quietly Protecting our future
Protecting the Blue Mountains ecology is what protects and grows the Blue Mountains economy, for locals and traditional owners and all the people of New South Wales. For now and for future generations.
take care of our ecology
grow our economy
the stats that matter
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.
'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.
More than 200,000 people visit 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.
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.
Well, yeah, we did.
The community consultation process yielded a decisive, unambiguous result. A petition to NSW Parliament opposing this development carried 12000 signatures. 85% of the staggering 1582 submissions opposed the development. In the NSW Dept of Planning, Industry and Environment’s media release of March 20, Deputy Secretary of Crown Lands Anne Skewes said, ‘We’ve heard loud and clear that the proposal shouldn’t go ahead,’ because of ‘overwhelming community opposition to a proposal for helicopter charter flights.’
Good call. Our local community heaved a huge sign of relief. Until letters arrived, advising without any explanation why, that now, ‘Crown Lands will consider any feedback from FlyBlue and whether an alternate proposal that addresses community concerns is possible, prior to making a decision.’
Crown lands already made a decision. So what happened?
why the flip-flop?
What did the report by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment say?
'A total of 1582 submissions were made, with more than 85 per cent opposing the application and only 13 per cent in support or offering conditional support.
The community feedback has been carefully considered and a final decision has been made by the department not to proceed with the lease application in its current form.
The department has advised FlyBlue that a revised application may be considered if commercial helicopter flights were removed from the application.
The department has also advised FlyBlue to consider further community engagement with the community to reach a balanced approach to the management of the concerns expressed during the submission period.
FlyBlue has been advised that their current licence to operate the site will cease on 28 February 2020. A new licence that prohibits helicopter flights will be issued at that time.
The airfield will remain open to emergency services.'
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, Gang Gangs 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.
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.
You don't need a science degree to recognise that an increase in helicopter noise in the National Park will 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.
Photo credit: Mark Hocking
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.
The Blue Mountains' extraordinary access to nature, space and quiet is one of the most precious resources belonging to the people of New South Wales. We need to preserve this resource for now and for future generations.
Why spoil the peaceful experience of more than 200,000 bushwalkers every year, for the sake of a privileged few who can afford the luxury experience of a helicopter flight?
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.
what do we reckon should happen to
The report from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment states 'The airfield will remain open to emergency services.'
It's clear from the submissions to the DPIE that overwhelmingly the community 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.