Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Banksia Flower

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (12:11:50): Anyone who drives, cycles or walks along Bobbin Head Road, through North Turramurra and past the Sphinx Memorial and the Sandakan Memorial Reserve will pass through the entry station and begin the short downhill winding road to Ku-ring-gai's greatest treasure, the 14,977 hectare Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the traditional land of the Garigal people. First listed as a conservation area in December 1894, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park includes Barrenjoey Head, Lion Island, most of Long Island and Spectacle Island. It is Australia's second oldest national park and was added to the Australian National Heritage List in December 2006 as a nationally outstanding centre of biodiversity.

The park gained international exposure in the 1960s and 1970s as the location of the filming of the television seriesSkippy the Bush Kangaroo. Today it has much to offer to those pursuing a variety of interests and recreational activities. It is so scenically beautiful and historically significant that the Friends of Ku‑ring-gai Environment Inc [FOKE] recently pushed for Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park to be World Heritage listed. I wholeheartedly agree with that proposal, and I know it has the support of our local Federal members of Parliament.

From the time that Frederick Eccleston Du Faur, a prominent public servant and patron of exploration and arts in both colonial and post-Federation New South Wales, advocated in the late nineteenth century for the preservation of Ku-ring-gai Chase, primarily to protect native flowers from a rapidly expanding neighbourhood, locals and visitors have delighted in spending time exploring its walking tracks, breathtaking lookouts, mountain biking trails and significant Aboriginal sites. There is extensive evidence of Aboriginal use and occupation, with over 800 sites and locations within the park. These include rock engravings and paintings, grinding grooves, stone arrangements, shell middens and burial and occupation sites.

The park has 24 plant communities and more than 1,000 different native plant species, including grevilleas, eucalypts, wattles, heaths and banksias. Several are protected under New South Wales legislation, for example, Caley's grevillea and Bynoe's wattle. The park is also recognised for its diverse fauna that are unique to the Sydney region, with more than 160 species of birds, including eastern rosellas, grey fantails, honeyeaters and robins.

Among the 28 mammals that live in the park there are 11 species of bats, ring-tailed possums and echidnas. There are more than 60 species of reptiles, including diamond pythons and goannas, 20 species of frogs and over 100 species of butterflies and moths. The mangroves are full of young fish, crabs, prawns, oysters, insects and micro-organisms that provide food for the cormorants, herons, mullet, spiders and snails. The populations of spotted-tailed quolls, southern brown bandicoots, koalas and eastern bent-wing bats residing in the park are considered regionally significant, while the breeding colony of little penguins on Lion Island has been the subject of long-term research.

Many visitors come to the park just to enjoy a picnic or a barbecue with family and friends. Others engage in the available water-based activities, including boating at Apple Tree Bay, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and, if licensed, fishing. But perhaps the primary attraction of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park are the many short walks that cater to all tastes, whether a bird-watcher or someone who appreciates the distinctive appearance and aroma of the wild flowers, would like to experience some local cultural history or just wants to take in a view.

Those who are looking for an unrivalled bushwalk should take the Gibberagong track, a 6½ kilometre journey that starts along a mangrove boardwalk where people can see colourful red crabs scurrying across the mud at low tide. The track then continues through a mini-canyon of sandstone to a lookout surrounded by a forest of eucalyptus trees. From there, the bushwalkers can follow the footsteps of the Garigal people to see a rock engraving that features figures and several axe-grinding grooves. The remainder of this spectacular walk takes one through a variety of forest and woodland communities before emerging into the suburb of Wahroonga. All of this is just 26 kilometres from the Sydney CBD.

Prior to 2005, World Heritage sites were selected on the basis of six cultural and four natural criteria. However, the adoption of the revised Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention has simplified the process to one set of 10 criteria. Those criteria include that the object of the listing contains superlative natural phenomena or has areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance and that it contains important natural and significant habitats for in situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park undoubtedly satisfies those criteria.

Ku-ring-gai residents are very proud of the park and we do not underestimate how fortunate we are to have it outside our backdoors. We have never sought to keep it a secret and have always welcomed the two million annual visitors to the park, knowing that most will return to continue their explorations at a later date. I consider it a matter of great importance that the world be made aware of, and ultimately suitably recognises, Ku‑ring‑gai Chase National Park's outstanding beauty and biodiversity.