As a result of a formal agreement between the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and the NSW Minister for the Environment, 26 hectares of the sisters’ historic Mater Dei property near Camden in south-west Sydney have been declared a “biobank” site.
This declaration, the result of much negotiation with the NSW Government’s Office for Environment and Heritage, recognises that the land at Camden is ecologically significant and in need of protection and conservation.
The entire 260-hectare property, owned by the sisters since 1910, adjoins the Nepean River and contains substantial tracts of the Cumberland Plain Woodland, which is listed in NSW and Commonwealth legislation as “an endangered ecological community”.
The National Trust colonial home, Wivenhoe (1837) and Stables (1834), and the Mater Dei School, are also situated on the 260-hectare property.
Specifically, the 26-hectare tract of land is home to significant numbers of Grey Box and Forest Red Gum trees, both valuable, but threatened plant species.
According to John Hawley, Business Manager for the Good Samaritan Sisters, the sisters entered into a partnership with the government to ensure the permanent conservation of this significant tract of land.
He said the land had been “a challenge to maintain” with areas of it becoming “widely degraded”. So by participating in the government’s biobanking scheme, the sisters will have access to funds to manage the land and ensure its ongoing conservation.
“This will involve careful management of the site by professional environmental scientists to control pests and weeds and to stimulate plant regeneration,” he explained.
Significantly, the biobanking agreement also means the 26 hectares cannot be developed because of the conservation covenant attached to the land title, which generally has effect in perpetuity. Therefore, the land will become a permanent conservation reserve. As a compensatory measure for not developing the land, John said the sisters will also have access to modest funding.
For Good Samaritan Sister, Catherine McCahill, a member of the Good Samaritan Council of the Superior, the biobanking initiative is a “tangible expression” of the sisters’ “commitment to creation” which was reaffirmed at their Chapter Gathering in September last year.
“It enables the congregation to work in partnership with the government to restore and preserve an important ecological landscape.
“As such, the sisters are delighted that the NSW Government has provided the resources for this preservation so that the land can be preserved and enjoyed by all,” she said.
The NSW Government’s Biobanking and Offsets Scheme (biobanking) commenced in July 2008 and was created under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act).
The sisters’ 26 hectares at Camden have become the tenth biobank site in NSW.
To find out more about biobanking visit the NSW Office for the Environment and Heritage.