Reflections on a decade of letting the Stockton Bight heal itself

FOR Petrice Manton, it’s a decade since the custodians of the Stockton Bight marked a line in the sand.

On Monday Ms Manton, chair of the Worimi Conservation Lands Board of Management, reflected on 2007, when the NSW government designated 4,200 hectares of the bight as the jointly-managed Worimi Conservation Lands.

The Stockton dunes had, arguably, been loved almost to death.

“We quite often saw [traditional Aboriginal] midden sites where people had just driven through. We’re less inclined to see that now, ” Ms Manton said.

“We’re rebuilding that frontal dune and we’re having great success. We’ve seen this landscape start to heal itself.”

The board is hosting more than 50 Aboriginal Joint Management Custodians from as far as Byron Bay and Broken Hill to share their culture and experience of the park co-management model.

Soon after the Worimi lands were created a decade ago, it became clear that “uncontrolled vehicle access” was damaging ancient Aboriginal sites in the Stockton dunes, including shell middens northeast of the Tin City settlement. 

Vehicles were banned from that part of Stockton and, after the storm surge of June 2012, so was camping.

The board’s subsequent volatile relations with recreational groups eased in November 2015, when it outlined plans to allow the return of camping by around the following April.

The board now says it “is working towards” a 15-site trial later this year.

There are more than 100 jointly-managed parks in NSW covering more than a quarter of National Parks reserves.


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