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Berowra Valley Nationall Park is managed by NSW Parks & Wildlife Service.

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Friends of Berowra Valley  inc. is an authorised community service group dedicated to assist the managers in the support of the Park

 

Catchment Management

David Booth

Former Berowra Catchment Management Committee

The Berowra Catchment Management Committee (BCMC) was established in July 1994 by  the Minister for Land and Water Conservation. The BCMC worked closely with the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust. The functions of the BCMC were defined in the Catchment Management Act 1989 (NSW). Primarily, the  BCMC was responsible for the coordination of natural resource management activities in the Berowra Catchment, which is the area bounded by the Pacific Highway, Pennant Hills Road, Castle Hill Road, Old Northern Road and the  Hawkesbury River. The Berowra Valley Regional Park is located within the Berowra Catchment.

The role of the BCMC was to bring people and agencies together to identify  problems and determine how they could be overcome. This was to ensure the conservation of the catchment’s distinct character as well as its diverse natural and cultural heritage. The committee brought together people from a  range of backgrounds and interests with a variety of skills and knowledge to help make the catchment a better place for all to live and work in, and to conserve for future generations to enjoy.

Pursuit of ecologically sustainable development — a significant management  challenge

In September 1993, as a result of long-standing community concerns about  deteriorating water quality in the Berowra Creek estuary, Hornsby Shire Council imposed a moratorium on the determination of development applications for waste water generation in the catchment of the West Hornsby Sewage Treatment  Plant. In October 1993, to resolve the situation, the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning convened a technical working party consisting of the Department of Planning, Hornsby Shire Council, Sydney Water Corporation, the  Environment Protection Authority, and the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust. A Statement of Joint Intent (SOJI), also known as the Community Contract for Berowra Creek, was signed in April 1994. Signatories agreed to  work together to achieve the ecologically sustainable development (ESD) of the Berowra Creek catchment, and recovery of the creek’s environmental health. It is interesting to note that the Department of Planning signed the  Statement, stating that:

it will not introduce any planning measures that are incompatible with the  ecological sustainability of Berowra Creek.

Therefore, the SOJI provided a basis for improvements to water quality in Berowra  Creek, as well as a basis for the protection of Berowra Valley from the impacts of development.

Whole-of-government approach

The approach taken by SOJI represented a  ‘whole-of-government’ commitment to catchment management in Berowra Creek. It was the first time in New South Wales where State agencies and local government had formally agreed to work together with the local community  to start to clean up a waterway. It was a coordinated and integrated approach to natural resource management that reflected the principles of Total Catchment Management (TCM) — the State government’s policy for the  management of natural resources.

Berowra CMC’s role

Consistent with the coordination responsibilities under the Catchment Management  Act, in September 1995 the NSW government transferred the ongoing responsibilities of overseeing the SOJI to the Berowra Catchment Management Committee. The BCMC established a SOJI sub-committee, which included representatives from  all of the SOJI signatory organisations. The SOJI sub-committee met on a bi-monthly basis at the Hornsby Catchment Centre.

SOJI signatories and the community have remained supportive of the SOJI, which  unified agencies and authorities with the community. Unity was enhanced through the coordination responsibilities of the BCMC. The TCM philosophy provided an appropriate and transparently accountable framework through its catchment  sustainability and community participation focus. Under the TCM umbrella, signatories showed a preparedness to work together progressively to achieve the water quality and ESD outcomes being sought.

Advantages of the SOJI

The Statement of Joint Intent provided the following advantages. It:

  • guided the key relevant activities of the member parties;
  • provided a framework for more open communication;
  • improved the coordination of activities;
  • increased the levels of cooperation; and
  • improved the transparency of processes for the community.

SOJI significance recognised

The significance of the SOJI was recognised by the NSW Department of Urban Affairs  and Planning in its Draft Hawkesbury-Nepean Environmental Planning Strategy (1996), by the NSW Healthy Rivers Commission in its ‘Independent Inquiry into the Hawkesbury-Nepean River System—Final Report’ (1998), by  the NSW government in its reports: ‘Public Inquiry into the Management of Sewage and Sewage By-products in the NSW Coastal Zone—Draft Report’ (August 1997), and ‘Outcomes of the Review of TCM in NSW’  (December 1997).

Conclusion

The SOJI was the first community contract to start cleaning up a waterway, based  on a more integrated approach to land and water management. It was also recognised as the first broad-based inter-agency agreement aimed at achieving an ambient target in water quality and at working towards ecologically  sustainable development on a catchment basis.

Berowra Catchment Management Committee

In 2000 the Berowra Catchment Management Committee was  replaced by the Lower Hawkesbury Catchment Support Committee, a sub-group of the Hawkesbury–Nepean Catchment Management Trust. The Trust, and subsequent Catchment Support Committee, were abolished on 6 April 2001 with its  functions to be absorbed into the then Department of Land and Water Conservation (DLWC). The announcement was made by the Minister for Agriculture and Land and Water Conservation. Under the new arrangements, that department  established the Hawkesbury-Nepean Local Government Advisory Group, which gave greater autonomy to local government to be a key player in natural resource management in the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment.

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