Bonnie Vale campground

Planning for the remediation of the Bonnie Vale campground is underway.

The safety of visitors is the highest priority for the Department. We are working towards remediating Bonnie Vale and reopening the campground.

We need to address three key priorities before reopening the campground:

  • 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.

Pedestrian access from Bundeena to Maianbar, across Cabbage Tree Basin, remains open. Bonnie Vale day picnic area and other facilities remain open.

We will continue to provide updates about this project on this webpage.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) as we work to reopen the Bonnie Vale campground. This project is part of the Improving Access to National Parks program.

Managing old asbestos at Bonnie Vale

We are working with relevant authorities, including the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Health on this issue. Specialist contractors have been engaged to monitor and assist in the management of asbestos-containing material as fragments emerge from the soil across the site.

We are developing plans to remediate the campground area with ongoing monitoring and inspections as part of this process.

Upcoming works at Bonnie Vale

Coastal protection works

Bonnie Vale is highly vulnerable to coastal erosion and inundation. Severe weather events earlier in 2020 lead 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.

The coastal protection works are scheduled to be undertaking in two stages in order to address the urgent need to protect active foreshore erosion and to mitigate the impacts of the works on peak visitation.

Stage 1 works are focused on the north-western portion of the campground and works are scheduled from 18 December 2020 to 22 January 2021.

Stage 2 works are focused on the western portion of the day use area and are scheduled from 1 February to 12 February 2021. These works will occur outside of the School Holiday period to minimise visitor impacts.

The track between Maianbar and Bonnie Vale through the campground is open to pedestrians. We ask that visitors stay on the track and avoid the work area as heavy machinery will be in use. See the NPWS Visitor page for current alerts.

Boat launching area

We have completed stabilisation of the boat launching area by installing a surface to the entrance area to protect the area from erosion.

Frequently asked questions

Bonnie Vale remediation

With safety being the highest priority for the Department, the decision was made to close the campground with ongoing and regular monitoring taking place.

Funding has been made available through the NSW Government's Improving Access to National Parks program to reopen the Bonnie Vale campground as soon as possible. A team of experts is developing a plan to remediate the site, assess the impacts and reopen the campground. We are considering visitor and access requirements as well as Aboriginal heritage and archaeology, historic heritage, coastal and environmental issues.

Initial assessment of the works required to contain asbestos was completed in early December 2019. We need to consider potential impacts on the existing vegetation, drainage and the natural and cultural values of the site. There are numerous recorded Aboriginal archaeological sites at Bonnie Vale, with high potential for further sites to be identified.

In late 2020, we stabilised the boat launching area by installing a surface to the entrance to protect the area from erosion.

The best option to remediate the campground while minimising impacts on the environment is to bring in clean soil fill, raise the height of the ground surface by 200 to 500 millimetres and re-turf.

Excavation will be avoided as there are many recorded Aboriginal archaeological sites at Bonnie Vale and potential for further archaeological material to be identified.

We will also consider elevated camping platforms, formalisation of paths and revegetation to minimise future risk of erosion.

The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 requires proponents to obtain an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit before any works can occur which may impact on Aboriginal sites or objects. Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit are assessed by the regular, Heritage NSW.

To reopen the campground we need to complete:

  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 plans for remediation. Status: in progress
  4. submission of an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit for archaeological testing. Status: complete
  5. archaeological testing onsite, assessment of finds and reporting. Status: excavation complete, assessment and reporting underway
  6. completion of detailed plans
  7. submission of an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit for remediation works
  8. submission of Review of Environmental Factors (REF)
  9. remediation works to start and be carried out
  10. campground to be reopened.

NPWS will continue to provide updates on this project to the community as it progresses.

Yes, the day use area and beach remain open for visitors, subject to obeying the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gatherings and Movement) Order 2020.

We encourage people to check the NPWS website before visiting to check for any park precinct closures.

We ask that visitors please do not enter the campground or buildings within this area and be mindful of areas that have been sectioned off.

We understand how much Bonnie Vale is valued by the community and we are working towards having the campground reopened. While visitor and staff safety is our number one priority, we must also consider the impact of any physical works.

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 potential needs to be investigated before major works, including asbestos remediation, are 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, is being prepared with approval expected early to mid-2021.

NPWS undertook a further series of archaeological excavations in October 2020 to understand the extent of the deposits and identify any potential impacts arising from the remediation works.

The archaeological excavations are an integral part of the Aboriginal heritage assessment process that is being 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 has the potential to uncover fascinating new 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 will aim to find out how long Dharawal people lived on those dunes and will seek to unearth new information about their day to day lifestyle, diet and activities. An important part of the research will aim to understand how Dharawal people might have adapted to a changing environment over the last 2,500 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.

Archaeologists are assessing finds and will report to NPWS to inform the design of the remediation work.

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 adjacent the northwestern shoreline of the campground. This means that the campground area is now extremely vulnerable to swell and wave impacts. Approx. 390 square metres of campground area has since been lost to coastal erosion. In late 2020, NPWS will be stabilising this north-western section of the campgrounds.

We will be considering coastal management processes including options to manage rising sea levels and coastal erosion as part of the future works for remediation. It is likely that coastal protection works will be required to protect the site from continuing erosion and increasing levels of inundation over the next 100 years.

We are undertaking works to stabilise the north-western section of the campgrounds. This work will continue into 2021. We ask that visitors avoid the work area as heavy machinery will be in use.

Campground closure

The Bonnie Vale campground will remain closed until further notice due to fragments of old asbestos-containing material coming to the surface on the site.

There is no public access for camping until further notice. We are developing plans to remediate the campground area with ongoing monitoring and inspections as part of this process. It will not be reopened until appropriate remediation work can be undertaken to ensure the site remains safe for staff and visitors. We will update you on the progress of this.

The Department has kept a list of affected customers and information will be provided once the assessment and remediation works are complete.

Access to the cabins is possible under specific conditions. National Parks and Wildlife Service is working with cabin owners to ensure they are well informed of the management strategies for managing asbestos at Bonnie Vale.

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 has triggered the precautionary closure of the campground to allow a specialist company to undertake a further risk assessment and provide recommendations for remediation options.

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.

Because the asbestos-containing material on the Bonnie Vale site is in the form of non-friable asbestos cement (fibro) and is mostly underground, the health risk is very low.

Our primary concern is the health and wellbeing of staff, neighbours and visitors.

Any asbestos remediation works on site will be undertaken by staff and contractors who will ensure that all necessary mitigation and safety procedures are in place to ensure any asbestos fibres present do not become airborne.

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.

In recent years, 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 current Asbestos Management Plan (2018) identified that hand removal was no longer a viable approach to managing the level of contamination across the Bonnie Vale visitor precinct. A recommendation for remediation was made which lead to closure of the campgrounds until this work is completed.

Where can I get more information?

Check back on this page for the latest updates. If you have any questions, please contact the project team or register via the project webpage and we will endeavour to answer your question.

Bonnie Vale campground

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