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The Shoalhaven on the NSW south coast is home to an amazing variety of birds and is a mecca for birdwatchers.
BirdLife Shoalhaven promotes a better understanding of our birds and works tirelessly to ensure their survival.

Heritage Estate

Click to magnify image and click again to reduce The article below was written in late 2015 and there have been new developments in its story since then. These have been mentioned in reports in our seasonal magazines which can be found on our Magazines page. This page will be updated prior to the end of 2018.

November 2015
It is generally agreed that the Heritage Estate is one of two great conservation battle zones in the Shoalhaven, the other being Lake Wollumboola. The Heritage Estate had its origins in the doomed Henry Halloran "grand vision" plan of "Pacific City" of 1915. The battle to conserve the Estate began in the late 1980s when Warren Halloran, Henry"s son, sold the property to Michael Tsovaris of Heritage Estate Pty. Ltd., who was described as a "land shark" in a Sydney Morning Herald feature article.

The 170 hectare estate consisted of urban sized lots organized in four "estates", all zoned Rural in the first Shoalhaven Local Environment Plan of 1985.

The lots were advertised for $4950 and falsely marketed with a view to rezoning for residential and speculative increases in value and use. Landowners received support in that endeavour and a residential development push continued from the early 1990s to May 2009. With Shoalhaven Council supporting some rezoning and development, the proposal had to be submitted for Commonwealth approval. That approval was denied in the Peter Garrett decision of March 2009, which was quite correctly based on the provisions of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act. The decision specifically referenced "Threatened Species" and the threat to the biodiversity of Booderee National Park to which the Heritage Estate is critical.

The Estate area itself is a wonderful and valuable composite of various ecologies including estuary, forest communities, woodland communities, heathland and sedgeland. It includes an Endangered Ecological Community [EEC] and Crown Land adjacent to Worrowing Creek.

Click to magnify image and click again to reduce Individuals and groups comprised mostly of local and Shoalhaven environmental activists and conservationists, took up the cudgels of opposition early in the Estate saga. Two particular groups, the Erowal Bay Action Group and the Jervis Bay Regional Alliance were prominent and involved in raising and organizing funded scientific study of the Estate to assist in establishing the ecological value of the Estate environment. Many were involved over the years in lobbying government and ministers, writing submissions, gaining publicity and keeping the pressure on.

The May 2009 Garrett decision was a watershed in Estate history and whilst it was initially received with warranted joy it was not to be the finale to the conservation battle.

A point of consensus developed however with a range of people and authorities, many of whom had vehemently opposed conservation, that after the Commonwealth decision, conversion to National Park was the only realistic outcome. NSW National Parks and Wildlife was joined by Shoalhaven City Council, Commonwealth Environmental agencies and the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife in developing a proposal to fund voluntary acquisition and move for its inclusion in Jervis Bay National Park. That proposal was realized with the announcement in October 2012 that over $5 million had been granted to purchase Estate lands.

This was another major watershed but not the ultimate solution, at least in the shorter term.

Prior to this, the next wave of conservation action had developed when no real solution was apparent, since the first application for Commonwealth funding was rejected and conversion to national park appeared to be at a stalemate.

Late in 2011 a community, conservation network was formed as a private network to reliably inform those with a genuine interest and, when needed, to act in the interest of conservation of the Estate. The intention was to ensure that all public figures, agencies and authorities, as well as the community, would be in no doubt that the conservation interests of the Estate would be actively argued, supported and promoted. The flagship of the network is the newsletter "HEST" of which there have been thirty five editions since March 2012. The newsletter covers the full range of interests that Estate conservation involves from historical and political to environment and ecology.

The HEST Network has been active in submissions on any matter relating to the Estate but particularly intrusion, damage and destruction and has made major submissions on funding, Estate management, access issues and Rezoning. Activities have also included various events to raise awareness of the conservation value of the Estate, morning teas and the presentations of a purpose prepared slide show to community groups.

The network has expanded over time with strong links to the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, who have been very supportive, and a valuable working relationship with both National Parks and Wildlife and Shoalhaven City Council. Individual research has been undertaken and an extensive catalogue of photographs developed covering all natural aspects of the Estate. This has proven valuable to the Foundation NPW.

Click to magnify Bristlebird image and click again to reduce One major outcome of this has been the extension of the bird list adding five species previously not seen or listed in the Estate, including one species since declared as "Threatened" - the Little Eagle. Birds listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act (NSW) are the Eastern Bristlebird, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Powerful Owl, Masked Owl, Square-tailed Kite. Birds listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (Commonwealth) are the Eastern Bristlebird and 5 migratory species: Black-faced Monarch, Latham"s Snipe, White-bellied Sea-eagle, White-throated Needletail and Rufous Fantail.

Some locals also moved to have the Council owned St Georges Avenue Reserve, which includes the EEC, included in the Council Bushcare program and both infrastructure and planting work have been completed over the last three years.

So where is the battle currently?

Well, a Federal Court decision on the landowner case for compensation is still to be handed down after six months of deliberation. Shoalhaven City Council has finally proceeded with rezoning of Heritage and neighboring Estates from Rural to Environment Conservation and submissions close on May 9. The Foundation still needs to purchase about 600 lots to complete the voluntary buyback and ensure the transition into Jervis Bay National Park. The court case needs to be finalised for that to happen.

So the battle is not over and the conclusion not yet in sight.

Considerable progress has been made but conservation efforts continue and BLS will update on further progress.


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