A proposal to build serviced cabins for tourism in pristine parts of the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area near Lithgow risks damage to its internationally renowned pagoda landscapes and will set a dangerous precedent. A lease notice, on exhibition till May 31, indicates that cabins by Wild Bush Luxury are to be located along ridgelines to “best leverage the aspect and vantage points.”

If the cabins are approved, three outstanding pagoda landscapes would suffer visual blight, pristine Carne Creek would be polluted, and native flora and fauna harmed. This new threat to internationally significant pagoda landscapes flags the need for greater protection for this reserve, and for national parks generally.

A globally rare and internationally significant landscape 

“The three cabin locations identified in the lease notice are among globally rare and internationally significant rocky pagoda landscapes. The importance of these landscapes is not just recognised by scientists. The independent Planning Assessment Commission, the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the Office of Environment and Heritage agreed with the science and determined that the pagoda landscapes should be granted “the highest possible level of protection[i], said Keith Muir, spokesperson for the Gardens of Stone Alliance of environment groups*.

“Two government determinations underpinned by science and related to the land now reserved are relevant to the Wild Bush Lux plans: 

  • That pagoda landscapes deserve protection at the highest possible level; and 
  • That the global level of conservation significance applies to the whole pagoda landscape. 

“To retain NSW Labor’s conservation credentials, Environment Minister Sharpe has to refuse the lease for commercial accommodation in the Gardens of Stone,” Mr Muir said. 

“If the NSW Minister for Environment, the Hon Penny Sharpe, overturns the collective determinations of its independent decision makers, government departments and scientists regarding the need to protect iconic pagoda landscapes at the highest possible level, then a very damaging precedent is established,” Mr Muir said.

 He said “The precedent of serviced accommodation among pagodas in the Gardens of Stone will enable similar developments in landscapes of global conservation significance within national parks, such as virgin coastal headlands, mountain tops or rocky cliff lines. Nowhere will be safe. This is exactly what some in the tourism industry want; to pick the eyes out of our national parks for their next development opportunity. 

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[i] PAC, December 2012, Review Coalpac Consolidation Project, p76; 

Department of Planning and Infrastructure’s Coalpac Consolidation Project Director-General’s Environmental Assessment Report, June 2013, p36; and 

NSW Planning Assessment Commission Determination Report, 17 October 2014, Invincible Colliery (07_012 Mod 4) and Cullen Valley Mine (200-5-2003 Mod 2) Expansion Modifications, p9.

*The Gardens of Stone Alliance consists of Wilderness Australia, Blue Mountains Conservation Society, Lithgow Environment Group, National Parks Association of NSW, Bushwalking NSW and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

Cartoon of cabins in a pagoda landscape by Ned Toons
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