The Rainforest of Mount Hyland
In between the red dirt of the Australian outback and the beaches dotted along the eastern coastline is a breathtaking ancient wilderness of subtropical rainforest.
This series of nature reserves and national parks in northern NSW and southern Queensland — collectively recognised as the World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia — is a living reminder that hundreds of millions of years ago, Australia formed part of the supercontinent of Gondwana.
“Rainforests covered most of Australia for much of the 40 million years after its separation from Gondwana.”
However, these rainforests contracted as climatic conditions changed and the continent drifted northwards. By the time of European settlement rainforests covered only 1% of the landmass and were restricted to refugia with suitable climatic conditions and protection from fire. Following European settlement, clearing for agriculture saw further loss of rainforests and only a quarter of the rainforest present in Australia at the time of European settlement remains.
About 600km north of Sydney, is the rainforest of Mt Hyland Nature Reserve, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. I visited Mt Hyland while working on a campaign a few federal elections ago. We’d been on the mid-north coast, and were making our way inland toward the Northern Tablelands to Armidale.
On our way we stopped off at Dundurrabin to meet with locals campaigning to protect the Blicks River from mining exploration. The Blicks River is a tributary to the Clarence River via the Nymboida River.
Mt Hyland is not far from Dundurrabin — once you leave the Armidale Road and head up into the forest, between Guy Fawkes, Nymboi-Binderay, and Chaelundi National Parks you’ll find Mt Hyland Nature Reserve — part of the Traditional Lands of the Gumbaynggir people.
Today, it’s early spring, and the forest is on fire.
“The world heritage-listed, high altitude rainforests of the Mt Hyland Nature Reserve on the Dorrigo Plateau are on fire. The area has remained largely unchanged for millions of years - one of the last remnants of the ancient Gondwana rainforests that once covered the entire continent.”
Firefighters are currently working on multiple fronts within the Mount Hyland Nature Reserve, Guy Fawkes National Park, and Nymboi-Binderay National Park to control a 90,000 hectare bushfire.
Locals have spent the week doing their very best as they bear witness to the devastating fire as it moves further through the forest with each passing day.
Rosie Yates — who introduced me to the beauty of the rainforest at Mt Hyland when I visited — has lived alongside Mt Hyland Nature Reserve for decades. This week she has been sharing updates about her experience defending against the fire as it burns ever nearer to the place she calls home.
“To the west, the fire is just coming over Mt Hyland, World Heritage country. There are no tracks to stop it between there and here, maybe the fire will arrive here tomorrow or when it wants.”
— Rosie Yates, Bellingen Courier, Monday 9 September 2019