Environmental Education Walks and Talks

Koala’s and Platypuses are Close By

The Friends of Berowra Valley ran a talk on the 7th May on our local koala population. Our speakers were volunteers associated with the local koala population initiative the Hornsby-Hills Rural Koala Project. They have been running an amazing program aimed at encouraging the health, protection and population increase of koalas in the Glenorie/Maroota/Arcadia/Hornsby areas.  With the help of camera traps and song meters they have been listening out for koalas.

We also heard from the Cattai Hills Environment Network on the local platypus eDNA testing at Cattai Creek.

Pat, Rae, Ken, Petra, Danielle, Karen, Lily, Benjamin and Brad all helped run this community event.
Danielle from the Cattai-Hills Environment Network
Pat from the Hornsby-Hills Rural Koala Project

Thanks to everyone to came, it was a great educational event including a cuppa and biscuits at the lovely Mt Colah Hall.

Advocacy Campaigns Westleigh Park

Mountain Bike Trails at Westleigh Park Consultation

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

Friends of Berowra Valley are deeply concerned by the biased nature of this consultation. The purpose is “to involve the environmental and mountain biking communities in developing a co-designed concept plan of mountain bike trails at Westleigh Park while protecting the high value areas of bushland.” The fundamental issue here is that your purpose is impossible. Mountain bike trails exclude protection of bushland.

Your own environment consultants have laid bare the extensive damage already done.

From the Westleigh Natural Area Assessment by EcoLogical dated July 2020 page 87.

”The existing trail network has been constructed without environment assessment and without collaboration with landowners. No education program has been provided to mountain bike community regarding the impact of their activities on ecological values (and human health through asbestos movement) The length, width and construction activity of trails has noticeably increased since acquisition of the land by Council. As a result, soil erosion, soil and seed translocation and vegetation damage has also noticeably increased. These key issues threaten the integrity of the native vegetation to a point that some areas are currently at risk of approaching an ecological threshold.
The current condition is not acceptable as a baseline for future management decisions. The baseline should be zero trail disturbance. However, current conditions need to be documented to form the basis of monitoring and evidence to inform ongoing management decisions.”

Yet the entire consultation has assumed that just because mountain bikers have taken over the area that this destruction of bushland should be accommodated.

We were shocked that Council’s webinar allowed time for a mountain biker to present his position but not one local expert was allowed to make a presentation on the ecological importance of this particular site or the damage being caused to the critically endangered forests

Nowhere in the webinar was research evidence of recreational damage to natural areas, and in particular endangered ecosystems, properly presented. We were hoping the professional researcher would explain these impacts in a non-combative, unemotional manner to all present in the webinar. For whatever reason she chose not to. Our objections to use of this area is not based on emotional ideals but on solid evidence, evidence supported by their declaration as threatened ecosystems, in particular the 2019 reclassification of the Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest from  an endangered ecological community (EEC) to a critically endangered ecological community (CEEC). The webinar was therefore in our opinion, heavily slanted towards the mountain bikers point of view. Given that the Mayor and Councillors attended the webinar, it should have presented both points of view which it did not do.

As stated on page 87 of the Westleigh Natural Area Assessment of July 2020 “some areas are currently at risk of approaching an ecological threshold” i.e. there is a risk that the conservation status of the endangered ecological communities may be downgraded because of the damage being done to each of the vegetation stratum by the mountain bikers. Yet this was not even mentioned at the webinar. HSC purchased the land with the desire to provide for the recreational needs of the entire community.  Just because one group of people have commandeered the area for themselves means nothing. In a few years time this important, rare and endangered forest will just be a stand of trees as it will have been effectively destroyed by this group who will then again be clamouring for more bushland.

There is a Better Way

As one of our workshop participants said “Let’s take a step back” and not just listen to one highly vocal and organised group of people and think about what is important for the whole community and for the area itself. In NSW walking is the number 1 recreational activity, cycling comes 5th and mountain biking is a small subset of the overall numbers of cyclists.

The bushland in this area is incredibly special because it contains critically endangered and endangered ecological communities as well as threatened species of flora and fauna. It has an intrinsic value not only for the local community but also at a State and Federal level.  Council must not let a small group of people blind it to the potential to create a park that conserves our endangered forests, protects our threatened species and considers all of our native flora and fauna  now and into the future.

Our Position

FoBV do not support recreational activities that lead to a degradation of environmental values. FoBV believes no mountain bike tracks should be allowed in Endangered Ecological Communities, habitats for threatened species, biobanking sites or Aboriginal and Heritage sites. Mountain bikes should be confined to park edges, for example asset protection zones, permitted on management trails and any new trails should be confined to edges and highly degraded sites with low resilience.

The recent State Government Draft Cycling Strategy stated that there are over 30,000km of maintenance trails in the National Parks of NSW alone. These provide ample opportunity for children and families to engage in mountain biking close to where they live. Additional family-friendly trails do not need to be sanctioned in the most ecologically sensitive areas of Westleigh Park to fulfil a need that is already adequately fulfilled close by.

Initial Consultation – Elton Consulting

We are concerned that this consultation process has been high-jacked by the mountain bikers who are highly motivated to hang on to the area that they have helped themselves to. Other consultations i.e. Hornsby Quarry Park released the postcodes of the people surveyed but we have been unable to get this information from Elton Consulting. The area is publicised as a mountain bike hub and has therefore attracted mountain bikers from across Sydney and further afield.  Providing the results of an online survey without publishing the postcodes of the respondents provides no indication of the actual local demand for the Westleigh tracks.

Our Recommendation

Mountain biking is destroying bushland throughout the whole state and there needs to be a state-wide strategy to deal with this problem.

We are aware that Council has received advice from the State Government that the $3.6 million grant for the link track and Westleigh trails can be used to purchase another site and built a purpose built mountain bike park, one that does not impact on critically endangered ecological communities and threatened species. This money could be used to build a purpose built mountain bike park on  a large block of privately owned non-residential land that has been cleared or partially cleared, or a mining site that needs to be rehabilitated. Not within endangered ecological communities or threatened species habitats such as Westleigh Park.

Kind regards,

Karen Benhar

President – Friends of Berowra Valley

Advocacy Environmental Education Walks and Talks

Celebrating local environment and community – Berowra Fauna Fair

The Friends of Berowra Valley launched the inaugural Berowra Fauna Fair celebrating all the marvellous creatures with whom we share our bushland home. On Saturday the 19th March the Berowra District Hall was a hub of fauna based activity, including guided walks, a display of live frogs, native plants for sale from the Australian Plant Society with afternoon tea provided by the CWA. Throughout the event there were talks by experts on bats, birds, frogs, turtles, koalas and bees.

The day officially commenced with a very special Welcome to Country by Erin. This was followed by a day of presentations from world-class wildlife experts and ecologists. The line-up was outstanding. Visitors were able to also speak one-on-one with our experts at their displays.

Thank you to the CWA for your beautiful scones and sandwiches. The money raised by the CWA is going directly toward flood relief.

You could feel the community spirit in the room. It was so nice to see everybody come out and enjoy a great day together. We are also so blessed to live in an area surrounded by such a special natural environment.

We look forward to our next special event on Koalas at Mt Colah in May 2022.

Thanks again to all who attended and the amazing presenters and stall holders.

Hon Matt Kean MP and Friends of Berowra Valley Patron and Brad Crossman, Event Coordinator
Mayor Philip Ruddock
Kathy Potter Secretary and Event Organiser
Bev Young of Sydney Wildlife Rescue


Now or Never – Protect Powerful Owl Habitat Before it’s Too Late

There are those moments in time when you can do something truly remarkable for a vulnerable species. Or you can turn away and lose yet another native species to the area.

Here we have a remarkable property which contains perfect habitat for Powerful Owls and in fact has resident owls and a development which ticks all of the boxes and is even going to preserve a part of the site, but the likely outcome will be another loss of prime Powerful Owl habitat.


Protect Sydney from Synthetic Fields – a Social and Environmental Menace

Press Release Natural Turf Alliance – 22 October 2021

The NSW Government has a responsibility to ensure the community has access to quality playing fields that are accessible to the whole community, represent taxpayer value for money and do not result in major environmental damage.

Walks and Talks

Frog Talk a Croaking Success

Thank you to all those who braved the torrential rain at our frog talk a couple of weeks ago. It was fantastic to see so many people of all ages come out and learn about and meet some our local frogs. Big thanks to Kathy and the Frog and Tadpole Study Group for talking to our community. We have many events planned so subscribe to receive updates here.

Bush Regeneration

Students for Nature

Something very special happened on Friday 27th September. A group of students from Asquith Boys High School embarked on an environmental restoration project within the Berowra Valley National Park at the Lyrebird Gully track, Mount Kuring-Gai. This project celebrated the collaboration between Asquith Boys High School, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hornsby Shire Council, the Friends of Berowra Valley and Gibberagong Environmental Education Centre. The aims of the day were to enable the students to further develop their connection to our natural word, learn from experts in the field, deepen their knowledge of bushland management and to teach the skills required for preserving natural areas into the future.