November 20 - 26, 2022: Issue 563


The Ku-Ring-Gai GeoRegion UNESCO Proposal

In October 2018 Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment (FOKE) resolved to commence a campaign to call for the UNESCO World Heritage listing of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (KCNP). 

This has now developed into a proposal for the eventual listing of a potential Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark resulting from the significance of the GeoRegion’s outstanding geological features. The initial focus is the development of a designated ‘GeoRegion’, with geotrail development signage and promotion of its significance. To date the group have received strong support from key stakeholders within the three Councils; Ku-ring-gai, Hornsby and Northern Beaches, local politicians and several State Government Ministers, and the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service.

The proposal is of significance considering plans by the Council to change much of the rezoning of Pittwater from Conservation to Residential (R2). Dual occupancies, Manor houses  and Multi dwelling housing are all permitted under R2 zoning. This would certainly see more proposals approved by council which fill whole blocks with concrete, raze every tree on those blocks, and see an incremental height rise in the buildings, along with the scale of these structures - recent approvals by the Council for large 'Seniors Housing' developments in Mona Vale on flood prone lands, or for 'flats' in Avalon Beach backstreets, slotted in between residential homes, are what is already occurring.

Pittwater’s zonings have been critical to protecting this spectacular and precious area. Large swathes of our suburbs were classified as Environmental Zones - later redefined by the NSW government as Conservation zones. Much of Pittwater’s residential areas are currently zoned C4 (Environmental Living).  

Conservation zones, such as C4, are applied to properties with significant environmental values - which may be ecological, scientific or aesthetic - and to those potentially exposed to significant hazards such as  bushfires, flooding and landslides. The zones help determine what owners are allowed to do on their land.

Northern Beaches Council is conducting a Conservation Zones Review, as part of its preparation for a harmonised LEP across the Northern Beaches. The review is on public exhibition until December 2, and comprises a complex set of documents and maps. The Council's proposal seeks to rezone 3,613 properties within the former Pittwater Local Government Area from C4 to residential zones.

A collection of residents - including experts, community groups, former and current councillors - have distilled the points from the review that you could emphasise in your submission. These run in NBC’s Conservation Zones Review - What’s It All About?

Submissions close December 2nd, 2022.

The Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion Background Information
FOKE originally initiated this project with the objective of making a positive contribution to conservation based in and around Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, by seeking recognition of the very significant natural and cultural heritage values. This is exemplified by a wide range of geologically significant features (i.e. geosites) that exist in this area, added to its strong biodiversity recognition.

Having conferred with a range of experts on the geology, geomorphology, natural and cultural heritage values of Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park, it was decided to extend the area of geoheritage significance to embrace areas in the proximity of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. 

Natural and Cultural Heritage of the ‘Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion’
The special geosites chosen to profile exist in a broad area (with the working project name of ‘Ku-ring-gai’) and previously classified in 2002 as forming part of the Hornsby Plateau Landscape which includes:
  • Cliffs, beaches, and lagoons from Long Reef to Barrenjoey.
  • Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
  • Muogamarra Nature Reserve.
  • Northern Garigal National Park.
  • Berowra Valley National Park.
This outstanding ‘GeoRegion’ contains:
  • Numerous geological sites, including several sites of international significance. Currently more than 45 key geosites have been identified across the area.
  • Extensive rare and threatened flora and fauna
  • Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park was registered on the National Heritage List in 2006, with the following assessment:
Summary of Significance: Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Long Island, Lion Island, and Spectacle Island Nature Reserves contain an exceptional representation of the Sydney region biota, a region which is recognised as a nationally outstanding centre of biodiversity.  The place contains a complex pattern of 24 plant communities, including heathland, woodland, open forest, swamps and warm temperate rainforest, with a high native plant species richness of over 1000 species and an outstanding diversity of bird and other animal species. The place is an outstanding example of a centre of biodiversity.’
  • The area provides a vast array of Aboriginal heritage sites including rock engravings, cave art sites, grinding grooves, shell middens, occupational deposits, stone arrangements and burials. It is one of Australia’s most dense areas for Aboriginal sites. Over 570 sites recorded, some with multiple site traits.
Geological Heritage

Of international geological significance:
  • The proposed ‘Ku-ring-gai’ GeoRegion reveals the best exposed geological section of early to mid-Triassic period (240 million years ago) sedimentary rocks in the Sydney Basin.
  • The sediments were deposited in Gondwana adjacent to a high latitude coast under a cold climate in fluvial, lacustrine, and shallow marine environments. Various rock units contain a diversity of fossils that inform us of past environments over nearly 50 million years.
  • The GeoRegion includes eight volcanic diatremes (pipes) and associated dykes with the Hornsby diatreme having perhaps the best known exposed geological section in NSW, if not in all Australia.
Of particular interest, the geomorphology comprising deep valleys, extensive estuaries, pocket beaches, headland cliffs and coastal lagoons was formed by post-glacial sea level rise. 

Dr John Martyn, a member of the Steering Committee, has produced a 135 page book highlighting the importance of the features of the area. A sample of this book is available here.

Geoparks have been established world-wide to create enhanced opportunities for the people who live within their boundaries and foster economic benefits for them, usually  through the development of sustainable tourism. Geoparks stimulate economic activity and  sustainable development through geotourism (holistic, nature-based and cultural tourism  that focuses on an area's geology and landscape as the platform for providing visitor engagement, learning and enjoyment). 

By attracting an increasing number of visitors, a Geopark fosters local socio-economic development through the promotion of a quality  brand linked with the local natural and cultural heritage. A Geopark encourages the  creation of local, innovative enterprises and cottage industries involved in geotourism and  geological inspired products.

Geoparks also focus on community engagement and ownership. In Australia, national parks focus generally only on biodiversity and often with insufficient attention given to geological heritage. 

Unlike World Heritage Areas and national parks, Geoparks can comprise both protected and non-protected areas and enable and celebrate sustainable development.

The Proposal
This Proposal aims to build on the existing recognised values of the area, its biodiversity,  natural and cultural heritage, and highlight its foundation of nationally and internationally  significant geology and geomorphology that has resulted in the development of these  unique traits. 

The plan is to re-invigorate and highlight the area’s importance with the unifying aspects of  a GeoRegion via the establishment of geosites and geotrails linking the various features and  aspects of the area. 

Many of the sites identified in the ‘Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion’ possess values that have recently been identified as being not only of local and national significance, but also of international  significance. 

Subject to the success of gaining and maintaining stakeholder support for the establishment of geosites and geotrails within this area, there is the future possibility of proposing further heritage listings for the most significant of the geosites through local, state and federal heritage legislation.

Once established and agreed by the various stakeholders an agreed area within the ‘Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion’, could be proposed for submission as an aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark.

This would be highly beneficial in raising awareness of the area both nationally and  internationally through geotourism. 

The Economic and Social Benefits of Geotourism
The pursuit of geotourism offers the potential for new industries and employment  opportunities through the development of major projects within Australia. 

Tourism Industry development benefits in the context of addressing the current COVID-19  pandemic can be realised through the holistic approach of geotourism which enhances the  value of traditionally structured, nature-based tourism by generating new product  development (i.e., including geology, landscape, flora and fauna, as well as cultural heritage  attributes, both Indigenous and post European settlement).

Employment benefits through the adoption of a strategy to support and promote geotourism have the potential to significantly improve Indigenous employment, and more broadly, regional employment.

The Australian Geoscience Council (AGC) is currently implementing a National Geotourism Strategy (launched on 7th April 2021) designed to support the orderly development of major geotourism projects and activities in line with overseas trends and domestic regional development imperatives. The AGC considers that the ‘Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion’ project is an important pilot for geotourism development in Australia.

Linnean Society of NSW's 2022 field symposium on the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
The Linnean Society of NSW's 2022 field symposium was on the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park north of Sydney and surrounding regions in the Northeastern Sydney Basin, bounded to the north by the Hunter River, the coastline to the east, Sydney Harbour to the south, and extending west as far as the Putty Road on the boundary of Yengo National Park. The Symposium was held over two days, November 17 and 18.

Much of the area lies within the distinctive lower Triassic Hawkesbury Sandstone outcrop with its spectacular geomorphology and characteristic floral communities, contrasting with those developed on the underlying lower Triassic Narrabeen Group and upper Permian rocks in the Hunter Valley. On the Central Coast large coastal lakes provide important freshwater and brackish water habitats. 
Two days of scientific and general interest talks and presentations on current research into the geology and geodiversity, flora and fauna, and other aspects of the natural history of this extensive region were followed by a day-long field trip exploring aspects of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

A wide variety of talks was scheduled (see listing below) on various scientific subjects relating to geology/ geomorphology, botany, zoology, anthropology and conservation science of the northeastern Sydney Basin. 

The afternoon session was devoted to a themed session of talks on the outstanding natural and cultural heritage of Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai and Northern Beaches local government areas.

Last Glacial Maximum landscapes and vegetation on the continental shelf coastal plain off Sydney and impacts of its subsequent loss, as indicated by plant species distributions and disjunctions
Doug Benson

The age and origin of the Hawkesbury River of southeast Australia
Stephen J. Gale

Club and Coral Fungi: Diversity, Distribution and DNA
Michael Gillings and Vanessa McPherson

Fungal Biodiversity of the Lane Cove Valley 
Vanessa McPherson and Michael Gillings

Genoplesium baueri, a floral gem of the Sydney Basin
Wendy A. Grimm

Vegetation patterns associated with volcanic dykes at West Head and Govett Ridge in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park  
Jonathan Sanders, 

Initiating the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion Project
Ursula Bonzol

The Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion of the Sydney Basin
Dr John Martyn

Droning on: Application of a UAV to interpretation of the coastal cliffs in the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion
John Illingsworth and Dr Peter Mitchell

Soil landscapes of the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion and their contribution to a revised pedology
Dr Peter Mitchell

Fauna of the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion 
Jayden Walsh

Connection to Country - Aboriginal Sites of the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion
Bob Conroy

The Hornsby Diatreme: centrepiece of the new Hornsby Park
Ian G. Percival

Geotrail Development within the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion
David Robson

The Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion and the National Geotourism Strategy
Angus M Robinson

Papers presented at the symposium are invited to be submitted (though this is not mandatory) for publication in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, subject to editorial standards and peer review. 

This journal, first published in 1874, is available online and is open access, and has no page charges (colour images and diagrams are free). A detailed set of Author Guidelines is available on the Linnean Society of NSW website. Deadline for submission of manuscripts will be April 30, 2023 with publication likely in mid to late 2023. 
Accepted papers are published as soon as they are edited and proofed.

Below runs a great film put together by John Illingsworth, Pittwater Pathways, who also attended the Linnean Society of NSW's 2022 field symposium on the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
More soon!

Ku-Ring-Gai GeoRegion: A New Concept In Landscape Conservation

JI: 'The northern area of Sydney roughly bounded by Berowra Creek, the Hawkesbury River and the coast, is a landscape dominated by the 245 million year old  Hawkesbury Sandstone. The natural values of this landscape are conserved and managed in numerous conservation areas where the educational focus has primarily been on their biospheric elements. 

Recognition of a GeoRegion, draws attention to the geologic and geomorphic framework of this special area and the idea is being promoted by the Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment.  Accessible geosites and geotrails are being identified which will be used to interpret the national and international significance of this geological environment with its special flora and fauna, and rich Aboriginal heritage.

The GeoRegion has been endorsed in principle by the Geological Survey of NSW, and is supported by Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, and Northern Beaches Councils, as well as the National Parks and Wildlife Service. As trails are established and used it is anticipated that the GeoRegion will be approved by the NSW State Government for nomination as an Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark. Over 170 Geoparks have been identified overseas and it is hoped that the Ku-ring-gai GeoRegion could become the first in Australia.

In November 2022 the Linnean Society of NSW presented a Symposium on the natural history of this area and the core papers presented at that event will form the basis of nomination documentation to  be submitted to UNESCO assessors.'