People came from Lismore, Byron, Southern Gold Coast and the Tweed ... to hear about the possibility of a Wollumbin Biosphere.

satellite image of the biosphere
Regional satellite image ©
courtesy of GeoScience Australia

Mount Warning (Tweed) Shield Volcano

Wollumbin Biosphere Reserve

Wollumbin Biosphere Reserve Project Committee
C/O Caldera Environment Centre
PO Box 5090, South Murwillumbah, NSW 2484, Australia

>> Caldera Environment Centre Biosphere Project page


On Saturday 7 December 2002, environment groups based around the Mount Warning shield volcano hosted an initial public meeting to discuss the proposal for a biosphere reserve in this area (38k jpeg).

These groups were the Caldera Environment Centre in the Tweed Shire, the Sustainability Research Institute in the Byron Shire, Nimbin Environment Centre, Big Scrub Environment Centre, the Gold Coast Environment Centre in southern Queensland and the Byron Environment Centre.

More than a hundred people packed the lovely Pottsville Environment Centre on the day to hear about a possible UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for our area.

Larry Anthony M.H.R. (Richmond) and Neville Newell M.L.A. (Murwillumbah) were among the officials attending, also some councillors, agricultural scientists, farmers and many environmental activists.

People came from Lismore, Byron, Southern Gold Coast and the Tweed, roughly the area Bruce Graham, speaker and author of the "Tweed Volcanic Region" identified as being part of the Mt Warning Shield Volcanic area.

Originally a huge flat volcano, it has been carved by radiating rivers, and is blessed by high phosphorus soils which support rainforest. Australia's second highest diversity of plants and animals are to be found in this area.

Aboriginal speaker, John Roberts, said he had walked this area since boyhood and has seen the forest decline, creeks shrink and logging trucks which used to have one log per truck now only carrying 30 or 40 "pencils".

He feels the aboriginal movement must link up with the environmental movement, and gave the Biosphere his blessing, noting it roughly corresponds to the original Bunjalung tribes' magnificent "Garden of Eden" territory.

He was particulary concerned with the decling water tables, and the increasing numbers of bores sucking water from the trees. "Everyone", John said, " has to protect this country if it is to live."

Man and Biosphere logoJim Muldoon, the featured speaker, came from Canberra's Environment Australia as representative of UNESCO's "Man and the Biosphere" Programme.

He said "Stakeholders in a Biosphere are all those who live in and love their land. Stakeholders group together to propose a Biosphere in their area , local and then state govenments must ratify it and then the Paris yearly meeting of the Man and Biosphere group accept the nomination".

Then the UNESCO expertise and prestige is available to support research and practice which moves an area to more long term viable agriculture, housing and industry practices.

In Bookmark, South Australia, the Biosphere there is supported by and aids the citrus growers to use water and chemicals more efficiently.

In Westernport Bay Biosphere, BHP is trialling better water usage. Marketing produce or tourism as Biosphere friendly can have important sales advantage.

The Biosphere Reserve model regards areas as core conservation areas, then buffer zones to help protect these area, as in the Great Barrier Reef Biosphere, where less than 5% is fully protected, but surrounding partial protection allows species to regenerate.

Importantly, Jim emphasised that Biosphere Reserve status could be introduced in stages.

Amanda Kenyon of Lismores Living Centres outlined in lively style the existing work of the Northern Rivers Regional Strategy in studying population, village lifestyle and waterways.

Rhonda James discussed catchment management as a supportive model. Andrew Heap of the Macadamia Industry and Ben MacDonald of NSW University showed how farming groups are putting into practice the ideas that "if it's not ecologically sustainable it won't be economically sustainable".

Support of and for farmers is crucial in creating and using the Biosphere concept.

Imagine what a paradise of rich soils, clear waters, wildlife and tourism opprtunities could be created if this area could implement an integration of research, planning and volunteer labour for farmland!

illustration showing the 3 functions of a biosphere
Graphic © courtesy of UNESCO - MAB site.

Dudley Leggett lauded the wealth of human talent and interests in our area, and how the Biosphere Reserve could help us retain local character and political autonomy.

Tourism and education were industries that would benefit from the ecologically sustainable approach. Direct democracy through computer voting was exampled by a interreactive voting software on display at the meeting. The Biosphere is very much a human habitat issue, since we all love and enjoy this area, and our true superannuation is its continued community richness and health promoting qualities.

Last part of the day was small groups discussion of water, farming, tourism, democracy and community development. Ongoing meetings of these groups plus general education about Biosphere Reserve advantages will be forthcoming from the meeting.

Along with the great food and gentle forest setting, all present had a excellent experience in networking and information sharing. The committee would like to thank all the speakers and attendees for a very exciting Biosphere Launch event.

What is a Biosphere Reserve?

The Biosphere Reserve idea comes from UNESCO, and is a voluntary covenant using a "bottom up" approach to creating sustainable land and water use. It encourages a partnership between govenment and farming and human populations to protect our children's heritage.

There are 490 Biosphere Reserves worldwide, with 13 in Australia, including the recently recognized Westernport Bay Biosphere Reserve.

The official UNESCO - MAB Programme site explains the concept as follows:

"Biosphere reserves are sites established by countries working with the UNESCO-MAB Programme to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, based on local community efforts and sound science.

As places which seek to reconcile economic development, social development and environmental protection, through partnerships between people and nature, they are ideal to test and demonstrate approaches to sustainable development at a regional scale."

Graphic showing Biosphere Reserve zoning system
Graphic © courtesy of UNESCO - MAB site.

Wollumbin Biosphere Reserve

Are you interested in the Wollumbin Biosphere Reserve concept?

For more information or to volunteer, contact: Caldera Environment Centre Telephone - (02) 6672 1121

Alternatively you can visit the CEC page at >> Caldera Environment Centre Biospher Project page

Useful Links

The majority of links below go to external sites. Use your right mouse button to open a new window
to these sites, or your back button to return here. (Please note these links are for your information only.
We have no control over the content on 3rd party sites)

  • UNESCO United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
  • Man and the Biosphere site contains extensive resources, including a database of Biosphere Reserves world-wide, the national committees, activities, regional networks and a comprehensive publications section, where useful PDFs, videos and audio files can be ordered or downloaded.
  • Caldera Environment Centre Biosphere Project page Updated "The Border Ranges Biosphere Reserve Project The BRBR is an evolving project hosted by the Caldera Environment Centre and supported by the Tweed Shire Council, to develop a local UNESCO Biosphere Reserve centred on the Mt Warning Erosion Caldera. The ultimate boundaries and government composition is yet to be determined."
  • Environment Australia - Australia's Biosphere Reserves Information on Australian Biospheres, working groups, documentation, articles and newsletters in doc and PDF.
  • Niagara Biosphere Reserve in Canada offers an excellent working example, and has much in common with the intended Wollumbin Biosphere Reserve, with a variety of human habitations ranging from cities and towns to villages and scattered rural  communities.  Land use includes farming, agriculture, commercial and industrial, extractive industries, recreational use, national parks and wilderness.
  • BIOSPHÄRENRESERVAT RHÖN UpdatedA Barvarian reserve in Germany, this site offers examples of how local communities, stakeholders and agencies are co-operating in agricultural, economic, settlements, nature conservation, tourism & recreation and environmental education development using the biosphere model to facilitiate local sustainability.
  • South East Queensland Ecological Restoration FrameworkNew link The Framework is designed to guide SEQ councils, community groups and landowners in their efforts to: conserve and enhance biodiversity by increasing the extent and improving the condition of native vegetation ensure long-term environmental and economic sustainability ensure ongoing improvement and maintenance of ecosystem services.
  • Urban Ecology Australia New link "exists to demonstrate and promote a more sustainable approach to the way we live. In 2008, for the first time, more people lived in cities than in rural areas. And so, if we are are to address major issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, resource scarcity and social equity, we need to focus on the urban form and look for ways in which we can improve it."
  • Northern Rivers Regional Strategy Updated "The Northern Rivers region of NSW has developed an award winning plan to ensure that future growth in the area is ecologically sustainable and based on the aspirations of its communities. The plan is called the Northern Rivers Regional Strategy. The Strategy is a process using best practice planning and information technology to integrate land use and socio-cultural changes in this unique part of Australia. It sets out how the people of the region want to influence their future in the face of constant change – and that of their children."
  • The Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan New linkPDF download page.  "(the Plan) constitutes the national regional recovery plan under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for threatened species and ecological communities principally distributed in the Northern Rivers Region of NSW. The Plan is part of an Australian Government-funded pilot to trial the integration of regional recovery and threat abatement planning. It provides a regional approach to the delivery of recovery actions necessary to ensure the long-term viability of threatened species and ecological communities in the Region."
  • CSIRO's Sustainable cities and coasts New link "Flagship researchers are developing planning, design, infrastructure and management solutions to help Australia's cities and coasts adapt to a changing climate."
  • Welcome to the Community Tool Box (CTB) "Promoting community health and development by connecting people, ideas and resources." This amazing resource from the University of Kansas while focussed on community health and lifestyle ... "provides over 6,000 pages of practical information to support your work in promoting community health and development. ... The core of the Tool Box is the "topic sections" that include practical guidance for the different tasks necessary to promote community health and development. For instance, there are sections on leadership, strategic planning, community assessment, grant writing, and evaluation to give just a few examples. Each section includes a description of the task, advantages of doing it, step-by-step guidelines, examples, checklists of points to review, and training materials.
  • Peninsula biosphere aims for harmony with humans December 20 2002 By Claire Miller. The Age Newspaper article about the Westernport Bay Biosphere. "The Mornington Peninsula and Westernport Bay were yesterday proclaimed as a United Nations biosphere reserve, where community, government and business will cooperate in reducing their collective environmental footprint."
  • Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve. Updated "In 2002, the United Nations proclaimed the Western Port region in Victoria, Australia, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Western Port was chosen because it has outstanding natural values, including a Ramsar wetland of international importance, on the fringe of the expanding city of Melbourne. Biosphere reserves aim to keep special places—like Western Port—special by fostering conservation and sustainable development."
  • Australian Rainforest Conservation Society Updated "The Australian Rainforest Conservation Society has played a leading role in protecting significant areas of Australia's rainforests. Through its hard-working volunteers and scientific advisers, the Society has produced landmark studies and participated in forums and successful campaigns that have had a major influence on government policy and initiatives for rainforests and other native forests."  QLD focus, with good links page and informative PDF fact sheets about various topics relating to rainforests.
  • The Sustainability Research Institute "aims to facilitate broad community participation in the design and construction of a sustainable future."  A driving force in the Wollumbin Biosphere Reserve Project.
  • Government Services, LGAs, Politicians - Northern Rivers, NSW
  • Environment Groups Northern Rivers NSW and South East QLD
  • Big Volcano Ecotourism Resource Centre Resources for best practice in sustainable tourism development
  • Big Volcano ERC - Development, Environment & Sustainability resources for communities, business and industry

This page is proudly sponsored by Big Volcano Tourism
This page is sponsored by Big Volcano Tourism