The history of Goonengerry National Park

The Banana Grower’s Federation

Before Goonengerry National Park was a State Forest it had been owned by the Banana Grower’s Federation (BGF) who logged it for banana box timber. The BGF planted several areas within the Forest with Black Butt and Flooded Gum, largely in alternate rows. Then came the practice of packaging the fruit in cardboard boxes making the need for the BGF to own a forest for selective harvesting for fruit boxes unnecessary.

Government Purchase

NSW Govt’s purchase of Goonengerry Forest in 1980’s was part of the deal to preserve Terania Creek Forest. From 1985 came successive years of heavy unsustainable logging by State Forests’ contractors, until the campaign to save the Forest began in 1991, when State Forests asked for public input into their forest management of the forests of their Murwillumbah Zone.

Community Action

Local Val Hodgson wrote the first critical submission in 1991, after interviewing scores of residents, including the late Frank Peate who was continuously employed by the BGF in the Forest since he was a boy. Even he was saddened by the poor management of the forest by State Forests. All residents Val interviewed were shocked by the large volumes of timber coming out of such a small area. All were concerned about encountering logging trucks on Mill Road, unsealed with windy and narrow sections of one-lane only. One fully loaded logging truck even “fell off” Mill Road. All were supportive of a National Park for Goonengerry Forest.

Earlier in the 1990’s, (92 or 3?) the community group Koala Koalition organised a large Forest Picnic which over 300 people attended to “Save” Goonengerry Forest for a wildlife sanctuary. This got good coverage in the Echo, Shire President Ian Kingston spoke, as well as other prominent citizens, and an Aboriginal Dance Group, Nunuckle Kuljeen did a welcome to country.

Another environmental group, Friends of Goonengerry Sanctuary (FROGS) arose that focussed on saving Albert’s Lyrebird habitat, and initiated research on counting calling males each winter. This research was taken up by Alexander (Sandy) Gilmore and expanded and verified in his PHD Thesis, “Ground Feeding Birds of Northern NSW”. Sandy’s research showed that Goonengerry and parts of Whian Whian State Forests had the highest density of calling males in all areas of public forest, including both rainforest, and moist sclerophyll forests in NSW. Local Val Hodgson wrote an article about Albert’s Lyrebirds and had it published in the Echo, collating all the latest research on this species.

FROGS also engaged and assisted the botanist, Margaret Wheeler, to do a vegetation survey of Goonengerry SF. The results of this were given to Mullumbimby Historical Society. Hopefully, they still have it.

All these activities were part of the campaign to preserve the Forest as National Park. All in the 1990’s. The NP was finally assigned but to some extent many important obvious “blocks” of bush lay just outside the Park on land that State Forests had never logged.

So with the direct aim to get some of these blocks added to the Park, in 2001 locals organised for Dr Rob Kooyman to complete a Vegetation Survey of the 2 adjoining blocks to the N-W. This report was dated 18/06/2001. The land was then owned by the McLean family and had been for many generations. Val, followed Rob around as his assistant for 2 or 3 days. Val reports she saw an Assa darlingtonia, Pouched frog, that hopped past them one day as they were having lunch. The report was sent to NP on 28th June 2001, and Val received a thank-you letter from Ashley Love, Manager Conservation Assessment & Data Unit, who suggested that an application for funding for purchase of the blocks from National Heritage Trust could be made using a joint proposal from an individual or community group with NPWS could be made.

So a 3-way joint proposal with the permission and approval of Goonengerry (then Tibian Landcare Group) Landcare Group, Upper Cooper’s Creek Landcare Group, and Wilson’s Creek Landcare Group was submitted. Noted environmental defender, Dailan Pugh contributed a desk-top assessment, there-by adding his voice to the calls for the McLean blocks to be included in Goonengerry National Park.

Nat Parks eventually purchased the block because of its significant environmental values, including 1 extremely rare plant that only occurs at one other place in the world, as well as other Schedule 1 & 2 flora and fauna species.

Today, Goonengerry Landcare Group, along with partner Groups and individuals are busy surrounding the NP with rehabilitating and regenerating forests on private lands to restore the environmental balance for our native flora & fauna and to help our planet breathe.