It is beyond the scope of this Plan to provide a detailed description of the natural, cultural and physical history that has shaped the distribution of rainforest and related vegetation in the Border Ranges region. Generally, the natural and physical history of the area is reflected in the region’s topography which in turn influences climatic patterns. These factors, in combination with numerous others such as geology and fire history, have determined the historic distribution and pattern of rainforest and related vegetation. More recent contemporary factors associated with human activities such as clearing, burning, agriculture and urbanisation, have changed these patterns to create the mosaic of vegetation present today. This section of the Plan provides a brief description of land tenures, topography, geology, climate, broad vegetation, and flora and fauna.
The Planning Area relates to the Border Ranges North and South (Queensland and NSW) Biodiversity Hotspot. The Border Ranges hotspot is a region that is recognised for its high diversity and large proportion of locally endemic species. It encompasses a variety of significant habitats including rainforests, wet sclerophyll forest, montane heath, rocky outcrops and transition zones between forests (Department of the Environment and Water Resources 2007).
The natural values of the hotspot are at risk, and it is likely this risk will increase in the future in the absence of active conservation management. The area, therefore, has high national priorities for conservation management (Department of the Environment and Water Resources 2007).
The Border Ranges hotspot region is primarily located in the South-east Queensland and North Coast New South Wales Bioregions (Environment Australia 2000), with small portions in the New England and Brigalow Belt South Bioregions. It occupies over 14 500 km2; nearly 1.5 million hectares. The boundary of the Border Ranges region (as delineated for this Plan) extends along the coast from Beenleigh in the north to Evans Head in the south, inland across the Richmond Range to Tabulam. It then follows the upper Clarence Valley north to the NSW–Queensland border near Killarney and then extends further north along the Main Range to just south of Gatton. From here it swings east and south, following the foothills of the Main and McPherson Ranges from Boonah to Beaudesert. Note that the Border Ranges region does not include any off-shore Islands.
The south-east Queensland and north-east NSW region of Australia has significant and unique Indigenous cultural values that are continually interconnected to Country. This attachment is through earth, water, plants, animals, knowledge, traditions and stories; all of which are inter-woven and inseparable. Cultural responsibilities, meaning, associations and understanding are intertwined with the identification of Indigenous knowledge-holders to protect, acknowledge and appreciate cultural values associated with Country that are still strong today.
Historically, vast areas in the region have been cleared for agriculture, and timber harvesting has occurred through much of the midslopes and ranges. The region's current high population growth, with associated urban and tourist developments, is a major cause of continued habitat loss and fragmentation along coastal areas and in the hinterland. Although many remaining natural areas are protected, these areas are often under considerable threat from weeds, pest animals, fire, recreational use and the potential impacts of climate change. The region also includes remnants of highly cleared and fragmented rainforests, such as the Big Scrub near Lismore and small pockets of littoral rainforest along the coast.
The Border Ranges region and surrounds, particularly the coastal areas of the Tweed and south-east Queensland, are experiencing growth rates among the highest in Australia. The demographic structure of the population is generally weighted towards an ageing population. Household incomes are below the average of larger cities, and unemployment rates in the region are higher than NSW and Queensland averages.
Within the Border Ranges region, 76% of the total land area is private land and 15% is national park estate. Of the national park estate, half is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia WHA, and small amounts are wilderness. Figure 2 shows land tenures in the Border Ranges region and Table 2 provides summary statistics.
Within the Border Ranges region there are 108 conservation reserves, including: 31 national parks, 38 nature reserves, 21 conservation parks, 3 Aboriginal areas, 9 forest reserves, 1 historic site and 5 state conservation areas. The Gold Coast City Council owns 11 properties acquired through its Open Space Acquisition Strategy (Gold Coast City Council 2007) and there are 50 private conservation properties. The Border Ranges region also contains 33 state forests, 2 Commonwealth reserves (Canungra Warfare Centre and Gold Coast Airport) and 55 crown reserves. A full list of public land properties is provided in Appendix 4 (on the enclosed CD).