Muir revealed. 

“The BioBanking site, owned by the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, was “protected” on 4 May 2010, but by that time it was located within Area 8 of a major underground coal mining proposal by BHP-Billiton that was before the NSW Government”, he said. 

“If the intensive underground coal mining proceeds it will cause surface subsidence of over a metre at the BioBanking site, perhaps resulting in a loss of surface and ground waters, and that could affect the habitat of the endangered plants and animals”, Mr Muir said.

“The conservation versus coal mining conflict should have eliminated the St Marys Towers site.  The mining proposal could adversely impact of the heritage values, but the BioBanking regime does not incorporate a “Bio-Depreciation” factor for subsurface coal mining.  Establishing an estimated BioBanking loss value for coal mining impacts, however, would be virtually impossible without decades of expensive site monitoring”, he said.

“In any event, a casual inspection of the BioBanking site reveals it to be former grazing land that adjoins Douglas Park Road on one side and the Hume Highway on another.  So regardless of potential mining, it is a rather isolated and somewhat degraded site that should have been flagged as a poor candidate for protection”, said Mr Muir.

The 80 hectare site is also not good value for the $1.7 million paid for its protection.  Pristine wilderness land can be purchased at $200/hectare#, which is 100 times a better deal for conservation that the BioBanking regime achieved,” he said.

“The reality is that after five years of debate BioBanking has failed its first test at the St Mary’s Tower site.  The fairly degraded, isolated site is not secured from future coal mining damage and not good value for the money,” Mr Muir said.

For more info. contact: Keith Muir (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)

# Between 1996 and 2004 the Dunphy Wilderness Fund acquired 77,000 ha of wilderness land for 
   a total expense of $11.5 million or  $150 per hectare.