Minister denies World Heritage bid stuck while Premier announces boost for NSW national parks

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton has denied a bid to nominate Royal National Park for World heritage listing is stuck in her department.

However, at a media conference at Audley on Monday to announce a new national park near Bowral and improvements to existing parks, Ms Upton was unable to say what stage the much-vaunted proposal had reached.

Federal and state environment ministers announced in 2013  the two governments would work together towards a nomination.

However, important deadlines for nomination have passed and information from the state government has been difficult to obtain.

In 2017, the Greens accused the state government of stalling the process while it considered running the F6 motorway extension through Royal National Park.

While that proposal was rejected, a corner of the park at Loftus could still be required for an extended motorway.

Questioned by the Leader on Monday, Ms Upton “completely rejected” the suggestion the World Heritage proposal was bogged down in her department, which had the role of preparing studies and reporting to the federal government.

“The nomination is one the federal government makes,” Ms Upton said.

“We support those, and I understand that process is under way.

“World heritage nominations take quite some time. They take years. They require a first review and then a final submission by the federal government.

“Where that case is made out, where the state government, our government, believe there is merit for it to go forward, of course we do that.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the new national park, resulting from the acquisition of a private property, would be about 3680 hectares and centered around Tugalong Station, about 25 kilometres northwest of Bowral.

It would ensure “a vital koala wilderness area south of Sydney is preserved, she said.

Ms Berejiklian also announced a re-elected Coalition government would spend an extra $150 million on improving access to existing national parks.

Picnic facilities and walking tracks at Audley, in Royal National Park, would be among facilities to be funded.

“We want people to to access and enjoy our national parks,” she said.

“We know visitation rates have gone through the roof and we want that to continue.”

Ms Upton said, since 2010, there had been a 60 per cent increase in visitation to NSW national parks.

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) “cautiously welcomed” the new national park and funding boost, but “warned policy settings must change in order to reverse recent wind-backs in environmental protection”.

“While it is positive that the government is investing more in urban greenspace, it has come after years of destruction of bushland and trees in Sydney and falls short of setting strong targets for greenspace and tree canopy retention as recommended by environment groups,” NPA president Anne Dickson said.