Two huge western stations have been bought by the NSW Government to become new national parks, that should open mid next year.
In total the purchase will see 166,924 hectares go into public hands, protecting rare flora and fauna but also offering tourist getaways and walking and 4WD trails.
The Government says the purchases will also give it the opportunity to sequester "considerable volumes of carbon".
The Government has bought the 121,390 hectare Avenel/Mt Westwood station near Broken Hill (once part of cattle king Sir Sidney Kidman's Corona) and the 45,534ha Koonaburra station near Ivanhoe, which will add a combined 166,924 hectares.
The Avenel/Mt Westwood Station is the second largest purchase by National Parks and Wildlife Service in the state's history.
The announcement follows another purchase announced in June of two neighbouring stations, Langidoon and Metford, 65 kilometres east of Broken Hill, covering almost 60,000 hectares.
Environment Minister, Matt Kean said these two purchases take the total additions to the national park estate to 520,000 hectares since August 2019.
"In just over two years we have added over half a million hectares to our park estate, smashing target after target and securing precious habitat and biodiversity for future generations," Mr Kean said.
"This latest expansion will conserve significant areas of critically important habitat types in western NSW that are not currently protected in the park estate."
The Government said that the Avenel/Mt Westwood Station is a "remote and ecologically diverse landscape on the South Australian border, features spectacular dune fields of the Strzelecki desert transitioning to the rocky plateau of the Barrier Range, with a network of river red gum and coolabah fringed rivers, creeks and watercourses".
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"The property also supports habitat for an estimated 30 threatened plant and animal species including the Australian bustard and the dusky hopping mouse."
Koonaburra station was "an extensive area of sandplain and dune field country featuring a vast network of water depressions ("melon holes") providing important water sources for many species. It also supports habitat for at least 20 threatened animal species including the Major Mitchell cockatoo, Mallee fowl and the fat-tailed dunnart".
At 121,390 ha, Avenel is the second largest acquisition of land for a national park in NPWS history, after Narriearra that created Narriearra Caryapundy Swamp National Park.
Avenel was special because it:
- straddles two bioregions - the Simpson Strzelecki Dune fields and the Broken Hill Complex;
- protects three landscapes that are not protected in any other national park in the State and several other landscapes that are poorly reserved;
- is diverse, protecting nearly 50 different ecosystems or plant community types - 21 of which are not reserved at the bioregional level.
"The property features an array of arid zone landforms transitioning from the rocky plateau of the Barrier Range - with floodplains, gilgais and drainage lines washing onto gibber plains - through to the spectacular dune fields of the Strzelecki Desert.
"Vegetation includes acacia and chenopod shrublands on the rocky ranges, Mitchell grass grasslands on the outwash plains, open woodlands dominated by white cypress pine and belah (a casuarina) across the dune fields and an extensive network of drainage channels that support riparian woodlands dominated by river red gum and coolabah.
"Habitat for an estimated 30 threatened species are likely to occur on the property including Australian bustard, dusky hopping-mouse, eastern fat-tailed gecko and yellow-keeled swainsona, a small forb with pea-like flowers.
"Lying on Ngurunta country to the west and the Maljangapa country to the east, the property has significant Aboriginal cultural heritage value, with significant artefacts and sites across the property including middens, quarries and burial sites.
"Avenel is set to become an exciting new visitor destination with campgrounds, 4wd circuits and walking trails. It is expected to open to the public in mid-2022."
Koonaburra Station contains "two threatened ecological communities: acacia melvillei shrubland in the Riverina and Murray-Darling Depression bioregions (endangered) which is distributed over the southern section of the property and Sandhill Pine Woodland in the Riverina, Murray-Darling Depression and NSW South Western Slopes Bioregions (endangered) which occurs extensively across the northern portion of the property".
"A comprehensive enhanced feral animal management program will be implemented across the Park, including upgraded, fit-for-purpose fencing infrastructure. This will assist in the regeneration of native vegetation and sequester significant volumes of carbon.
"The station is situated on The Wool Track, 100km north east of Ivanhoe and 140km south west of Cobar.
"The soils are a mixture of loam, light to heavy red clay, grey soil from light to heavy, self-mulching flats interspersed with millions of water depressions called crab or melon holes.
"Boasting 355mm rainfall, Koonaburra has dual frontage to over 20km of the Sandy Creek. The entire station is watered by massive flood out systems - a dozen lakes, box cowls and meandering waterways.
"Koonaburra Station once formed part of the giant pastoral lease Keewong Station established in the early 1800s which ran Merino sheep.
"Paroo Darling National Park is located approximately 50 km to the north west, and Yathong Nature Reserve approximately 55 km to the south-east.
"It features some of the holding's original buildings including the shearing shed, the original standalone and renovated meat house and the old harness and buggy shed."
The conservation movement welcomed the addition of 167,000 hectares of arid-zone ecosystems to the state's national parks estate.
"Mr Kean has made a significant contribution to the conservation estate since he became Environment Minister in 2019, adding 520,000ha in a little over two years," Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.
"We always welcome new parks but this is particularly significant because of its scale and the range of ecosystems and species it will protect.
"By securing this property, Minister Kean has more than doubled his pledge to add 200,000ha to the reserve system."
"Arid and semi-arid ecosystems of the Far West are some of the most poorly protected in the state," Mr Gambian said. "These additions will go some way to addressing that shortcoming."