GOOD things come to those who wait, and the people of Campbelltown have certainly waited a long time for their own national park.
Eighteen years after it was first promised by then-opposition leader Bob Carr, local residents' patience was rewarded on Sunday when Premier Barry O'Farrell announced the opening of Dharawal National Park at Wedderburn.
It takes in the stunning O'Hares Creek gorge and Minerva Pool waterfalls and stretches south and west through the upper catchment of the Georges River to near Appin and the Darkes Forest swamps.
Until now, this bushland gem has been largely hidden away behind locked gates, but will now be opened up to the public.
Environment Minister Robyn Parker said the government would provide $1 million to improve community and disability access, walkways, signage and lookouts.
For Mr O'Farrell, it is the climax of lengthy negotiations with the mining companies and environmentalists.
"When I first got a chance to do a little bit of walking in this area, it was clear to me why Dharawal National Park should be established," Mr O'Farrell said of the local natural treasure.
"I'm particularly proud that we didn't put it in the too hard basket.
"We didn't give up on the hope of establishing here a national park."
Mr O'Farrell said there had been no compensation paid to mining companies. He said the government had waited for one last mining lease on the site to lapse earlier this month before moving ahead with the creation of the park.
"The excuse given by Bob Carr for 18 years was that it couldn't be done because of mining interests," Mr O'Farrell said.
While he admitted BHP Billiton was "a bit resistant" to start with, Mr O'Farrell said there had been no deal made with the mining giant to avoid paying compensation.
Plans for the park will soon be put on public display and will include picnic facilities, a new lookout with access for the disabled and walking tracks.
The gazettal on Monday co-incided with the one-year anniversary of the O'Farrell government's election in 2011.Mr O'Farrell said he believed the 6500-hectare national park and its great swimming holes would soon become a tourist attraction.
Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell thanked the local groups and individuals who had not given up hope on a Dharawal National Park over the decades.
"Our community have been wanting this for such a long time," he said.
But Labor environment spokesman Luke Foley raised concerns on Sunday that BHP Billiton would continue to mine on the boundary of the national park which he claimed could affect the park's water reserves and the headwaters of the Georges River.
Mr O'Farrell said the Environmental Protection Authority would issue fines for any activity that affected the park's water.
Ms Parker said the exploration licences for the land which is on the fringes of the national park had already been approved by the former Labor government.
THE government’s plans for the park will soon be placed on public exhibition and will include:
- A new lookout over O’Hares Creek with disabled access;
-Improved walking access to swimming holes and waterfalls;
-A loop walk at Darkes Forest to Maddens Falls.
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