With a population of some 4.4million people in an area of 12,474 square kilometres, the Great Sydney Local Land Service region is diverse, extending from densely urbanised cities and coastal waterways through to rural lands and extensive World Heritage wilderness areas
More than 30 per cent of Greater Sydney LLS residents speak a language other than English. The Greater Sydney LLS includes important Indigenous sites and sites of early European settlement. Six Local Aboriginal Land Councils operate within the region.
There is wide variability in climate. In the Blue Mountains, summers are traditionally mild with an average temperature of 23°C and the temperatures can fall to an average of 9°C in winter in Katoomba. Temperatures rarely fall below 0°C at sea-level, but frosts are common at higher altitudes in the mountains. Areas west of Sydney on the Cumberland Plain experience average maximum January temperatures approaching 30°C with mild winters. The catchment receives approximately 800–1,400 mm of rainfall each year. Peak precipitation occurs between November and March and the variability in rainfall from one year to the next is high.
Sydney is the capital of NSW. Major industries in the region include finance, business, extractive and manufacturing industries, property development, agriculture, commercial fishing, tourism and recreation. Large urban areas place significant pressures on natural resources and there is a continuous need to maintain a balance between urban growth, the natural environment and agriculture.
Although it covers just 1.5 per cent of the land area of NSW, the Greater Sydney LLS region accounts for seven per cent of the State’s agricultural production. This includes high value intensive industries such as market gardens, poultry and mushrooms. Preservation of agricultural land in close proximity to the urban market is an important consideration for the region.
Tourism is a vital part of the economy and is focussed on natural environment attractions including Sydney Harbour, central coast beaches and the Blue Mountains. Tourism is a multi-million dollar industry and it is vital that we continue to protect the natural assets which support it. Key tourism and social assets include coastal waterways in the east and the Blue Mountains region in the west.
Major geological features, natural assets
The region is home to some of the state’s most iconic natural landforms, including the Sydney Harbour, Botany Bay, and the Blue Mountains.
Landscape types (floodplains, woodlands, rangelands, marine areas, etc.)
The Greater Sydney LLS consists of a central shale/clay basin surrounded by elevated sandstone escarpments.
The basin is drained by the Hawkesbury–Nepean River as well as the Parramatta, Georges, Cooks and Wyong rivers. On the coast these rivers form some 100 kilometres of coasts and estuaries including Tuggerah Lake, Brisbane Waters, Pittwater, Narrabeen Lagoon, Port Hacking and the Ramsar-listed Towra Point.
There are extensive wetlands within the inland floodplains of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River including the Broadwater, the Richmond Lowlands and Pitt Town Lagoon. Patches of unique hanging swamps are found in elevated areas of the Blue Mountains and Gosford.
With 80 national parks and seven state forests, almost 70 per cent of the region contains native vegetation. This protection focuses on the forests of the elevated sandstone plateau.
The western escarpment of the Blue Mountains is dominated by over one million hectares of World Heritage and Wilderness listed National Parks. Many pockets within the World Heritage Area are pristine, with little to no impact from European settlement, providing a sanctuary for native wildlife and plants. The sandstone plateau to the north and south also include large reserved areas including the Royal and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Parks. By contrast the woodland communities of the clay basin (the Cumberland Plain) have been heavily cleared for urban development and agriculture, and very little of the remaining vegetation is protected.
The forests, woodlands and wetlands of the Greater Sydney LLS region are significant assets. In addition to their intrinsic value, social value and recreational value, these ecosystems provide drinking water supply to 4.3 million people and are the backbone of a multi-million dollar tourism economy.
Despite its large areas of National Park the Greater Sydney LLS includes some of the most critically endangered wildlife, plants and ecological communities in NSW.
The extensive forests of the sandstone plateau include at least seven threatened ecological communities, 32 threatened resident animals and 100 threatened plant species. By comparison the small shale basin of the Cumberland Plain woodlands and the estuaries include a disproportionately large 25 threatened ecological communities, 30 threatened plant species, 38 resident terrestrial threatened animals, 15 threatened aquatic animals and 27 threatened seabirds.
The region also boasts hundreds of species of threatened and protected migratory bird species. The wetlands and estuaries of the coast are critical to these species survival.
Key threats to threatened species within protected areas include weeds, feral animals, disease, inappropriate recreational use, climate change and pollution from surrounding developed areas.
Outside protected areas wildlife is additionally threatened by land clearing (for development agriculture and mining), underscrubbing, removal of old & dead trees, firewood collection, herbicide and fertiliser use, noise, light and air pollution, urban heat effect, and stormwater pollution. Aquatic areas including estuaries are further impacted by recreational and commercial fishing and sewage disposal.
The combination of urban areas, intensive agriculture, and abandoned land awaiting development result in serious pest issues for the Greater Sydney LLS.
For agricultural uses major pest animals include pigs, wild dogs and foxes. Amongst numerous agricultural pest plants some key problems include Serrated Tussock, Chilean Needle Grass, African Olive, Lantana, Blackberry and Fireweed.
Major environmental pest animals include fox, cats, deer, pigs, goats, rabbits, and the black rat. Amongst numerous pest plant species key problems include African Olive, small- and large-leaved Privet, various willow species, Gleditsia, Lantana, Blackberry, and exotic vines.
The impacts of pest species varies significantly across land uses. Pest species have a particularly big impact in the small remnants of urban areas, the rural Cumberland Plain and in estuaries. The Blue Mountains is greatly affected in being bisected by suburban housing and roads along the two major transport corridors.
As a capital city and major port Sydney faces significant biosecurity risks. The introduction of new pest species is a particular problem at major infrastructure node including Botany Bay & Towra Point.
Other key features or local issues
The interweaving of built, bush and beach environments is a distinguishing feature of the Greater Sydney LLS region.
Greater Sydney is frequently perceived as a large urban area surrounded by National Parks. However less than 10% of the shale woodlands, wetlands and estuaries of the region are protected, and even the National Parks and Wilderness areas of the plateau are threatened by pest species and the effects of adjoining land use.