History and Heritage

Shanes Park 180 years ago - a sketch by Conrad Martens dated June 2 1835

The Shanes Park Woodland is located in the lands of the Dharug people, and retains significance to their descendents today. Many of their campsites can still be seen on the site, although little now remains but stone tools and flakes. A survey in 1989 recorded 13 campsites (link), although other traces of the Dharug are likely to be present.

After colonisation, magistrate, surgeon & landowner John Harris was alloted a portion of land extending from the eastern bank of South Creek in 1807. This 'Shanes Park' included the present reserve and extended a kilometre west to South Creek. In 1822 he successfully petitioned for convict labour to clear the land along the creek. However while the floodplains along South Creek were rapidly cleared, much of the drier bushland further east was left intact. In 1960, the eastern portion of Shanes Park was purchased by the Commonwealth Government to house an air navigational facility. As this required very little space, most areas of the site which were formerly cleared were allowed to regenerate naturally. Today, the Commonwealth Air Services Australia (ASA) maintain a 9 ha area (including a 50 m bushfire Asset Protection Zone), and lease a 11 ha area to a local pistol club - otherwise the 560 ha site is intact woodland under public ownership.

History of Nature Reserve Proposals

Shanes Park was first proposed for a Nature Reserve early as the 1980's. Similar recommendations have been made in virtually every wildlife review since. Over the years, the the patch has remained a hidden jewel while surrounding lands were subdivided and developed. As each new suburb has developed the site's name has changed - being identified as Marsden Park, St Marys, and Llandilo at different times. However, despite efforts by the former Civil Aviation Authority to the contrary, the site is now known by its 1800s name - Shanes Park.

  • 1987: NPA proposal for Marsden Park Nature Reserve.
  • 1991: Recommendation by Benson and McDougall for reservation
  • 1995: October. NPA proposal for Shanes Park Nature Reserve in first edition of Latham report.
  • 1997: The NPWS Urban Bushland Biodiversity Survey strongly urged protection of its 'outstanding conservation values', and that a plan of management be prepared to include fire management strategies designed to protect biodiversity and allow hazard reduction (UBBS pp.72).
  • 1999: Renewed NPA proposal for Shanes Park Nature Reserve.
  • 2006: Further NPA proposal for Shanes Park Nature Reserve

In 2006, developers approached ASA and the Howard government requesting purchase of the site (letter). They proposed to develop the grassland portions of the site for housing, arguing that these had no conservation value. As detailed here, undisturbed grasslands on the Cumberland Plain are frequently of greater value than wooded areas; further, disturbance in these central portions of the site would reduce the wildlife value of the entire site. The NSW environment minister Bob Debus successfully opposed the sale (response letter). Ironically, Mr Debus failed to recognise the present value of the grasslands - as grasslands - but recommended that they had high potential for regeneration into woodland.

Presently, in 2012, the Federal Government proposes to transfer the site to the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service. However, after pressure from the NSW government, the federal Deed of Transfer will allow the NSW government to manage the site as Regional Park (recreational parkland), rather than public Nature Reserve. The NSW government proposal is not that different to the developers proposal in 2006. The planning to date suggests the construction of a NPWS Depot, kiosks, ampitheatres, bike racing tracks, and the fencing and culling of native wildlife.

Air Service History

The site retains substantial heritage from its service as a military air navigation facility. Over 70% of the site has been listed on the Commonwealth Heritage Register, and while the listing relates largely to the natural heritage present, the cultural heritage is also significant. Two non-indigenous heritage reports are available here and here for further information.

Above: ASA buildings, towers & bushfire setback (2011)

Above: ASA tower (2010)

Above: ASA Control Room taken circa 1963

Above: The area protected under Commonwealth Natural Heritage listing