Towards the end of 2022, a proposal entitled 'Development of a new Aboriginal joint management model for NSW national parks' was released by the State of NSW and Department of Planning and Environment
In the public release it was stated ... "This paper sets out a groundbreaking proposal to develop, in consultation with Aboriginal people and other national park stakeholders, a new model for Aboriginal joint management of the NSW national park estate."
The paper went on to record -
The NSW Government recognises that land title is central to the development of a new model for Aboriginal joint management.
Accordingly, it is anticipated the new model will provide for the potential handback of title to all NSW national parks - covering nearly 10 percent of the State - over a 15 to 20-year period, subject to the land being leased back (long-term and for nominal rent) to the NSW Government for its continued use and management as a national park.
This would be an historic step which no other Australian jurisdiction and few, if any, countries in the world have taken in recognising the importance of Aboriginal land ownership and management in the stewardship of protected areas.
In response to this proposal, a local activist association based at Balranald and calling themselves 'Yabba for Yanga', have welcomed the enlightened view and have suggested that the Yanga National Park be immediately identified to be a leader in the program.
Spokesperson Andy Millar said the group have been campaigning for many years, in fact since the Yanga National Park was formed in 2007, for a better understanding of the management of such a unique but fragile environment than had been in place since the government purchased the pastoral property in 2005.
At that time, then premier Bob Carr lauded the attractions of the new national park - it's 17,000ha redgum forest (the largest in the world, he was proud to claim) and the assumption that 50,000 visitors annually would have access to the property, which had been denied whilst it was privately owned.
But the annual visitor numbers have not been seen, and while the size of the redgum forest is a matter for record, it is not natural but 'man-made'.
Mr Millar is distraught over the political mismanagement of the national parks across the state, with first-hand knowledge of the conditions at Yanga.
"The NSW national parks are drowning due to the recent floods but more importantly, they are 'drowning' from lack of attention to the local issues and concerns," he said.
"The NSW Government's approach to the dangers, costs and problems of being in charge of such a land mass is to produce a 13 page document in which there are ten large photos and only one reference to the consultation with the broader community."
Mr Millar and his associates in Yabba for Yanga have serious doubts about the real political intention of the proposal.
"This 'light on the hill' type of visionary statement has holes in it and we can see the potential to create another level of bureaucracy to deal with the resulting squabbles," he said.
"We are aware that all National parks are not the same, and that there are different solutions for different parks."
Mt Millar pointed to the Yanga National Park as a perfect example.
"The red gum forest, touted by environmental groups as a significant extent of native trees, is in fact entirely man made,'' he said.
"It did not exist until 1940 when the Redbank weir was constructed releasing the Lower Murrumbidgee flow onto the Yanga flood plain" he said.
"Prior to that construction, the top end of Yanga had always been periodically flooded due to the naturally occurring winter and spring rains, and the pastoralists and Aborigine's had adjusted their lives to fit."
In broad figures, Mr Millar said within the 17,000ha of river redgum trees and open woodland, there are approximately half of which is capable of yielding high quality logs.
"The other half is quite capable of being thinned to produce firewood or chip wood, and all without any current or future detriment to the ecological state of the 'forest," he sad.
"In fact, thinning of the young regrowth trees would allow the old trees to continue to live."
Mr Millar said the current state of the Yanga National Park can be seen in two parts - the northern section adjacent to the Murrumbidgee River and covered by the redgum forest is locked up and under water.
The southern section, south of the Sturt Highway, contains the century-old pastoral assets such as the homestead, shearing shed, cattle and sheep yards and accommodation for station staff and shearing teams.
Mr Millar thought the current levels of funding are insufficient to prevent the inexorable decline in those historically relevant buildings whose current funding doesn't stop them from falling apart.
"A solution could be to transfer the top section of the park to the Forestry Corporation of NSW," he said.
"They have the management capacity, skills and experience to operate a commercial tree conservation programme and leave the rest of Yanga as a National Park.
"The Forestry Commission could pay a dividend from the conservation and commercial operation of the redgum forest that could contribute to the operational and preservation costs of the part of Yanga National Park, which contain the pastoral heritage assets."
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