NSW properties to become national parks

Environment Minister Matt Kean says NSW is adding 166,924 hectares to the state's national parks.
Environment Minister Matt Kean says NSW is adding 166,924 hectares to the state's national parks.

Two vast and remote properties in NSW that include habitat for threatened plant and animal species have been bought by the government to secure precious biodiversity for future generations.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said the government was buying two properties: Avenel/Mt Westwood station near Broken Hill and Koonaburra station near Ivanhoe in the central west, adding 166,924 hectares to the state's national parks.

The 121,390 hectare Avenel/Mt Westwood Station is the second-largest purchase by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service in the state's history.

It is described as a remote and ecologically diverse landscape on the South Australian border that supports habitat for an estimated 30 threatened plant and animal species, including the Australian bustard, the dusky hopping mouse and eastern fat-tailed gecko.

Avenel is expected to open to the public next year with plans for campgrounds, 4WD circuits and walking trails.

"In just over two years we have added over half a million hectares to our park estate ... securing precious habitat and biodiversity for future generations," Mr Kean said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This latest expansion will conserve significant areas of critically important habitat types in western NSW that are not currently protected in the park estate."

Koonaburra station will add another 45,534 hectares that supports habitat for at least 20 threatened animal species, including the Major Mitchell cockatoo, Mallee fowl and the fat-tailed dunnart.

Mr Kean said NPWS is delivering the biggest investment in visitor infrastructure in national park history and the program will ensure both Avenel and Koonaburra properties become "must-see destinations" for the millions who visit national parks every year.

Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said the far west parks additions will provide much-needed protections for arid and semi-arid ecosystems.

"We always welcome new parks but this is particularly significant because of its scale and the range of ecosystems and species it will protect," Mr Gambian said.

Avenel national park will protect almost 50 different ecosystems and plant communities and 30 threatened species, while Koonaburra national park will protect acacia melvillei shrublands and Sandhill Pine Woodlands, both of which are threatened ecological communities.

Australian Associated Press