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The Moors


The Colong Foundation, 12th October 2006.


30 km south of Foster.


9,000 ha (nominated)[i]
yet to be identified


                                                                          Nominated                          Identified
NPWS estate

national park                                                        8,700 ha                                     - ha

Other tenure
Crown land                                              approx.. 300 ha                                     - ha

Wilderness Not Declared:

National Park;


8700 ha

Percentage of entire nomination:

100 %

Crown Land;


300 ha

Percentage of entire nomination:

3 %


The Moors wilderness extends from the foreshores of Myall, Bollambayte and Two Mile Lakes east over the Angophora costata forests on high dunes through heathlands to the coastline. The main forest canopy species include Smooth-barked Apple, and /or Blackbutt and Old Man Banksia while the understorey consists mainly of shrubby heath species. The heathlands of the Moors support least 135 different plant species with the main indicator species being Wallum Banksia (Banksia aemula), Coastal Banksia (Banksia integrifolia), Old Man Banksia (Banksia oblongifolia) and several Leptospermum species. In wetter areas heath communities give way to sedgelands. Fringing the lake system there is ribbon-like swamp forest community consisting of Broad-leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) and Swamp Oak (Casuarina glauca) that occasionally gives way to mangroves. The rocky peninsulas, like McGraths Hill, supports patches of Spotted Gum forest (Corymbia maculata) along with a distinctive cycad, Burrawangs (Macrozamia spiralis) in the understorey.

The Myall Lakes are coastal lagoons blocked from the sea by sand dunes of two distinct ages. The inland parallel dunes were formed in the Late Pleistocene (60-70,000 years BP) and a beach dune barrier was formed about 6,000 years ago[ii].

On the Inner Barrier sand ridges there is a continuum of heath types from dry to wet determined by geomorphology, with intervening belts of Melaleuca shrubland on peaty soils with intermittent clay layers. These profiles, together with level of the water table within the sand mass, help determine the occurrence of either wet or dry heath and the many sub-communities that occur within them.

The Outer Barrier has no peaty layer, is well-drained and covered in a shrubby woodland of Angophora trees and Old Man Banksia shrubs. These sand barriers developed in periods when huge volumes of sand were swept shorewards following major rises in sea level and comprise one of the best preserved dual barriers on the NSW coast.

The Moors have a high diversity of birds and small animals, some of which are threatened, such as the Ground Parrot, Australasian bittern and the Green thighed frog (Litoria brevipalmata), as well as the vulnerable Freycinets forg (Litoria freycineti) and Stuttering frog (Mixophyes balbus). Extensive wetlands are a feature of the Moors providing habitat for local and migratory waterbirds.



The occupation by the Worimi people of the Moors is expressed through scarred trees, open camp sites and middens[iii]. The first known contact that the Worimi had with Europeans was in 1790 when five convicts escaped from the Second Fleet were ‘adopted’ as returned spirits of ancestors. They lived with them until recaptured by Captain William Broughton in 1795.


From 1851 parcels of Crown land were offered on the eastern side of Myall Lake and these extended south to include McGraths Johnsons Hills[iv]. In their survey of the Myall Lakes region Osborn and Robertson reported in 1939 that the vegetation was “almost in a primitive state” suggesting that dunes of the Moors were not subjected to regular grazing.


Mining applications were granted in the Myall Lakes region as early as 1956. Exploration for heavy mineral sands, particularly rutile and zircon, began in 1957[v].


Public opposition to sand mining leads to the Sim Committee being established to advise on sand mining on the NSW north coast. In July the NSW Mines Department issues leases for two mineral sand ore bodies between Myall Lakes and the Pacific Ocean[vi].


Mineral Deposits commenced sand mining east of the lower reach of the Myall River on the Outer Barrier, and the Myall Lakes area then became a major focus on the struggle between conservation and sand mining[vii].


The Sim Committee recommends a small Myall Lakes National Park on the eastern side of lower lakes by and only 1,800 hectares are recommended to be free of mining[viii].


NSW Cabinet recommends a Myall Lakes National Park[ix].


19 March 1971, Mineral Deposits lodges a development application with Stroud Shire Council to mine two long strips of mineral sand ore between Myall Lakes and the Pacific Ocean[x]. The application was partly in the proposed park and was referred by the Minister on the 21 September 1971 to the State Planning Authority for determination[xi].


18 February, 1972 the State Planning Authority resolved to withhold its concurrence to mining the ore body east and adjacent to the Lakes. The Authority stated in its reasons that the finely wooded high dune system “is the most important element in the Myall Lakes landscape, which is an outstanding scenic asset to the State”[xii]. Meanwhile Myall Lakes mining operations saw the construction of the road from Tea Gardens to Seal Rocks along the coastal fringe of the beaches to service planned mining operations.


An inquiry under the Local Government Act was conducted by Water Bunning to report on the appeal by Mineral Deposits into the refusal to permit mining of the high dunes adjoining Myall and Smith Lakes. The inquiry report in January 1974 recommended the area between Sand Bar and Seal Rocks Road be mined[xiii].


Red cedar cutting began in the early 19th century and selective logging continued until 1973 when logging of Blackbutt trees occurred sporadically on the high dunes south of the Seal Rocks Road, but by then logging had degraded the high dunes north of this road[xiv].

Off Road Vehicles

October 2002, new Myall Lakes National Park plan of management permits 4WD vehicle beach access from Dees Corner to Big Gibber Headland. 4WD vehicle beach driving can impact Aboriginal middens, crush nesting Little Terns and Pied Oystercatchers and hatchlings, and create a network of tracks among the fore dunes[xv]. The old mining road between Mungo Brush and Seal Rocks remains closed as it traverses the Moors due to potential environmental impacts of such use[xvi].



The Hunter/Manning Branch of the NSW National Parks Association publish a 9,000 hectare national park proposal from Kataway Hill to Mungo Brush but it omits most of the spectacular high dunes to the north[xvii].

Little Broughton Island gazetted as a nature reserve[xviii].


The Myall Lakes Committee propose a 58,000 hectare national parks including a large marine park and land east of Myall and Smith Lakes. A nature reserve was proposed over the Moors wilderness with a nature trail being the only facilities and no public car access[xix].


NSW Government gives public notice of its intention to extend the present south-west limit of Myall Lakes National Park up to the Seal Rocks Road. At that time mention is made on the desirability of extending the park northward of Seal Rocks Road up to Smiths Lake but Minister does not make a decision on this extension[xx].


Myall Lakes National Park of 15,000ha is reserved over the Sim Report recommended area, the bed of the lakes and Broughton Island.


A number of experts to the Inquiry, including Dr. D.F. McMichael, formerly permanent head of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, advocate that “the southern area could well be zoned by the NPWS as a wilderness area[xxi]”.

The submission to the Inquiry by the Secretary to the Australian Department of the Environment and Conservation concludes that “the high dune wilderness area is a scarce and irreplaceable resource”[xxii].


Stormpetrel Nature Reserve gazetted over Little Broughton Island and over small islands to protect habitat of breeding sea birds, in particular three species of Shearwaters.


The Wran Government resolved to ban sand mining in existing national parks and phase out mining in proposed park areas.

1972 to 1984

Rural land acquired adding a further 15,000ha to the national park[xxiii].


The entire national park is designated as a wetland of international importance in 1999 (i.e. a RAMSAR listed site) [xxiv].


Department of Environment and Conservation advises that it will prepare a wilderness assessment for ‘The Moors’ wilderness nomination, along with the Wooli and Sandon wilderness nominations[xxv].


Due to off road vehicle use the wilderness is at risk of sand blow outs and degradation.

Beach access and nature trail use by off-road vehicles

Off road vehicles are the principal impediment to upgrading wilderness quality in the Moors wilderness area. Beach driving from Dees Corner to Big Gibber Headland is a major intrusion from the east into the nomination area and can provide access to 4WD management trails to the west. The use of 4WDs in wilderness areas is highly detrimental to the environment. Such vehicles: introduce weeds; encourage sand blowouts, conflicts with plan for a long walking track through the Moors; damages fragile swamp ecosystems; and leave trails that destroy the aesthetic qualities of wilderness. Recovery takes years. Such vehicles often carry generators, which are incompatible with wilderness qualities due to the level of noise created and the vehicles cause destruction of rare marine birds.

Recommendations: The old mining road within the nominated wilderness should be closed and redeveloped as a walking track. Other roads parallel to the beach should be closed and vehicle access restricted to Dees Corner.

Pest Species

Major Bitou bush infestations occur due to use in stabilisation fore dune areas after sand mining. Lantana is another common weed in areas of previous disturbance such as Johnsons Hill.

Recommendations: Adequately fund NPWS management, including for pest species control. The voluntary efforts of the members of conservation groups should continue to be supported by the NPWS.

Fire Management

Overburning causes severe damage to wilderness. The ground cover that binds the sandy soil is burnt potentially leading to massive sand blowouts, as the coastal storms would strip away the sand from burnt areas of the Outer Barrier. Fires also a wipe out fauna populations and damage old growth coastal woodlands. Often it is these very oldest plants that provide most of the nesting and roosting places. The assertion that Australia’s forest lands should be burnt more often to mirror Aboriginal burning practices, is incorrect. Dr John Benson is adamant that “most forests and woodlands of Australia would not have been subject to frequent (less than ten-year) burns”[xxvi].

Recommendations: The protection of wilderness values in fire management plans needs to be a priority. A fire policy for wilderness areas should be adopted, with priority given to manual construction of control lines. Park regulations should be gazetted to prohibit public vehicular access to rehabilitating control lines following firefighting activities.

Effective firefighting in wilderness requires constant aerial or satellite surveillance in bushfire danger periods, to enable rapid detection and response. Such an approach eliminates the need for fire towers in wilderness areas. To effectively tackle fires in remote areas while they are still small, more fire fighters need to be trained as ‘smoke jumpers’ and helicopter crews.

Except for fire trails in perimeter areas, trails constructed during firefighting operations should be closed and rehabilitated immediately following the operation.

Councils and volunteer fire brigades must ensure local residents of nearby Seal Rocks and rural districts protect themselves from fire by removing combustible material from around their homes. The main danger is caused by the building of inflammable dwellings in inflammable bushland. Local government must prohibit all residential development in these areas.

Fuel-reduction burns should be undertaken where it is most effective, that is close to the assets being protected (eg. towns and rural districts)[xxvii].


Wilderness Australia Ltd
Contact: Person (Position)                                                Ph: (w) landline
                                                                                                                 : mob

The other peak group
Contact: person (Conservation Officer)                                 ph (h) mob

The local group
Contact: person (Conservation Officer)                                 ph (h) mob



[i] Nominated by the Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd on 12th October 2006.

[ii] Richard Groves, Heathland Vegetation – conservation implications, in Haigh, C., (ed) July 1981, Heaths in New South Wales, NPWS, Sydney, p23.

[iii] NPWS, October 2002, Myall Lakes National Park Plan of Management, NPWS, Sydney, p34.

[iv] Ibid., p37.

[v] Ian Brown, 2009, Myall Lakes: The Guide, Dept Environment & Climate Change, Sydney.

[vi] Walter Bunning, Jan 1974, Report Shire of Great Lakes: Proposed Mining of High Dunes adjoining the Myall-Smith Lakes. Appeal by Mineral Deposits Limited under s.342V(5) of the Local Government Act, 1919 as amended in respect of the decision by the State Planning Authority of NSW refusing interim development permission to carry out mining. Bunning and Madden, Architects and Town Planners, Sydney, p4.

[vii] NPWS, Op. cit., p37.

[viii] Scientific Reference Area between Mungo Brush and Johnsons Hill in the Report of the Committee of Enquiry on Differences and Conflicts between interests of Parks and Conservation Authorities, Scientific Bodies and Mining Companies presented to the Minister for Mines and the Minister for Lands [the Sim Report], Sydney, Jan. 1968. Shown as Figure 4 in Clarke, Gazzard and Partners Architects/Planners, Feb. 1969, National Park Proposal for the Myall Lakes, prepared for the Myall Lakes Committee, Sydney, p19.

[ix] NPWS, Op. cit., p37.

[x] Walter Bunning, Op. cit. p4.

[xi] Walter Bunning, Op. cit., p5.

[xii] Walter Bunning, Op. cit., p6.

[xiii] Walter Bunning, Op. cit., p1.

[xiv] Walter Bunning, Op.cit., p39.

[xv] NPWS, Op. cit., p67.

[xvi] NPWS, Op. cit. p65.

[xvii] Clarke, Gazzard and Partners Architects/Planners, Op cit., p15.

[xviii] NPWS, Op. cit. p7.

[xix] Clarke, Gazzard and Partners Architects/Planners, Op. cit. p15.

[xx] Walter Bunning, Op. cit. p70.

[xxi] Walter Bunning, Op. cit. p39.

[xxii] Walter Bunning, Op. cit. p84, Appendix B.

[xxiii] NPWS, Op. cit. p7.

[xxiv] Ramsar designated 14-06-1999,,

[xxv] Simon Smith, 26 Feb. 2007, letter to K Muir regarding wilderness nominations, Department of Environment and Conservation NSW.

[xxvi] Benson and Redpath, 1997, ‘Nature of pre-European native vegetation in Australia’, in Cunninghamia, Vol. 5(2).

[xxvii] Mr J P Henry, Deputy Fire Co-ordinator with the Bush Fire Council of NSW, 14-16 Sept, 1983, reported in the proceedings of the Ninth National Conference of the Australian Fire Protection Association.