Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

What are our priorities in acquiring land?

Given that some regions have far more conservation reserves than others, we need to take a strategic approach in acquiring areas for conservation. Nevertheless, in most bioregions there are ecosystems that are poorly represented in the current reserve system.

A draft Directions Statement for National Park Establishment has been prepared to reframe the NSW National Parks Establishment Plan (PDF 1.63MB) that has guided land acquisition since 2008. The draft directions statement was put out for public consultation, and all comments received during the consultation period are being considered as we work to finalise this document. The purpose of the directions statement is to:

  • convey the types of conservation priorities that are important to the expansion and enhancement of the national park estate
  • present the NSW Government's focus for effort and investment in reserve establishment over the next five years (2015-2020).

What needs to be better represented in the reserve system?

Our acquisition of land focuses on the following conservation themes, with priority being afforded to the first three during the life of the directions statement:

  • connectivity conservation - The long-term viability of many reserves and of the whole protected area system may rely on the maintenance or re-establishment of vegetated corridors between reserves or other core areas of native vegetation. Features that contribute to landscape connectivity include contiguous habitat, 'stepping stones' of intermediate habitat and buffer zones around existing habitat areas.
  • lands improving reserve design to support the effective and efficient management of the existing reserve system
  • culturally important landscapes and places
  • poorly reserved ecosystems and critical habitats
  • wetlands, floodplains, lakes and rivers
  • lands within important water catchments
  • places containing significant geodiversity.

Which parts of New South Wales need more conservation reserves?

In considering the acquisition of land, we aim to protect the broadest possible range of the State's natural and cultural heritage. The reserve system must reflect the wide variety of landscapes and environments in NSW - from the lush rainforests of the north-east, to the semi-arid and arid rangelands of the far west, to the old-growth forests of the far south coast. The size and shape of reserves must also be adequate to enable efficient management for the long-term protection of this diverse heritage.

This approach to the development of the state's reserve network is encapsulated in the conservation principles of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness - or 'CAR' for short.

  • Comprehensiveness refers to the need to conserve samples of each element of biodiversity in protected areas.
  • Adequacy refers to the long-term capacity or resilience of a protected area to sustain the biodiversity it supports. Adequacy is dependent on protected area size, configuration, placement in the landscape, surrounding land uses and on-ground management regimes
  • Representativeness is an extension of comprehensiveness which entails ensuring that the full variability of biodiversity is protected with sufficient replicate samples included in protected areas to insure against catastrophic local events such as fire or disease.

The broad framework within which CAR is applied and measured is the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (PDF 690KB) (IBRA). NSW is represented in 18 of these 'bioregions' or areas of relatively similar geology, geography and geomorphology that support a suite of native plants and animals distinctive from those in adjoining regions.

Some of these bioregions - the Australian Alps and the Sydney Basin, for example - are well represented with large reserves. Others are poorly represented, with seven of the 18 bioregions having less than five per cent of their area protected in the reserve system.

More information

Progress in the creation of the reserve system:

  • within an IBRA bioregional context - StatisticsMap.
  • within an IBRA subregional context - Statistics,  Map.
  • within an 'ecosystem' context (as defined by NSW Landscapes (Mitchell) mapping as a surrogate) - StatisticsMap.
Page last updated: 10 December 2015