REPRESENTATIVES from over 20 organisations and community groups joined forces this morning to announce their shared commitment towards the future protection of one of the region’s most defining natural landscapes – the Illawarra Escarpment.
The newly formed Illawarra Escarpment Alliance (EscA) seeks to continue the tradition of citizens and communities protecting the Illawarra Escarpment from current and emerging threats such as inappropriate or unsustainable development.
Group Spokeswoman Catherine Moyle said EscA is an independent not-for-profit alliance with a vision to promote and preserve the cultural and environmental heritage values of our treasured Escarpment.
“This includes protecting the area against threats to those values by collaborating with other groups and agencies to identify creative, culturally appropriate and ecologically sustainable solutions”, Ms Moyle said.
“Membership is open to any individual or group that shares our values and commitment to working together for the benefit of both the Escarpment and the communities of the Illawarra.”
Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council Chairman Jade Kennedy welcomed the creation of the Alliance, in particular the group’s emphasis on protecting and conserving places of Aboriginal cultural heritage within the Illawarra Escarpment.
“The Escarpment is central to the Alcheringa, the Dreaming, of the Illawarra area. It represents the interrelationships between our sacred mountains of Mount Keira (Djera) and Mount Kembla (Djembla) to the Sea (Gadhu)”, Mr Kennedy said.
“The Escarpment has protected this area for over 30 million years, and we want to ensure it can continue to fulfil this function in the years to come.”
Alliance Member and President of the Illawarra Branch of the National Parks Association (NPA) of NSW Graham Burgess stressed that the Escarpment must be a destination only for ecologically sensitive activities.
“The Illawarra Escarpment has high biodiversity values, a fragile geology and significant cultural heritage”, Mr Burgess said.
“We are particularly concerned about the impact urban development close to the Escarpment is having on our special places.
“The Illawarra Escarpment Alliance provides the opportunity for a strong community voice on these issues while allowing environmental groups and the Aboriginal community to speak with one voice”.
The formation of the group follows in the footsteps of previous alliance initiatives such as the Illawarra Escarpment Coalition. Former Coalition member Irene Tognetti supported the new initiative and described the vital need for the ongoing protection and restoration of the natural icon.
“We must continue to protect and conserve the unique ecological communities contained within the Escarpment, and prevent activities that threaten slope and soil stability”, Ms Tognetti said.
Wollongong Councillor Cath Blakey congratulated Alliance representatives on the initiative, indicating that the group would be a valuable point of reference for council on matters pertaining to the escarpment’s cultural and environmental heritage.