Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Lithgow can be the next Katoomba

“Lithgow on the western edge of the Blue Mountains is endowed with some of the best natural assets in NSW, but rather than honour and protect these assets, it has let them go unmanaged.  I’m not talking about the region’s declining coal resources, but its spectacular and internationally significant pagoda landscapes,” Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness said.

Unfortunately we see today that the NSW Government has dropped the Gardens of Stone reserve proposal due to opposition from the National Party[1] who fear another anti-park scare campaign from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party”, said Mr Muir.

“This somewhat paranoid opposition is based on real anxieties over the future but it overlooks an opportunity for Lithgow to revive its tourism economy and go forward into the future. Lithgow could easily double its tourism economy though nature tourism,” he said.

“If Lithgow were to set itself up as the gateway to the Gardens of Stone region, it would attract many visitors keen to see its pagoda landscapes that surpass the Bungle Bungle Range of northern Western Australia in diversity and scenic splendor”, Mr Muir said. 

“A state conservation area over the state forests in Lithgow’s backyard is an unthreatening reserve to protect this outstanding region. It would permit restoration of this region and present its attractions appropriately with lookouts, walking tracks and especially better roads from Lithgow,” he said.

“A Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area due to its relatively gentle terrain would attract families to enjoy nature, its scenic splendour and then loop back to engage in Lithgow’s unique lifestyle and heritage”, said Mr Muir.

“Regulatory reform of the coal industry has lately taken small steps towards its protection, but Lithgow has been blind to its main chance, to set itself up as the next Katoomba and enjoy the benefits of being part of the tourism economy,” Mr Muir said.

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

Below  – Gardens of Stone reserve - fact sheet

[1] Peter Hannam, 16/10/2018 Plan to increase NSW national Parks scuttled by Berejiklian government

Gardens of Stone Alliance                                  fact sheet

A 39,000 hectare Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area (SCA) – will create a world-class conservation and tourism region on Lithgow’s doorstep that’s a ‘win-win-win’ for Lithgow’s workers, community and environment.

Adjoining Lithgow is an ancient pagoda landscape, ‘lost villages’ of intimate sandstone rock pinnacles, bounded by spectacular escarpments with Aboriginal rock art, canyons, rivers and waterfalls.

This reserve can be funded by

  • Centennial Coal’s swamp offset funds of up to $14 million spent on appropriate conservation outcomes,
  • New government expenditures reduced through mining company road maintenance expenditures, and further reduced if existing state forest expenditures are transferred to the NPWS, and
  • NSW Regional Growth – Environment and Tourism Fund and potentially grants from Destination NSW.

Supports Government Strategies

  • To disperse Sydney visitors to the Lithgow Region and beyond,
  • NSW State Plan 2021: several targets related to regional economies, conservation and recreational opportunities,
  • Lithgow City Council: Community Strategic Plan 2030 - economic diversity.

Our Vision – a big new reserve

  • Conservation management for internationally significant pagoda landscapes[2], its nationally rare upland swamps and many other important natural heritage values.
  • Continuation of responsible underground mining.
  • Appropriate recreation facilities to build a vibrant tourist economy in Lithgow that utilises existing road access,
  • People connected with nature, in the spirit of Royal and Kur-ring-gai National Parks.

These environmental, tourism and local community benefits can only be achieved by reserving the whole proposal area, and committing to the required level of investment and management as a coherent package.

Incredibly rich landscapes, biodiversity and cultural heritage[3]

  • An SCA will protect a large number of threatened biota (84 threatened plant and animal species, e.g. Blue Mountains Water Skink and 16 rare and threatened communities), several of these values are found nowhere else in the world,
  • Newnes State Forest has the richest plant diversity of any state forest in NSW and the other two forests are also highly diverse[4],
  • The rare, beautiful and spectacular pagoda landscapes are globally significant can be marketed to establish Lithgow as a centre for tourism,
  • The SCA can buffer the adjacent rugged Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, with complementary vehicle access and easy short walks.

The SCA offers enormous potential for environmental and cultural tourism (if properly developed and managed)

  • Lithgow’s beautiful and internationally unique pagoda landforms are its major point of difference and tourism marketing needs to be packaged around Lithgow being the Gateway to the Gardens of Stone,
  • Nearby Blue Mountains National Park is Australia’s most popular national park, attracting 5 million visitors a year[5], and by offering unique opportunities, Lithgow and the Gardens of Stone region have great potential to attract these visitors,
  • It provides an alternative, family-friendly experience of nature and a diverse suite of bushland attractions and experiences.




[2] Washington, HG and Wray RAL (2011) The Geoheritage and Geomorphology of the sandstone pagodas of the north-eastern Blue Mountains region (NSW). Proceedings of the Linnean Society of NSW 132, 131-143.

[3] Colong Foundation for Wilderness and Blue Mountains Conservation Soc. (2016), The Gardens of Stone Reserve Proposal: towards National Heritage

[4] NSW Bionet Atlas - 913 plant species and 29 threatened plants in Newnes State Forest, and Ben Bullen State Forest has 645 and 12 respectively.