Massive NSW outback stations turned into national parks to save flora and fauna

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The 120,000-hectare Avenel Station north of Broken Hill is the latest in a series of acquisitions by the state government designed to reshape the state’s far west.It’s the second-largest property purchase in New South Wales National Parks history.Avenel and Koonaburra Station, near Ivanhoe, were part of two new deals that added more than half a million…

Massive NSW outback stations turned into national parks to save flora and fauna
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The 120,000-hectare Avenel Station north of Broken Hill is the latest in a series of acquisitions by the state government designed to reshape the state’s far west.

It’s the second-largest property purchase in New South Wales National Parks history.

Avenel and Koonaburra Station, near Ivanhoe, were part of two new deals that added more than half a million hectares to the national parks estate since 2019.

Surpassing that number completes the pledge of NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, who set his sights on the state’s far west as an area of need for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

“We are really under-represented in our national parks estate of some very important ecosystems in western New South Wales,” Mr Kean said.

Avenel Station, which encompasses a collective group of properties (Avenel, Mount Westwood, Teilta and Joulnie) are part of the Simpson Strzelecki Dunefields, which houses important flora and fauna in the region.

A dusky hopping mouse near Broken Hill

The dusky hopping mouse, found near Broken Hill, is listed as endangered by the Office of Environment and Heritage.(Supplied: James Val, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment)

‘Turning tide’ on extinction 

Atticus Fleming from the NPWS believed the recent purchases of Narrieara, Metford and Langidoon Stations, along with these new acquisitions would future-proof these habitats for future generations to enjoy.

“With the addition of Narrieara, up near Sturt National Park recently, and other parks near Broken Hill, I think we’re developing a great little outback circuit where we can go up into the corner and visit Narrieara, and visit Sturt, and come back down through Avenel and Mount Westwood and end up in Broken Hill,” he said.

“If we’re going to protect our biodiversity, if we’re going to turn back the sort of tide of extinctions of biodiversity decline in Australia then national parks are the key to doing that and I think these two properties will become jewels in the Western NSW national park crown.”

aerial image of an outback nsw station, called Koonaburra

Koonaburra Station is on The Wool Track, 100km north-east of Ivanhoe and 140km south-west of Cobar.(Supplied: Office of NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean)

Avenel Station chairman Joe Green said the group of owners was thrilled to be selling the stations to the NPWS.

However, after 13 years of ownership, it was sad to see it go.

 “For a number of reasons, we weren’t getting any younger and our health is not getting any better,” Mr Green said.

“We did decide our tenure on Avenel Station and Mount Westwood needed to come to an end, so we looked at marketing our property.”

The smaller 45,000-hectare purchase of Koonaburra, located 100km north-east of Ivanhoe, supports 20 threatened species, housing wildlife such as the Major Mitchell cockatoo.

A pair of pink cockatoo, sitting on a stick in the middle of a dam.

A pair of Major Mitchell pink cockatoos stop off for a drink at a dam.(Supplied: Alex Pike, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment)

Owner Joe Hughes, who sold the property for $9 million, believed it would always have sentimental value to him.

“The kids were all raised there, our house burnt down on the other property so we ended up living there for about two years,” Mr Hughes said.

‘Largely unexplored’ 

Much of the land around Avenel, in particular, had been studied very little, something that the NPWS would look to change according to Mr Fleming.

“We’ll need to get in and do some biological surveys because both [stations] from a biological perspective are largely unexplored,” he said.

Aerial view of red soil at Avenel Station, far west NSW

The Environment Minister says there is still a long way to go before the stations would be operational as national parks.(Supplied: Office of NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean)

While there was not an exact timeframe, large-scale baiting, surveying, and a general clean-up were needed before visitors were able to use the parks.  

The Environment Minister said there was still a long way to go before it would be operational.

“We’ve got to go through a process obviously to gazette the parks,” Mr Kean said.

“That’s an administrative thing that will take a number of months but essentially what we’re going to do is invest very heavily to showcase the area with significant visitor infrastructure.

The only question mark over the purchases remains around the price paid for Avenel, which is believed to be more than $20 million, and what local grazing families will say given these significant purchases will impact succession planning for surrounding properties in the region.

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