Cattle property and former recreation area now National Park

Horse riding at Tugalong station.
Horse riding at Tugalong station.

A cattle property once used as a recreational dirt motorbike and horse recreation area has been bought by the NSW Government to become part of the the first National Park to be gazetted in NSW in 11 years.

The property Tugalong Station, will be incorporated into an area that includes the existing Bangadilly National Park and the Wollondilly Nature reserve, 25km north-west of Bowral, in the north of the Goulburn electorate bordering Wollondilly. The area is about 3680 hectares. No name has been chosen yet for the new National Park.

Tugalong Station was owned by Bunbury Properties Ltd, who have a number of pastoral interests in Queensland and NSW. It had been running mixed breed cattle on the farm for several years. The property has been owned by the Hazlett family for more than 30 years. A plan to create a motorbike park at the site caused major controversy in 2010.

Negotiations to buy the station started about three years, with a sale price agreed on recently. Previously Tugalong ran as a getaway destination for recreational horseriders and also dirt motorbike enthusiasts. 

The Premier Gladys Berejiklian with Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton announces the new National Park at Audley today. Photo by John Veage.

The Premier Gladys Berejiklian with Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton announces the new National Park at Audley today. Photo by John Veage.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “this new national park will ensure that a vital koala wilderness area south of Sydney is preserved. Like all national parks, it will be open to the public so they can explore the wilderness country.”

Tugalong Station is part of the new National Park.

Tugalong Station is part of the new National Park.

Ms Berejiklian also announced a $150 million investment to improve access to national parks across NSW.

“This includes major upgrade works in places like Sydney’s Royal National Park and in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, making it easier for people to enjoy our wonderful natural beauty,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the new national park contains some of the Southern Highlands’ best koala habitat.

 “Koalas are an iconic species and we are acting to ensure their survival,” Ms Upton said.

“The new national park will not only add to the State’s conservation lands, it is yet another example of how the NSW Government is moving to protect and preserve the koala population.”

A koala at the area now a new national park.

A koala at the area now a new national park.

In a release, the Government said its $150 million investment to improve access to existing national parks includes upgraded walking tracks, better visitor infrastructure and facilities and new digital tools such as virtual tours and livestreaming cameras.

“This will include  upgrade to the 13.6 kilometre Grand Cliff Top Walk from Wentworth Falls to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area ($10 million). Also, upgrading access to iconic lookout points to a mobility impaired access standard ($9.9 million); improved park visitor infrastructure and facilities – expansion of picnic areas, barbecues, water provision, facilities ($38.7 million) and increased support for families and people with restricted mobility ($45 million). This will include upgraded picnic facilities and the walking tracks at Audley Weir, in the Royal National Park.”  

“NSW boasts some of the most majestic and picturesque coastal lookouts, outback walking tracks, camping grounds and beaches in the world and we want more visitors to experience the natural beauty and wonder of our national parks,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Wollondilly river.

Wollondilly river.

Ms Upton added: “As well as international and interstate tourists, we want to make it easier for families to get out there and discover the natural beauty our State.”

A former owner of Tugalong wrote to The Land website saying she was pleased the station would be preserved.

Sharon Ridsdale wrote: “My husband and I used to own and operate Tugalong Station. It was Len Ridsdales brainchild to start a farm stay back in the 1970s. He had it for 17 years and I was with him for nine of those years.

“We used it as a Quarter Horse stud, Santa Gertrudis stud and guest property. We had up to three hundred horses at any one time and one hundred head of cattle. It would be a common occurance for staff and volunteers to saddle forty or fifty horses for a two - three hour trail ride. In its heyday we could have up to sixty guests staying with us daily during school holidays and weekends. It is a stunningly beautiful property and I am so very happy that it will now be part of a national park. I cannot think of a better future for this pristine tract of land.”

The last national park gazetted in NSW was the Murray Valley National Park in 2007. Local Nationals member for Murray Austin Evans has tried to de-gazette the park to allow red gum forestry activity to resume in the park.

The NSW National Parks Association denied the new park at Wollondilly would protect a koala hub.

“The newly announced national park centred on Tugalong station is a welcome addition, but could have gone further and protected a valuable habitat corridor from land clearing—made easier by new land clearing laws implemented in 2016,” it said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the government chose to inflate by 40% the size of the announcement by including 1,510ha of already protected land in the total of 3,680ha. New additions total 2,164ha.

“The newly protected area contains no ‘koala hubs’ (areas occupied by koalas) identified by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, calling into question the import of the park for koalas.”

“We welcome the addition of land into the reserve network and we strongly welcome government recognition that the best way to protect koala habitat is to include it in national parks,” said Anne Dickson, NPA President.

“This area provides for important connectivity so the reservation is good, but it could have gone further and secured the entire corridor in perpetuity.

“It is now easier to clear land in NSW following the new land clearing laws passed in late 2016, and new logging laws commenced in December 2018 herald an intensification of logging state-wide. Thanks to these policy settings, reserves are more important than ever,” Ms Dickson continued.

“It is an unfortunate fact that the rate of reserve creation has fallen dramatically under Ms Berejiklian, Mr Baird and Mr O’Farrell—by over 90% to just 10,675 hectares per year—at the same time as threats to native vegetation have risen sharply due to policy decisions. We need to do much better.

“NPA has proposed several national parks on the NSW north coast—including the Great Koala National Park—to protect koala habitat, and the government should urgently implement these in order to protect known koala habitat and populations from logging.”