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What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of different types of plants and animal species (including micro-organisms) as measured in a specified geographic location or ecosystem at a particular time. For example, the number of different plants and animals that live in a patch or type of forest is an example of biodiversity. 

Cessnock Local Government Area (LGA) contains a very diverse range of plant (flora) and animal (fauna) species, which live in a range of distinctive communities and ecosystems – just like we do! Our local biodiversity is significant for a range of reasons both locally within the Hunter Valley of NSW, but also of NSW and national importance.   The Hunter Valley, including Cessnock, is recognised as being at the intersection of a number of bioregions, where ecosystems from the coast, the inland and the north and south of NSW all meet.     

Whilst much of the Hunter Valley has been progressively cleared for farming, residential development and mining over the years since European settlement, the Cessnock LGA is seen as vital to regional biodiversity through being:

  • Influenced by western NSW climate, species and winds over the Merriwa Plateau.
  • A migration path for many Australian birds (as well as overseas migratory birds).
  • A particular temperate climate which may become a ‘refuge’ for many species in impacts related to climate change and droughts.
  • Significant forested areas (corridors) connected between the Yengo, Wollemi, Watagan and Werakata National Parks, which are essential to enable movement, and resilience of, plants and animals between habitats due to change in land use or with climate change.  

Ironically, the reason for the largest remaining remnants of lowland forests and woodlands here, is due to the need for timber for ‘pit props’ in mines during the early 20th century in the Cessnock area. These timber reserves were then created into to State Forest, National Park and private holdings. 

short-beaked Echidna - Tachyglossus aculeatus Today, these areas are some of the most important remaining forests and woodlands of their types, and are living remnants of what used to cover the Hunter Valley floor.  The biodiversity in these areas is distinct from that found on the steeper slopes and mountains of the Watagan and Mt Royal Ranges to the south and north of the Valley. Therefore, these living remnants are in serious need of our attention as a community and from all those that visit, operate and reside in the Cessnock LGA. Our collective aim needs to support local and regional biodiversity, whilst working to achieve a sustainable and healthy environment for our community and for future generations.  

Distinctive other habitats in the Cessnock LGA support various biodiversity features on private and public land. Notable examples include nationally recognised heritage sites of Bow Wow Gorge and Ellalong Lagoon, the Watagan, Werakata, Wollemi and Yengo National Parks and the Sugarloaf Range. Some of these lands have been set aside for specific conservation management purposes.

Some Plans & Strategies supporting Biodiversity in the Cessnock LGA

Male Mistletoe Bird - Dicaeum hirundinaceum

We have a number of plans and strategies adopted through our Council, which build on each other to support biodiversity values and the community in the LGA, and work in partnership with other stakeholders also. See the information below on these plans and strategies. For what’s happening on the ground and out in the community, go to ‘How to help our local biodiversity’ page.   

Cessnock City Council Community Strategic Plan 2023

The Cessnock Community Strategic Plan 2023 outlines what the local community you would like to see by the year 2023, with desired outcomes in 5 priority areas:

  • A connected, safe and creative community
  • A sustainable and prosperous economy.
  • A sustainable and healthy environment.
  • Accessible infrastructure, services and facilities.
  • Civic leadership and effective governance.

Cessnock City Council Biodiversity Strategy 2014

In 2014, Council adopted a Biodiversity Strategy which:

1)     identified a range of ecosystems, ecological communities and vegetation types of exceptional value, and;

2)     identified how to better protect and manage these assets.

As this strategy states ‘Biodiversity underpins our quality of life and our livelihoods. We rely on healthy, complex and functioning natural ecosystems to keep our air and water clean, pollinate our crops, grow food and fibre, and help keep pests and diseases in check. Everyone has a role in managing biodiversity’.

The Cessnock Biodiversity Strategy aims to set in place a number of processes, mechanisms and initiatives that will lead to improved biodiversity locally through conservation and good management of our natural assets, improving their resilience now and in the long term, and can therefore be enjoyed and valued by future generations.

Cessnock Biodiversity Management Plan

The Cessnock Biodiversity Management Plan was developed by NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) due to the significance of the biodiversity and presence of threatened species in the area. The Cessnock Biodiversity Management Plan (poster) identifies spatial (mapped) priority areas for action to assist threatened species recovery across the valley floor in the LGA.  The map can help to guide where on-ground works and community engagement may assist in the protection and enhancement of habitat for 65 threatened species, as listed in the Plan also. This Plan is helping to guide a range of agencies, organisations, local landholders, and of course Council, on where to focus efforts and investment on biodiversity locally.

You can download the Cessnock Biodiversity Management Plan poster via OEH website.

Lower Hunter Regional Sustainability Planning and Strategic Assessment

In 2012, the Australian and NSW governments entered into an agreement in 2012 to undertake regional sustainability planning and a collaborative strategic assessment of the Lower Hunter region of NSW. The Lower Hunter is Australia’s sixth largest urban area and is expected to grow further into the future, but also has many significant environmental assets (including species) worth protecting.

You can read more via the Australian Government website at Lower Hunter Regional Sustainability Planning and Strategic Assessment 

This collaborative planning process was supported by a number of research projects which provide a vast amount of information on the biodiversity within Cessnock LGA. These include:

  • Swift parrot and regent honeyeater priority habitat assessment and mapping.
  • Grey-headed flying-fox management strategy for the Lower Hunter region.
  • Lower Hunter vegetation mapping.
  • EPBC Act listed ecological communities mapping in the Lower Hunter region.
  • Resilience to natural hazards in the Lower Hunter region.
  • Lower Hunter koala study.
  • Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area values study.
  • Lower Hunter important agricultural lands mapping.
  • Proximity of residential blocks to open space in the Lower Hunter region.
  • Planning for green open space in urbanising landscapes.
  • Mapping community values for regional sustainability in the Lower Hunter region .
  • General approach to planning connectivity from local scales to regional (GAP CLoSR) .
  • Identifying conservation priorities and assessing impacts and trade-offs of potential future development in the Lower Hunter Valley.