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orchid species alan stephenson
Alan W Stephenson's  Orchid Species of Shoalhaven, NSW Australia

A book about Australian orchids, habitat,  and conservation

Available from:
affine@tpg.com.au


Click on pictures for larger pictures

Genoplesium baueri
Genoplesium baueri

Genoplesium baueri var alba
Genoplesium baueri var alba

Genoplesium baueri var alba
Genoplesium baueri var alba

Genoplesium baueri var alba
Genoplesium baueri var alba

C hunteriana
Cryptostylis hunteriana

heritage habitat
Genoplesium baueri and Cryptostylis
hunteriana habitat

S australis
Spiranthes australis

S australis
Spiranthes
australis

S australis
Spiranthes
australis

S australis alba
Spiranthes
australis var alba

Speculantha ventricosa
Speculantha ventricosa

Speculantha ventricosa
Speculantha ventricosa

Speculantha ventricosa
Speculantha
ventricosa rosette

Speculantha ventricosa habitat nebraska rd
Speculantha ventricosa habitat

Orchid Habitat Restoration and Preservation 

Heritage Estate near Vincentia in NSW text and photos by Alan W Stephenson

A recent decision by the federal environment minister to refuse a Shoalhaven City Council (SCC) submission to rezone a section of land, known as the Heritage Estate near Vincentia in NSW, from rural to residential gives us encouragement that environmental controls can be effective.

The land was subdivided and sold prior to proper planning controls in 1915 and blocks were sold over the years for varying prices and as late as 1995 despite countless notices and warnings that building approval was not assured. In 1988 a lobby group was formed and over a period of 10 years exerted pressure on the SCC and eventually a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was held in 1998. In 2006 council voted $300,000 of ratepayer funds for a full environmental study, accompanied by a social and economic study which said most landowners were poor European migrants without the awareness to realise they had been duped when purchasing land. The study was done and it found many things I am sure the council would have preferred were not found. In short, the survey found four threatened species, five migratory species and an endangered ecological community, all of which are listed under the EPBC Act. In addition to these a further 10 species are either listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act) or are considered significant species. The major feature of the report was the recommendation that the area should not be developed. Not only was the environmental study quite wide ranging and thorough but the final result determined the proposal would be a “controlled action” requiring the approval of the Minister for the Environment.

Genoplesium baueri
Genoplesium baueri

The two orchids concerned are Cryptostylis hunteriana (211 individuals) which is well spread in certain sections of the estate and Genoplesium baueri (approx 40 individuals). The report indicated almost all of the C. hunteriana populations would be lost if development proceeded. The report listed several other orchid species but missed many. My own knowledge of the area indicates at least 53 species could occur on this site and I have found many of these in the immediate area. As well as G. baueri my recent visits to the site located plus three individuals of an Alba form and Spiranthes australis, which was not located during any of the surveys. This area surrounding Jervis Bay has been recognised for decades as a biodiversity hot spot and reports such as this continue to reinforce that belief. This situation is typical of many as the proponents of development are always stunned when they read the final list of species which are in situ and a further list of strong possibilities as most of us realise, it is only when an exhaustive study is conducted on any given section of undeveloped bush land that its true environmental value is recongnised.

S australis
Spiranthes australis

I was contacted by the office of the environment minister as were others who had forwarded submissions against the project and we had an on-site meeting to further put our points. The minister had previously met with the proponents and wanted to hear the other side of the argument. This highlights the importance of preparing a submission to any project deemed to be environmentally sensitive, as those who made a submission were the only people who were contacted for any of the meetings.

Following the release of the environmental study the process required independent assessment which was provided by scientists from Canberra and Queensland. Both assessments concurred with the study findings and both were extremely firm in their conclusions that this estate should never be developed for residential purposes. The decision of the environment minister was made on Friday 13th March and it proved to be a black Friday for those who have pushed this development at all costs. On Monday 16th March, I and others met with the SCC Mayor, numerous councillors, SCC engineers and the NPWS Regional Manager at the Bomaderry Creek Regional Park almost in the centre of Nowra. This park was proclaimed six years ago and prior to its dedication the SCC had planned to push a road through the area. Despite losing the case in the NSW Land and Environment Court $1.5M has been spent by the SCC to reverse that decision. From discussions with several councillors it became clear some were hesitant to proceed with detailed planning and more environmental surveys as they said “we must be cognisant of the Heritage Estate decision as we don’t want to spend large sums of money to have our plans rejected by Peter Garrett.”

In regard to habitat destruction being the most critical element in the disappearance of our orchids, habitat fragmentation is equally as bad. A feature of many conversations is the idea that ‘we only want half the area or even a quarter” but that equation is a recipe for disaster, as it is this generation which wants half but the next generation will also want half followed by half for the third generation and each generation, eventually leaving nothing. If one considers habitat loss in this manner I would expect/demand greater militancy from this generation to prevent any loss.

The lessons learned from these episodes are that some groups will stop at nothing to get their way and those concerned with environmental issues must be vigilant. This includes reading lengthy reports, usually as PDF documents on a council or government website and making a knowledgeable response, as my experience tells me most local orchid enthusiasts know more about their local species than an imported so-called expert and it is essential for these locals to make a submission to these projects as experience also tells me, they can have some impact if you keep up to date with developments within your local community.


Alan W Stephenson
National Conservation Officer
Australasian Native Orchid Society (ANOS)

Nebraska Estate

Photos of Speculantha ventricosa and its rosette and a rosette and stem and habitat. Note the stem does not emerge from the rosette (leaves 6 mm x 12 mm) as the rosette is produced after flowering. Rosette photo contains a cluster of several rosettes and this is common. The habitat of S. ventricosa is known as the Nebraska Estate and is a Paper Estate the same as the Heritage Estate. Although several homes have been constructed illegally on the estate the local council has not taken action against these people. One home has four boats six cars and several dogs in situ and it is solar powered as there are no services available as with the Heritage Estate. Land is still advertised as being for sale. I am currently working through the nomination of this S. ventricosa and S. vernalis to be listed as endangered species.  I will be using some of these photos in the nomination.