Bonnie Vale campground

Bonnie Vale campground has reopened.

Bookings are required and can be made online now or by calling the National Parks Contact Centre on 1300 072 757.

Please be patient when making a booking. During the first few months of operation capacity will be limited to ensure the new turf establishes well, and campsites may be rested to maintain grass cover.

Bonnie Vale campground has reopened with the following improvements:

  • remediation of asbestos affected ground with new fill and turf
  • provision of some powered sites
  • a dedicated area for community and education groups at the western end for camping
  • landscaping with new turf (4-6 weeks is required for proper establishment)
  • planting, pruning and weeding
  • existing mature trees to be protected
  • installation of new shelters and barbeques with existing shelters upgraded
  • upgraded parking, including accessible parking
  • minor repairs to the road
  • a new shelter for kayak storage will be provided.

Coastal protection works

Bonnie Vale is highly vulnerable to coastal erosion and inundation. Severe weather events earlier in 2020 led to the creek from Cabbage Tree Basin breaking through the north-western shoreline of the campground. Severe scouring has since occurred, and works to protect and stabilise the north-western section of the campground and the western portion of the day use area will be undertaken.

Temporary coastal protection works have been undertaken to address the urgent need to protect active foreshore erosion. Rock bags were installed along the north-western shoreline of the campground in January 2021. The existing sand-bag wall was extended further along the western end of the day use area (near the campground entrance) during February and March 2021. Additional works to both the rock-bag and sand-bag walls were undertaken in June and July 2021 to further protect the coastline. The rock-bag revetment wall has been installed to protect the low-lying site from storm surge and the changing conditions arising from the sudden and unexpected opening of the Deeban Spit which now directs water flow south across the Bonnie Vale shoreline. We are also investigating engineering options for more permanent protection of the shoreline.

Aboriginal cultural heritage at Bonnie Vale

National Parks and Wildlife Service, in partnership with Extent Heritage and the local Aboriginal community, undertook a series of archaeological excavations in October 2020 to uncover insights about the Dharawal people, the traditional owners of the Bundeena area, who have lived in and around Bonnie Vale for thousands of years.

You can learn more about this process and the importance of Aboriginal archaeology in the video below (courtesy of Extent Heritage).

Frequently asked questions

Bonnie Vale reopening

The remediation of Bonnie Vale was required to manage asbestos risk. These works had 3 priorities:

  • appropriate actions to remediate areas affected by asbestos
  • consideration of environmental issues, including the recent coastal erosion
  • protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage and potential archaeological materials.

These remediation works are now complete. Bookings are required and can be made online now or by calling the National Parks Contact Centre on 1300 072 757.

During the first few months of operation, capacity for camping will be limited to ensure the new turf establishes well, and campsites may be rested to maintain grass cover.

Camping capacity is limited for the first few months of 2022 to allow the new turf to be rested and recover from conditions such as this.

Other works which have occurred to date include stabilising the boat launching area by installing a surface to the entrance to protect the area from erosion. A new gate at the entry of the boat launching area has also been installed. The installation of the gate provides a mechanism to manage access to the area should it be necessary for a range of short-term emergency operational reasons.

There is no proposal for any changes to general boat access. Refurbishment of the amenity blocks in Bonnie Vale and maintenance of the sewer services was completed in mid-2021. In addition, the garden beds in the day use area have been refreshed, and weed treatment has been undertaken.

Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, National Parks and Wildlife Service was required to obtain an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit before any works could occur which may impact on Aboriginal sites or objects. Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permits are assessed by the regulator, Heritage NSW and this was approved in June 2021.

In addition, an environmental assessment was required under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). A Review of Environmental Factors examines the likely environmental impacts and was completed prior to works occurring.

A number of actions have been completed:

  1. Site investigation and analysis including asbestos likelihood mapping; impacts of remedial fill (on land form, topography and hydrology) and coast management.
    Status: complete
  2. Aboriginal archaeology investigation
    Status: complete
  3. Development of concept options for remediation
    Status: complete
  4. Submission of an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit for archaeological testing
    Status: complete
  5. Archaeological testing onsite, assessment of finds and reporting
    Status: complete
  6. Completion of detailed plans and construction drawings
    Status: complete
  7. Submission of an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit for remediation works
    Status: complete
  8. Submission of Review of Environmental Factors
    Status: complete
  9. Remediation works to start and be carried out
    Status: complete late December 2021
  10. Campground to be reopened
    Status: 10 January 2022

Aboriginal cultural heritage

Aboriginal cultural heritage is physical evidence of Aboriginal history and occupation. This can include historic objects such as shell middens, stone artefacts such as hooks, grinding grooves, rock art and engravings, scarred trees and burial sites. Traditions, beliefs, customs and stories are also considered part of Aboriginal cultural heritage.

At Bonnie Vale, various studies have been carried out since the 1980s and evidence of Aboriginal occupation in the form of archaeological deposits have been identified. This includes shell middens and stone artefacts with the potential for other materials. This was investigated before the major works were carried out.

In New South Wales, Aboriginal objects, whether recorded or as yet undiscovered, are afforded statutory protection under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Under Section 86 of the Act, it is an offence to disturb, destroy or deface Aboriginal objects without approval. A breach could result in prosecution and fines over $1 million.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has a responsibility to ensure any Aboriginal cultural heritage is adequately identified and protected. An Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment Report was completed in early 2020. Following consultation with the Aboriginal community, an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit, including test excavations, was prepared and approved on 11 June 2021.

We undertook a series of archaeological excavations in October 2020 to understand the extent of the deposits and identify any potential impacts arising from the remediation works. Twenty-five test pits, each 1m2 across the Bonnie Vale precinct, were dug by hand. Two of these pits had additional mechanical excavation to assess the soils and the possibility for other archaeological materials. Areas that had already been disturbed, such as near the road or water and sewer services lines, were avoided.

The archaeologists carefully excavated each test pit in 50mm increments and searched for cultural deposits such as shell and stone artefacts. Close to 400 stone artefacts were collected and around 36 kilograms of shell. Both the stone and shell material will enable the archaeologists to understand how and when the area was occupied both pre and post European contact.

The archaeological excavations are an integral part of the Aboriginal heritage assessment process that was undertaken to inform the remediation program. The assessment work reflects NPWS' commitment to protect and understand Aboriginal cultural heritage by working in partnership with Aboriginal communities, archaeological experts and local communities.

The archaeological dig was important in uncovering fascinating insights about the Dharawal people, the traditional owners of the Bundeena area, who lived on the Bonnie Vale dunes looking out across Simpsons Bay for thousands of years. The dig aimed to find out how long Dharawal people lived on those dunes and sought to unearth new information about their day to day lifestyle, diet and activities.

An important part of the research aims to understand how Dharawal people might have adapted to a changing environment over the last 2500 years as higher sea levels gradually retreated, forming the dune and backswamp as we see them today.

The archaeology team will also explore the connections between the activities Dharawal people carried out at Bonnie Vale with nearby rock art sites such as the engravings at Jibbon Beach and the many Rockshelter sites spread along the sandstone valleys and escarpments of the Royal National Park.

Aboriginal archaeological investigation at Bonnie Vale
Aboriginal archaeological investigation at Bonnie Vale

Coastal environment management

The low-lying Bonnie Vale campground is highly vulnerable to coastal erosion and inundation during severe weather events, particularly east coast lows on high tides. Cabbage Tree Basin to the west of the campground became blocked following weather events in early to mid-2020 after the long-established previous channel to Port Hacking (off-park) was filled by sand accretion.

A subsequent high rainfall event in May 2020 caused the creek to break through to Port Hacking in a different location – immediately next to the north-western shoreline of the campground. This led to the campground area being extremely vulnerable to swell and wave impacts. Approximately 390 square metres of campground area was lost to coastal erosion during this period. Stabilisation works were undertaken from December 2020 to December 2021.

Coastal protection works are required to protect the site from continuing erosion and increasing levels of inundation over the next 100 years.

Rock bags were installed along the north-western shoreline of the campground in early 2021. The existing sand-bag wall was extended further along the western end of the day use area (near the campground entrance) during February and March 2021. Additional works to both the rock-bag and sand-bag walls were undertaken in June and July 2021 to further protect the coastline. In November 2021, the rock-bag wall was realigned due to changing coastal conditions and to provide protection to the campsites in the northern section of the campground.

The rock-bag revetment wall has been installed to protect the low-lying site from storm surge and the changing conditions arising from the sudden and unexpected opening of the Deeban Spit, which now directs water flow south across the Bonnie Vale shoreline. We are also investigating engineering options for more permanent protection of the shoreline.

Asbestos at Bonnie Vale

Asbestos is a term used to describe a group of mineral fibres that were historically used for a wide range of applications, including building materials.

Asbestos is categorised as either friable or non-friable. Non-friable asbestos, where it is mixed with other materials like cement, is most commonly found in the built environment. Friable asbestos is more likely to become airborne and is easily disturbed, making it more dangerous as it can be more easily inhaled and ingested.

Bonnie Vale has long been a popular holiday destination for families and outdoor recreation. From the 1930s to the 1950s the area contained more than 500 campsites and 170 cabins. These cabins were owner-built with wood, steel, and fibro sheeting made from asbestos.

Over time, most of these cabins were demolished, resulting in a legacy of asbestos-containing materials in the form of asbestos cement ('fibro') buried in the soil across the Bonnie Vale visitor precinct.

An assessment in 2008 found the asbestos was non-friable asbestos cement (fibro) contained in sub-surface soil layers, and therefore low risk to human health.

As it was assessed as low risk, a monitoring program was considered sufficient to effectively manage the asbestos, until now.

Recent prolonged dry conditions have reduced ground cover and increased soil erosion across the visitor precinct, leading to increased exposure of fragments of asbestos cement, particularly in high traffic areas such as the site's campground.

The increased exposure of fragments of asbestos cement triggered the closure of the campground. The campground has now been remediated and has safely reopened to campers.

NSW Health has advised that asbestos-containing material is not a risk if it is undisturbed. Exposure to non-friable asbestos is a low risk to health, as it is only airborne fibres that are known to be a health risk.

This NSW Health factsheet contains information on asbestos and health risks.

Do not pick up or disturb any material which you suspect may contain asbestos. Leave any suspicious material where it lies and notify National Parks and Wildlife Service by calling 02 9542 0632.

An Asbestos Management Plan was developed in 2008 to inform how to safely manage the site. Management recommendations were primarily around monitoring as the risk was low due to the asbestos being bonded in asbestos cement (fibro) and contained underground.

Prior to 2020, inspections became more frequent due to an increased presence of fragments of asbestos cement coming to the ground surface after weather events, including an extended dry period.

The Asbestos Management Plan (2018) recommended remediation and this was undertakenin 2021. The campgrounds were safely reopened on 10 January 2022.

Where can I get more information?

The remediation of Bonnie Vale campground is complete and has reopened to campers. For more information about Bonnie Vale and to make a booking, please visit the NPWS webpage.