In the central Cessnock LGA the Werakata National Park and the Hunter Economic Zone at Kurri Kurri were visited. The following sections discuss each threat identified at each site in further detail.
Werakata National Park
The southern portion of Werakata National Park was visited at three locations. At Lake Road this vegetation was in good condition with a few minor edge effects. Edge effects include rubbish dumping from cars, minor pasture weeds and four wheel driving along existing unformed roads. The vegetation consisted of the TEC of Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest (Photo 6.) which is both state listed under the TSC Act and is currently nominated at a Commonwealth level as Hunter Valley Remnant Woodlands and Open Forests.
Photo 6. Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest at Lake Road
At Murray Street Kitchener, the vegetation was also Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest with few weeds present from the road verge. The unformed road was locked to prevent four wheel drive and motorcycle access. This vegetation had evidence of previous fire events.
The road between Kitchener and Pelton was traversed via vehicle, this road has evidence of four wheel drive and motorcycle access during wet weather causing ruts and widening of the unformed road in some places. Yellow Bloodwood forest (Photo 6.) was observed along this road as well as Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest. A threatened species, Swift Parrot, was observed lerping in Corymbia maculata at Site 23. Household rubbish dumping and building waste dumping was observed at Site 23 (Photo 6.).
The field survey has validated the priority conservation mapping identifying Werakata National Park as high priority conservation due to the range of habitats and the condition of the vegetation. The national park whilst having a few minor threats, which can be managed, is of high conservation value. This has been confirmed by the sighting of the Swift Parrots observed during the field survey. Sites 20–23 on Figure 2.1 were in this location.
Photo 6. Rubbish Dumping at Werakata National Park adjoining Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest
Hunter Economic Zone (HEZ)
HEZ is located to the south of Kurri Kurri and has a significant area of native vegetation containing a number of threatened ecological communities and habitats for threatened flora and fauna. Part of HEZ is zoned for industrial purposes. As part of the approvals for HEZ a portion of the land has been zoned 7(b) conservation under the Cessnock Local Environment Plan (LEP). The native vegetation within HEZ is currently in good condition with few weeds. However, impacts from illegal four wheel driving and motorcycle activities are exacerbating existing vegetation disturbance. Rubbish dumping and burnt out cars were also observed along the main road which has been constructed for the proposed industrial subdivision. Plantings of native species along the Spine Road are now interspersed with pasture weeds (Photo 6.) due to poor maintenance.
The field survey has validated the importance of HEZ as of high conservation value due to the range of habitats observed, with few current threats occurring within these lands. The current threats that have been observed could be managed in the future. Site 24 on Figure 2.1 was in this location.
Photo 6. The Spine Road native plantings interspersed with pasture weeds
In eastern Cessnock two sites were visited and they included the vegetation along John Renshaw Drive and George Booth Drive and these are described below.
John Renshaw Drive
The vegetation along John Renshaw Drive is fragmented by open cut mining operations of Donaldson Coal and Bloomfield. In addition cleared areas contain cattle grazing lands, chicken farms and an industrial subdivision has been built at the eastern end along Weakleys Drive. The extension to the F3 freeway occurs at the western end of John Renshaw Drive. The existing fragmented vegetation in this area is currently in good condition with little weeds, however unformed tracks traverse the vegetation and it is under threat from further mining and subdivision. The majority of the vegetation consists of Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest. Photo 6. shows Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest where it adjoins Buchanan Road with limited understorey with the native canopy intact.
The field inspection has validated that the vegetation within the vicinity of John Renshaw Drive is of high conservation value, with the TECs consisting of Kurri Sands Swamp Woodland and Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest listed on the TSC Act occurring as dominant communities. Whilst this area is fragmented from open cut mining, cleared lands and industrial subdivision, it contains high conservation values in terms of threatened species habitat as well as TECs being present. Sites 24–27 on Figure 2.1 were in this location.
This road traverses the Sugarloaf Range from West Wallsend to Buchanan and has a range of threatened vegetation communities including Hunter Lowland Redgum Forest, Lowland Rainforest, River-flat Eucalypt Forest and Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest (Photo 6.). The Tasman mine is currently operating underground longwall mining under this road and the Hunter Expressway is currently traversing this vegetation to the east of George Booth Drive. This vegetation is generally in good condition (Photo 6.), however it has been subjected to past logging, rubbish dumping, illegal four wheel driving access and has several power easements dissecting the vegetation.
The field survey validated the priority conservation mapping as this area being of high conservation value, this is due to the intactness of the vegetation floristic structure, threatened species habitat and several TECs occurring within these lands. Site 19 on Figure 2.1 was in this location.
Photo 6. Lower Hunter Spotted Gum Ironbark Forest at George Booth Drive