Blue Mtns Peace Keepers was begun by a group of local citizens who are deeply concerned about the proposed commercial lease of Katoomba Airfield.
We speak for the vulnerable plant and animal species in this glorious and fragile World Heritage Area where we live. We represent the many residents and visitors who come here to experience the natural quiet of the bush.
It's our mission to protect the tranquil environment that supports the biodiversity of our beloved Blue Mountains National Park - for its own sake, but also, because this is the bedrock of our local economy.
You don't have to be a Blue Mountains local to be a Blue Mtns Peacekeeper. We'd love you to join us.
Why do we want to protect the
Blue Mountains National Park from noise pollution?
Where is the katoomba airfield?
Katoomba Airfield is located on Crown land surrounded by the Blue Mountains National Park. Access to the Airfield is just off Grand Canyon Road in Medlow Bath above the historic Grand Canyon Track.
The airfield is surrounded by Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on sandstone (THPSS), which are listed as Vulnerable Ecological Communities (VECs) under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act. The upper mountains provides habitat for many endangered species, including the Giant Dragonfly and the Blue Mountains Water Skink. The Katoomba Airfield is within metres of local residents and businesses in Medlow Bath and very close to Blackheath on the next ridge, where an increase in helicopter tourism is already affecting local businesses and the experience of natural quiet for walkers, visitors and wildlife.
protecting the peace for conservation
Despite the location of the Katoomba Airfield in the middle of the National Park and World Heritage Area, no Environmental Impact Study has been taken. We are pretty concerned about that, and so is the Powerful Owl, one of the endangered species that lives here.
Protecting the peace of the bush is important to maintain the health and biodiversity of species within the Blue Mountains National Park. As caretakers, it's our duty to protect vulnerable ecological communities like the Temperate Peat Swamps on Sandstone.
An increase in helicopter noise in the National Park will clearly change the habitat for wildlife. Loud anthropogenic noise can alter vocal behaviour of species, reduce numbers, change vigilance and foraging behaviour, and impact individual fitness and the structure of ecological communities.
protecting the peace for park visitors
In our research on the potential impacts of helicopter noise on the Blue Mountains, a useful document we discovered comes from the National Parks Service of the US. The Report to Congress on Effects of Aircraft Overflights on the National Park System (1995) defines natural quiet as 'the natural ambient sound conditions found in a park.'
Natural sounds are part of a web of resources vital to park ecosystems. From the trickle of a slender waterfall to the raucous calls of the Gang Gangs and Black Cockatoos to the quiet crackle in the braken, as a lizard takes shelter - these sounds compose immersive experiences important for wildlife, wilderness, visitors, and cultural-historic events.
Referencing a Visitor Survey, the Report confirms that, according to the majority of the 15,000 surveyed visitors, 'system-wide, enjoying natural quiet is about as important as viewing natural scenery as a reason tor visiting national parks.' (p16)
It's a pretty compelling reason to protect the natural quiet of our Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
Natural quiet is a precious resource
Just two hours from the busiest city in Australia, the Blue Mountains is the second most visited place in NSW. People come here from Sydney and from all around the world to come to experience the natural quiet of the National Park - to retreat from the noise of the city and immerse themselves in tranquillity.
Time spent quietly in the bush, right up close, listening to sounds of the natural world, is a balm to 21st century city-dwellers. It's a mental health resource like no other, in a world where it is ever harder to find peace.
This extraordinary access to nature, space and quiet is one of our most precious resources. We need to preserve this resource for now and for future generations.
here's some stats worth thinking on
The Blue Mountains is the second most visited place in NSW, after Sydney. The would-be leaseholder of Katoomba Airfield is pitching the notion that his business will benefit tourism, but an increase in commercial flights threatens the natural quiet that our current, sustainable tourism industry is built on.
'With 90,000 visitors annually the [Grand Canyon] track is a key eco-tourism destination and an anchor for future local and international tourism to the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Parks,' says Shayne Mallard, MLC.
It is expected that more than a million visitors will use it from now until 2030. That's more than 90,000 people coming to the Upper Mountains every year to experience the scenery and the natural quiet of the bush. These people are the lifeblood of the Blue Mountains tourist economy.
Why spoil the peaceful experience of more than 90,000 bushwalkers every year, for the sake of a privileged few who can afford the luxury experience of a helicopter flight?
if you're not sure where you came from and where you're going, it's easy to get lost.
sometimes so-called progress is just going backwards.
What can we learn from other National Parks?
National Geographic photographer, Pete McBride took a time lapse of a section of the Grand Canyon in the US over 8 hours on July 9, 2016. This is a composite photo in which each helicopter you see represents a unique flight.
On his facebook page he writes, 'This is what one day of traffic looks like...
The number of flights to this location on the south rim of the Grand Canyon are unregulated, with some days bringing in over 500 flights making this heliport, on the doorstep of the 7th natural wonder of the world and border of a national park, one of the busiest in the world...
How much is too much?
Such collective tourism often diminishes the experience for everyone else at the profit of very few.'
Access to the park should be for everyone, now and in the future
The Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute was a key contributor to the groundbreaking #NatureForAll report.
Created by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature’s global initiative, #NatureForAll, the report is the first of its kind to demonstrate links between nature, conservation and human wellness.
You know that feeling of satisfied calm that comes from a day in the quiet of the bush. Your head is clear, your calves are pleasantly sore, your spirits are buoyant. Everyone deserves the chance to experience that feeling. It's the best kind of medicine.
Towards a more sustainable growth economy
Commercialising Katoomba Airfield would certainly be profitable for the leaseholder and operator, but at the cost of damage to the hundreds of small businesses that are built on the promise of peace and quiet.
So, what kind of industries are appropriate for a sustainable economy in the Blue Mountains consistent with World Heritage protection?
We already have a thriving and growing creative community here - artists, makers, writers, musicians, filmmakers - all part of the growing #MTNSMADE community.
Also, increasing numbers of studies are showing the benefits of spending time quietly in the natural world. Popular practices like shinrin yoku (Japanese forest-bathing) and eco-therapy offer sustainable ways forward to develop the local economy.
Keeping the natural quiet of the mountains intact promotes the long term health of the environment and the viability of sustainable tourism.
what do the
Blue mtns peacekeepers
want for the
We understand how important the Katoomba Airfield is for emergency fire and rescue services. Blue Mtns Peacekeepers fully support the use of the Airfield for these purposes.
Our community group wants Katoomba Airfield (which is on crown land) to become part of the Blue Mountains National Park. It's the most sensible and practical way to ensure we protect this UNESCO World Heritage Area of outstanding universal value - for our visitors, our community and our economy, now and for the future.
DO THE WRITE THING
Did you miss the deadline, damn it? If you'd still like to make a formal submission to the Department of Industry to register your concerns about the proposal to commercialise the Katoomba Airfield, send them an email requesting an extension by clicking on the link below.
cheers for your hard work,
Everyone who fought the proposal was lumbered with an official process that privileged the would-be leaseholder above every other stakeholder or consideration - the local community, World Heritage, conservation values, the cultural heritage of the traditional owners, threatened and endangered species, sustainability and the survival of local small businesses… We gave up time and energy and money to protect the peace of the Mountains. We engaged in months of exhaustive campaigning. We wrote countless letters, and collected more than 12000 signatures on the petition tabled in NSW Parliament. We built websites, posted, hashtagged, had conversations, letterboxes, postered, attended the drop-in sessions. We gave media interviews, held events, meditated, agitated, and went to bed exhausted.
Whether you are a member of Katoomba Airfield Community Group or ConSoc, a resident of or a visitor to the Blue Mountains, a bushwalker, a climber, a birder, a #mtnsmade creative, a conservationist, a small business owner or a traditional owner, here's cheers for all your hard work. As the late great Blue Mountains poet Deb Westbury used to toast, Long Live Love.
It's not over yet
We don't know what happens next, really. The Department of Industries is now charged with reading and considering the more than 1500 submissions they have received, ensuring they act within the interests of the people of NSW and respecting Australia's obligations under the World Heritage Convention to natural heritage and Country.
We can take a breather, but not for long. We'll leave you with these inspirational words from primatologist and conservationist, Dr Jane Goodall.