Sydney Basin Bioregion ecological
communities: listing assessment
consultation guide
June 2014
Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest, Kemps Creek. © Department of the Environment and Liz Ferguson
This information guide is intended to help the public understand why the
following ecological communities are being assessed for possible listing
under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999,
and what such a listing would achieve and mean for people in the region:
 Castlereagh Scribbly Gum and Agnes Banks Woodlands
 Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest
 Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest.
In summary:
 The Castlereagh Scribbly Gum and
Agnes Banks Woodlands, the Cooks
River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest and
the Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest
ecological communities of the Sydney
Basin Bioregion have been nominated
for protection under Australia’s national
environmental law, the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation
Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
 The Castlereagh Scribbly Gum and
Agnes Banks Woodlands, and the
Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest
ecological communities were placed on
the Finalised Priority Assessment List in
2011, as part of the Hinterland Sand
Flats Forest and Woodland of the
Sydney Basin Bioregion nomination.
 The Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark
Forest was placed on the Finalised
Priority Assessment List in 2012.
 A scientific assessment is being
undertaken to re-define and gather
evidence on the current threat status of
the ecological communities.
 Public consultation and input from
Councils, Traditional Owners, land
managers and other interested parties is
an important and valuable part of the
assessment process. Consultation is
open until Wednesday 6 August 2014.
 The Minister for the Environment will
make the decision on whether to list the
ecological communities by mid February
2015.
 If eligible for listing under the EPBC Act
there would be benefits to the
environment and associated ecosystem
services, and benefits and opportunities
for groups with an interest in the
ecological communities.
 Listing would help promote a coordinated, ecosystem-scale approach to
threat abatement in the region and for
threatened species that are found within
the ecological communities.
 Listing under the EPBC Act means that
an activity that is likely to have a
significant impact on an ecological
community needs to be assessed and
approved. For example, activities that
involve permanently clearing large areas
of intact and high-quality native
vegetation for new residential and
industrial areas or other infrastructure.
 The EPBC Act is not designed to stop
people using their land. Existing and
routine landholder and agricultural
activities, and actions previously
approved under other legislation are
generally exempt from the EPBC Act.
Public consultation
Hinterland Sand Flats
The Hinterland Sand Flats Forest and Woodland of the Sydney Basin Bioregion ecological
community was placed on the 2011 Finalised Priority Assessment List (FPAL). The ecological
community is undergoing assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Public consultation on this nomination was undertaken in
2013, and expert consultation has also been undertaken. This assessment has resulted in a
refined version of the nomination, which now consists of:

The Castlereagh Scribbly Gum and Agnes Banks Woodlands of the Sydney Basin
Bioregion ecological community (which includes the Castlereagh Scribbly Gum Woodland
and Agnes Banks Woodland vegetation units); and

The Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest of the Sydney Basin Bioregion ecological community.
Castlereagh Scribbly Gum Woodland, Voyager Point. © Department of the Environment and Liz Ferguson
Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest
This ecological community was placed on the 2012 Finalised Priority Assessment List (FPAL). The
ecological community is undergoing assessment under the EPBC Act. Expert consultation is in
progress.
Public consultation process
The Castlereagh Scribbly Gum and Agnes Banks Woodlands, Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest and
Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest ecological communities are now undergoing assessment
for potential listing as threatened ecological communities under the EPBC Act. Discussions with
landholders, experts, government agencies and stakeholder groups are a vital part of the
assessment process. A formal public consultation period for this ecological community is now open
and will close on Wednesday 6 August 2014. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the
Committee) is seeking comments on the draft descriptions for the ecological communities.
All comments received are forwarded to the Committee and the Minister for the Environment for
consideration. Once the Committee has completed its scientific assessment, its advice on whether
to list and the likely conservation status will be forwarded to the Minister for the Environment. It is
the Minister who decides if an ecological community should be listed and which conservation
category applies. Under the EPBC Act, the Minister’s listing decision is made on whether the
ecological community meets the listing criteria and whether listing will benefit its survival.
What is an ecological community under national environmental
law?
Australia’s national environmental law, the EPBC Act, protects what are known as Matters of
National Environmental Significance. The Act is only triggered if there is likely to be a significant
impact to any of these matters.
Threatened species and ecological communities are Matters of National Environmental
Significance. The EPBC Act defines an ecological community as an assemblage of native species
that inhabits a particular area in nature. They often relate to types of native vegetation, such as a
certain kind of grassland, woodland or forest.
The native plants and animals within an ecological community have different roles and
relationships that, together, contribute to the healthy functioning of the environment. Protecting
native communities also protects ecosystem services such as good quality air and water; healthy
soils; natural prevention or control of erosion and salinity; shelter and feed for stock; and the
storage of carbon. These all contribute to better productivity of our land and water, which benefits
people and society.
Human settlements and infrastructures where an ecological community formerly occurred do not
form part of the natural environment and are therefore not part of the ecological community—e.g.
sites where an ecological community has been cleared or replaced by crops, exotic pastures or
developments. This also applies to sites where the ecological community exists in a highlydegraded or unnatural state. For instance, cropping lands and exotic pastures or areas where
much of the native vegetation has been replaced by exotic species, and are no longer part of a
natural ecological community.
What is the listing assessment process?
Under the EPBC Act, members of the public can nominate an ecological community for listing
during a formal nomination period that is open between November and March each year.
Nominations received are prioritised for assessment by the independent Threatened Species
Scientific Committee (the Committee) and the final priority assessment list (FPAL) is approved by
the Australian Government Environment Minister.
Priority nominations undergo a thorough scientific assessment by the Committee. The assessment
involves clarifying the definition of the ecological community, determining where it occurs, and
rigorously assessing its eligibility for listing as nationally threatened. An ecological community must
be demonstrated to be significantly impacted by identified threats. It should also be shown that if
these threats are not managed, there is a risk that the ecological community may be changed
irreversibly and its natural composition and/or function could be lost forever. Three categories exist
for listing ecological communities, depending on the level of extinction risk: vulnerable, endangered
or critically endangered. All assessments undergo public consultation on the proposal to list.
What is the Castlereagh
Scribbly Gum and Agnes
Banks Woodlands ecological
community?

The ecological community is mainly found
within the Cumberland Plain, with the
exception of some patches occurring just
outside of the plain near Holsworthy (see
distribution map). The entire community is
located within the Sydney Basin
Bioregion. Local Government Areas
within which the community occurs
include Penrith, Blacktown and Liverpool.

The ecological community occurs
primarily on Tertiary sands and gravels of
the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system.
The Agnes Banks Woodland component
primarily occurs on Aeolian (wind-blown)
sands overlying Tertiary alluvium. Soils
are typically low in nutrients, unlike more
recent alluvial deposits. Sediments may
be almost pure sand, with other sand
deposits often transitioning to, or
including, areas of gravel and clay.

The Castlereagh Scribbly Gum and
Agnes Banks Woodlands ranges from
woodland to low open-woodland with the
canopy species typically 10-15 m tall.

The canopy contains, and is often
dominated by, one or more of the
following species: Angophora bakeri
(Narrow Leaved Apple), Eucalyptus
racemosa (Narrow-leaved Scribbly Gum)
and E. parramattensis subsp.
parramattensis (Parramatta Red Gum).
Melaleuca species including M. decora
(Paperbark) may also be prominent in the
canopy (or mid layer) of the ecological
community. Eucalyptus fibrosa (Red
Ironbark) is occasionally present in the
canopy.

The ecological community’s understorey
has a prominent and diverse layer of
sclerophyll shrubs. It typically has a
patchy ground cover of sedges and
grasses. However, in areas of poorly
drained soil there may be less species
diversity in the mid layer and the ground
layer may contain a high diversity of
sedges and grasses.

There may be some variation in species
composition and abundance across the
range of the ecological community. For
example, varying abundance of
Melaleuca and Banksia species in the
canopy and shrub layer. In addition, the
Agnes Banks vegetation occurs on
Aeolian sand and can contain a number
of species reminiscent of communities
closer to the coast, such as Dillwynia
glaberrima, Ricinocarpos pinifolius
(Wedding Bush) and Banksia aemula
(Wallum).
Melaleuca decora (Paperbark). © Department of the
Environment and Liz Ferguson
What is the Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest ecological
community?

Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest is found on the Cumberland Plain in the Camden Local
Government Area, south of the township of Camden and in proximity to the Nepean River.

The ecological community occurs at low altitudes of around 50 m above sea level, on sandy
soils overlying tertiary alluvium.

The vegetation structure is low woodland (also described as open scrub and or scrub-forest),
less than 15 m tall with a prominent shrub layer. The canopy is usually dominated by Banksia
integrifolia subsp. integrifolia (Coast Banksia), but Eucalyptus botryoides (Bangalay) may
dominate in the wettest areas. Other typical canopy species may include: Angophora
subvelutina (Rough-barked Apple), Eucalyptus baueriana (Blue Box) and Melaleuca decora
(Paperbark).

Characteristic mid layer species include Acacia decurrens (Black Wattle, Sydney Green Wattle,
Boo'kerrikin (D'harawal)), A. implexa (Hickory Wattle, Weetjellan (D'harawal)), A. ulicifolia
(Prickly Moses), Breynia oblongifolia (Coffee Bush), Dillwynia glaberrima (Smooth-leaved
Dillwynia), Duboisia myoporoides (Corkwood), Pimelea linifolia subsp. linifolia (Slender Riceflower) and Ricinocarpos pinifolius (Wedding Bush).

Ground layer plants include Dianella caerulea, Dianella revoluta, Gahnia clarkei (Tall Sawsedge), Lomandra species and Pteridium esculentum (Common Bracken).

The ecological community provides habitat for a range of fauna including the following
threatened species: Chalinolobus dwyeri (Large-eared Pied Bat), Lathamus discolour (Swift
Parrot), Meridolum corneovirens (Cumberland Land Snail), Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis
(Eastern Bentwing Bat), Mormopterus norfolkensis (Eastern Free-tail Bat), Pteropus
poliocephalus (Grey-headed Flying Fox) and Scoteanax rueppellii (Greater Broad-nosed Bat).
What is the Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest
ecological community?

The Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion is a dry
sclerophyll open-forest to low woodland.

The majority of the community is found on the Cumberland Subregion north and west of
Botany Bay towards Richmond. The largest patches occur in the Castlereagh and Holsworthy
areas. Smaller remnants occur in the Kemps Creek area and in the eastern section of the
Cumberland Subregion (e.g. upper Cooks River Valley).

The community occurs on clay-rich soils and is dominated by Eucalyptus fibrosa (Broad-leaved
Ironbark) and Melaleuca decora (Paperbark), with E. longifolia (Woollybutt) often present.

The shrub layer is relatively dense, and is dominated by M. nodosa (Prickly-leaved Paperbark)
and Lissanthe strigosa (Peach Heath), and to a lesser extent M. decora. It also includes a
range of ‘pea’ flower shrubs, including Dillwynia tenuifolia, Pultenaea villosa (Hairy Bush-pea)
and Daviesia ulicifolia (Gorse Bitter Pea).

The ground layer is relatively sparse and commonly includes Entolasia stricta (Wiry Panic),
Lepidosperma laterale, Opercularia diphylla, Dianella revoluta subsp. revoluta (Blue Flax-Lily),
Themeda australis (Kangaroo Grass), Microlaena stipoides var. stipoides (Weeping Grass) and
Pratia purpurascens (Whiteroot).

The ecological community also provided habitat for a range of birds, including the nationally
vulnerable Turnix varius (Painted Button Quail), and Falcunculus frontatus (Crested Shrike Tit).
Substrate for Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest, Kemp’s Creek. ©Department of the Environment and Liz Ferguson
Why are these ecological communities important?
Much of the vegetation of the region west of Sydney has been cleared, fragmented or heavily
modified, and with this, many species have become locally, regionally or globally extinct. In
particular, fewer mammal species are now found in this area. For many of the plant and animal
species that remain, remnants of ecological communities are critical for their survival. For example,
the ecological communities provide habitat and food resources for the assemblage of woodland
birds that occurs in the region, many of which are threatened.
Connectivity can be a particular issue for threatened fauna and flora in the region, some of which
cannot traverse poorly vegetated urban areas; consequently patches of the Castlereagh Scribbly
Gum and Agnes Banks Woodlands, Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest and Cooks River/Castlereagh
Ironbark Forest are likely to be essential to facilitating movement of species through the landscape
and preventing their extinction.
Some of the Eucalyptus species found in the canopy of the ecological communities play a
particularly important role in supporting some birds and mammals through winter, by providing
nectar at this time. This can be important for both resident species such as the endangered Regent
Honeyeater and for those that migrate along Australia’s east coast (e.g. the endangered Swift
Parrot).
What are the benefits of
listing an ecological
community as nationally
threatened?
There are a number of benefits to listing
ecological communities under Australia’s
national environmental law:
 Listing an ecological community can help
protect the landscapes that provide
connectivity, corridors and refuges
essential to protect and improve the
ecological function, health and biodiversity
of the region. It can protect habitat critical
for refuge and recruitment of threatened
species and for other species that are
under pressure in the region. In turn, this
helps foster the ecosystem services
associated with an ecological community.
 In the case of the Castlereagh Scribbly
Gum and Agnes Banks Woodlands,
Elderslie Banksia Scrub Forest and the
Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest
ecological communities, the listing would:
o provide landscape-scale protection that
complements existing national
protection of many threatened plants
and animals that are found within the
communities; and,
o protect the environmental values,
including all the ecosystem functions
and services associated with the
ecological communities, which
contributes to the long-term productivity
and resilience of the landscape.
 Listing threatened ecological communities
helps protect them from future significant
human impacts that may cause further
decline. The aim of the national
environment law is to ensure the matters
of national environmental significance are
given due consideration, along with
broader economic, social and other issues
in the planning of any large projects.
Where possible, significant adverse
impacts to the environment should be
avoided, or the impacts mitigated, reduced
or offset, when unavoidable.
 National listing encourages agencies and
community/Landcare groups to apply for
environmental funding opportunities for
conservation and recovery works. The
Australian Government has a variety of
funding programmes to encourage land
managers to continue to conserve
biodiversity and ecosystem services on
their properties.
 A conservation advice, published at the
time of listing, provides guidance and
options for environmental decisionmaking, including rehabilitation and
conservation initiatives in the region.
Eucalyptus fibrosa (Broad-leaved Ironbark) in Cooks
River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest, Kemp’s Creek.
©Department of the Environment and Liz Ferguson
Will activities that happened before listing or ongoing and
routine activities need to be referred?
Activities which were routine or began before 2000 may generally continue without
referral/approval. Such exemptions apply to activities that were either already legally approved
(termed 'prior authorisation'), or are ongoing (termed 'continuing use').
Land management and other practices undertaken in line with the State native vegetation laws and
guidelines are also typically exempt from the EPBC Act.
Council, farming and other practices which are unlikely to require approval from the Australian
Government include the following:
 ongoing horticultural or cropping activities
 maintaining existing fences, roads, internal access tracks and firebreaks
 maintaining existing gardens and orchards
 maintaining existing dams or water storages
 replacing and maintaining sheds, yards and other existing buildings
 controlling weeds by hand or minor group machinery; and
 management of feral pest species.
What actions might need to be referred for approval under the
EPBC Act?
The environment assessment process under the EPBC Act involves:
 referral (only if the action is likely to have a significant impact)
 assessment (usually involves developing an Environmental Impact Statement with the
proponent), and
 approval from the Minister (who considers the environmental, social and economic factors
involved).
New, changed or intensified activities that are likely to have a significant impact on a listed
ecological community (i.e. an irreversible or long-term detrimental impact) may need Australian
Government approval and should therefore be referred. These are likely to include:
 permanently clearing large areas of the ecological community (recognising that in many listed
communities, the threat from clearing is the result of past actions);
 introducing grazing to native vegetation areas that have not previously been grazed or changing
from grazing to cropping within the ecological community;
 substantially changing or intensifying methods of weed control or fertiliser use in or adjacent to
a patch of the ecological community and that exacerbates detrimental impacts to native
vegetation, and
 major developmental works within or near to a patch of the ecological community.
These lists do not include all actions that may/may not require approval.
Where can I get further information?
 Information on the proposed listing of the ecological communities: [insert hyperlink]
 The listing process: www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/index.html
 The EPBC referral and approval process: www.environment.gov.au/epbc/
 Australian Government natural resource management initiatives: www.nrm.gov.au/
 The department’s Community Information Unit: by phone on 1800 803 772 (freecall), or email at
[email protected]
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Sydney Basin Bioregion ecological communities: listing assessment