COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND COMMITMENT
The Friends of Durras Inc. was formed in 1985. Its objectives are:
- To protect Durras Lake and environs from despoliation and preserve the environmental integrity of the area.
- To improve the viability of the nearby Murramarang National Park by expanding its area
- To conduct studies of the area in respect to its history, marine, plant and animal life and the impact of land use.
- To identify and examine the effect of development plans on the environment, local government rates and services and the orderly social and economic development of the area.
The 200-odd members of the Friends of Durras are drawn from diverse backgrounds. Members bring skills and expertise from professional and recreational pursuits in paleontology, wildlife research, nature-based tourism, political activism, intertidal zone studies, beach dynamics, birdwatching, scuba diving, natural history, art and firefighting - and collectively hundreds of years of local knowledge. Our expertise and skill base has increased and become more sophisticated over the 13 years since formation. We are a valuable community-based resource and skills centre with the completion of many successful ‘hands-on’ projects to our credit.
- The purchase and addition of 370 ha of forested land to Murramarang National Park in 1993, increasing the Park’s size by around 25% to 1,970ha. The campaign ran from 1985 to 1993. The land purchased by the Friends of Durras and the New South Government was the major portion of a private holding on the southern and western shores of Durras Lake. In 1985, this entire portion of around 500 ha was to be rezoned by Eurobodalla Shire Council as an Urban Expansion Zone. The land added to the Park included approx. 5km of Durras Lake frontage. This afforded Durras Lake a level of protection from encroaching development which may prevent the degradation other coastal lakes have suffered. The Friends of Durras, the community, visitors and the public at large, combined to support the project by contributing $113,582.56 which was sent to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The success of this project, entirely initiated and run by a very small community, was hailed as one of the great community conservation achievements in Australia’s history.
- Commissioning of three major regional environment reports by Mr P.J. Craven , B.Nat.Res. (Hons). These were the Environmental Survey of the South Durras District in 1985, the Review of Forest Management Within the Durras Lake Catchment Area in 1987 and Post-Logging Assessment, Compartment 128, Benandarah State Forest in 1988. These documents are publicly available and have provided the basis for many land management decisions during the past decade.
- Representation to State Forests regarding logging plans in Compartment 128 in 1987 and Compartment 133 in 1996. In both cases the Friends of Durras provided scientific evidence to substantiate claims that the proposed harvesting plan would detrimentally impact on the ecological values of Durras Lake and the "Greater" Murramarang National Park. The then Forestry Commission of NSW agreed to reduce harvesting in Compartment 128 from 61.6% of the compartment to 52 % and to avoid some particularly ecologically sensitive areas. Plans to log in Compartment 133 were dropped altogether. The Friends of Durras’ have continued to press State Forests to avoid harvesting in compartments of the "Greater" Murramarang National Park. State Forests have excluded compartments in the "Greater" Murramarang National Park from the 1997, 1998 and 1999 harvesting schedules.
- Numerous weed removal projects from Crown land in the South Durras area. Friends of Durras members are also members of the local Coastcare and Landcare groups. Joint projects have included large-scale plantings to stabilize dunes, the construction of walkways to beaches and several "clean-up" days each year. Members act as local ‘watchdogs,’ reporting to authorities on signs of bitou bush and other weed infestation, illegal activities in the National Park and forest land (such as stealing native flora and rubbish dumping) and movements and changes in populations of introduced fauna such as pigs and foxes.
- Research into and publication of publicly available documents such as The History of the South Durras Area by Jennifer Coffey and The Geology and Geomorphology of Wasp Head by Geoffrey Bartram.
- Submissions and representation on local and state government strategies and development plans. Some of these include the NSW Coastal Development Inquiry, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Draft Nature Tourism and Recreation Strategy and Visions for the New Millennium, development plans for the Service’s camping grounds at Depot and Pretty Beach and South Durras and Eurobodalla Shire’s Rural Planning in Eurobodalla Shire and the Eurobodalla Nature Coast Tourism Development Strategy.
- Providing resource material and assistance to schools, university students and researchers. Recently, project assistance was given to students at Canberra Grammar and the Lismore Campus of Southern Cross University. For the past two years, students of the Orana School, Canberra, have been guided by Friends of Durras members during their annual geography excursion to South Durras.
- Extensive survey work in the forests and on Durras Lake. Friends of Durras members contributed regularly to the first Atlas of Australian Birds and will be part of the second, about to begin. Over one thousand bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian and flora records have been entered on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Atlas of Australian Wildlife by Friends of Durras members. The Friends of Durras participates in the annual Hooded Plover survey. For four days in February 1998 the Friends of Durras and the NSW National Parks Association conducted a biodiversity survey in Benandarah State Forest. Over 70 volunteers participated, gathering data in eight fields of study. The survey was supervised by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to ensure results were of the highest standard. These results will contribute to the current comprehensive forest assessments in New South Wales. A conservative estimate of the value of this survey in volunteer hours is over $15,000. Following the biodiversity survey, the Friends of Durras joined expertise with the Australia/New Guinea Fishes Association and, in May 1998, conducted a preliminary study of small fish in Durras Lake. This project is ongoing and in the future will include water quality testing.
- The Easter 1998 Burrawang Nature Fair followed on from the annual Friends of Durras Easter Fair held from 1987 to 1992. The Fair, held in South Durras, celebrated the beauty of the region’s coastline, lakes and forests. Over a dozen exhibitors came from a variety of special interest organisations and government authorities. Free guided walks on bush tucker (Koori led) and the geology of the region were offered. The Fair is to become an annual event, next year to be held in Tuross and each year moving up and down the coast hosted by different community groups.
- Holiday walks and talks are offered by the Friends of Durras to the public over summer and during the year. These are extremely popular and provide an opportunity for visitors and residents to learn more about the local area.
- The expertise of the Friends of Durras is sought by local and state government bodies. The coastal managers of Eurobodalla and Shoalhaven Shires have asked the Friends of Durras to participate in an Entrance Management Plan being developed for Durras Lake. Our local knowledge, especially of flora and fauna is seen as far exceeding that of council’s. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Friends of Durras consult regularly on Park issues. Under the Service’s guidance, we are currently developing a walking track which will completely encircle Durras Lake. It will connect with the walking track on the northern shore of the Lake and to State Forests’ interpretative track recently constructed with a Commonwealth Forest Ecotourism grant. Walkers will be able to walk the entire length of the "Greater" Murramarang National Park on a magnificent, world class track.
Our efforts and input into regional conservation issues have been appreciated and valued by many authorities. In 1992, the Federal Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment and Territories, the Hon. Ros Kelly, congratulated the Friends of Durras on our efforts to "protect this important piece of Australia’s bushland." Financial assistance was also given. The NSW Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife have "followed very closely the achievements of (our) group in recent years at Durras Lake and were impressed with the care and commitment of your supporters." Ms Diane Garrood, the new District Manager of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (Nowra), impressed by the Friends of Durras commitment to the same goals as the Service in Murramarang National Park, is "keen to see regular and productive communication continue between the Service and the Friends of Durras."
This proposal is widely supported by local, regional and state conservation bodies and others.
The Friends of Durras have clearly established their commitment, expertise and efficiency on regional conservation issues. We are a committed and tireless group with a long-term vision for the region. Part of that vision is the creation of the "Greater" Murramarang National Park. Once declared, the Friends of Durras see a continuing role for them as active stakeholders in the management of the "Greater" Murramarang National Park.