The NSW Government has placed a 19th century homestead in the heart of a koala habitat on its heritage register in its latest move to protect the area from urban expansion.
- A new heritage listing in NSW is expected to protect 150 hectares of core koala habitat threatened by encroaching development
- The state’s environmental concerns are a source of tension as more people move south from Sydney
- Historians have raised concerns about the historic significance of a range of sites in the area
The Mount Gilead Estate sits on 150 hectares of land south of Campbelltown and has been gazetted by the state government after its significance to both colonial and Indigenous history was highlighted in 2016.
“Mount Gilead Estate is an outstanding early 19th century colonial estate with a spectacular sweeping landscape,” NSW Heritage Minister Don Harwin said.
The parcel of land is also situated between the Georges and Nepean rivers — a key environmental corridor for the state’s last remaining healthy koala population.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean suggested it would supplement the recently announced 1885-hectare koala reserve along the Georges River.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to ensure the survival of the koala population down there in Campbelltown and this is another step in that process,” Mr Kean said.
Tension between conservationists and developers in the growth corridor has been rising since an Upper House inquiry revealed koalas will be extinct in NSW by 2050 without urgent intervention.
More than 100,000 people are expected to move into the region over the next 20 years, prompting Mr Kean to commission a report from the state’s chief scientist to ensure developers were complying with the latest scientific advice.
The report raised concerns over Lendlease’s Figtree Hill development at Mt Gilead planning to build 1700-homes in core koala habitat.
“The chief scientist has made a number of recommendations to preserve that koala population, including the width of the corridors which need to be maintained,” Mr Kean said.
“The corridors need to be 300 and 450 metres in width.
“That may encroach on some of the land that Lendlease has purchased, but my priority is to look out for my environment and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.”
History under threat
The creeping fringe of Sydney’s outer suburbs has also prompted renewed calls for an appraisal of the historical significance of colonial and Indigenous sites.
Historian Stephan Gapps admitted he was surprised by the condition of the early colonial architecture he encountered in south-west Sydney.
“Considering the encroaching development from Sydney I was blown away by some of the colonial structures that are there and how intact they are, but also how under threat they are,” he said.
“It is something that hasn’t been investigated well and I think a heritage listing at Mt Gilead may allow that.
Mr Gapps said the the Mount Gilead estate was just one of many examples sites in the area that revealed the shared histories of Indigenous peoples and settlers.
“There’s an archaeological landscape that needs to be put together that’s on the edge of the frontier,” he said.