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Narawntapu National Park

Highlights

Bakers Beach

Bakers Beach

Narawntapu National Park is rich in both Aboriginal and European heritage, as well as offering the visitor a unique opportunity to discover some of the animals that make Tasmania a haven for wildlife. The park was formerly known as Asbestos Range until May 1999, when it became the first park to revert to an Aboriginal name, Narawntapu. This is the Aboriginal name for the Badger Head and West Head area within the park.

The only constant thing about this park has been change. Over the last thirty thousand years, even the shape of the coastline has changed many times. Sea levels have risen and fallen; beaches have come and gone, rivers and creeks have changed course. Throughout this whole period of change Aborigines, particularly those of the Northern Midlands Tribe, adapted their lives to utilise the resources of this area.

Aboriginal middens

Shell middens, artefact scatters and other sites in the park give evidence of Aboriginal adaptation to the coastal environment. From these sites we know that Aborigines used stone from the local shoreline as well as stone traded from further afield. They worked these into various shapes; some for use as knives or scrapers, some for sharpening spears. Middens show that shellfish such as mussels, warrener and limpets were an important part of their diet.

Aborigines also brought about changes of their own, using fire to promote grasses and attract game. These millennia of connection with the area have given it an ongoing significance to today's Aboriginal community, who regularly visit the area to maintain their strong connection with many sites throughout the park.

European arrival

Overwhelming change came with the arrival of Europeans. Within 30 years of white settlement, the Aboriginal people here and all over Tasmania had their lives drastically disrupted. During the initial period of encounter between Aborigines and Europeans, one strange episode occurred near here. In 1806 a convict named Charlotte Badger escaped from a ship anchored off the coast. She was believed to have taken refuge among the Aborigines in the vicinity of Norroundboo - the headland and beach now bearing her name. Astonishingly, Charlotte Badger was reportedly sighted 10 years later, with a child, on one of the Tongan islands.

European takeover of Port Sorell

The Port Sorell area was surprisingly late to be taken over by Europeans. In 1828 a retired captain, B.B. Thomas, became the first European settler at Port Sorell (named Panatana by local Aborigines.) He had negotiated good relations with local Aborigines, but became involved in a dispute between white settlers and Aboriginal people which led to his unfortunate death in 1831. Further settlement of the area was delayed until most of the Norroundboo people were forced off their land. Many were taken to camps on Flinders Island, where death and disease was all too common. Others from the Aboriginal community survived and today this area continues to provide important links to their ancestry.

Settlement of the hinterland

European settlement of the richer soils of the hinterland was more rapid than the settlement of coastal areas. Only mining and farming went ahead with any speed. Copper, asbestos, iron and gold were all mined in small quantities around the edges of the Asbestos Range. Copper Cove near Badger Head is named after the ore mined there. The mines encouraged a track to be opened between Port Sorell and Launceston. This went across the Asbestos Range, possibly following Aboriginal tracks, and cut hours off the previous inland route.

Springlawn wetlands

Springlawn wetlands

Settlement of 'Springlawn'

Meanwhile in 1833 the eastern side of Port Sorell was settled by George Hall. He drained some of the marshy land around what is now 'Springlawn'. He had success with his potato crops, which were soon being sold at premium prices to the infant colony at Port Philip Bay. Hall helped cut the first track across the range. Fenton Creek is named after another early European settler, James Fenton, an historian who was said to have lived near Badger Head. Badger Head and Badger Beach are said to be named after Charlotte Badger, a convict who, in 1806, escaped from a ship anchored off the coast. George Robson and his son Robert Taylor Robson lived on Shell Island and in 1844 assisted in the capture of five convicts who had escaped from Port Arthur in a whale boat.

The next owner of Springlawn, Edwin Baker, gave his name to the 7 km long beach.

The farm changed hands several times until 1974 when it was purchased to form the nucleus of the park. Edwin Baker's original homestead was gutted by fire. The weatherboard house that replaced it still stands. A number of farm outbuildings also remain as do some exotic trees.

Asbestos Range was declared a national park in 1976 because of its unique coastal heathlands, its importance as a habitat for native animals and its recreational value. It was renamed to Narawntapu in 2000 to reflect this area's significance to the Aboriginal community. The cleared and grazed area of the farm now offers similar conditions for wildlife to those created by the Aborigines. Some changes have gone full circle.

Natural Wonders

Narawntapu offers a wide diversity of habitats for both plants and animals, and is an ideal park for the study of nature. Dusk is the best time to observe the many native marsupials that live in the park. Commonly seen are large forester kangaroos, Bennetts wallabies, pademelons and wombats. These browse the grasslands of the park, especially around Springlawn. Though still wild, most animals are used to the presence of humans, and can be approached quietly for observation and photography. Please do not feed them. Wallabies and other animals can get a severe disease called 'lumpy jaw' if fed processed food.

Vegetation

The coastal heathlands are a feature of the park and contain six distinct heath communities - unusual in such a small area. In the vicinity of Archers Knob occurs the rare fern-like club moss, Phylloglossum drummondii , listed in the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995, and the uncommon Lycopodium serpentinum. Near Badger Head and Little Badger Head, and also listed as rare, are some of Tasmania's only known stands of velvet bush Lasiopetalum micranthum. The uncommon prickly tree fern, Cyathea australis, occurs in gullies to the south of the Park.

More common heath plants include grass tree, trigger plant, blue bell, common heath, honeysuckle banksia, and ivy flat-pea (with its kite-shaped leaves and twining habit.)

Dry sclerophyll woodlands occur on the hills inland. Behind Badger Beach there is coastal wattle and tea tree scrub. The vegetation zonation on dunes at Bakers Beach consists of grassland, heath, thickets of coastal wattle, herbland in the swales and swamp forest in the drainage line behind the dunes. Towards Griffiths Point and Springlawn Beach white gum, Eucalyptus viminalis, occurs but has suffered serious dieback. A number of theories have been proposed to explain the dieback without a definite explanation being established. Around North East Arm there are extensive areas of salt marshes above the tidal flats.

West Head is predominantly drooping sheoak, Allocasuarina verticillata forest, with an area of black peppermint, Eucalyptus amygdalina forest along the shoreline and boundary nearest to Greens Beach. The area behind Badger Head added to the Park in 1991 contains Eucalyptus amygdalina forest,which is also found on the upper hill slopes towards Point Vision. Most of the hill slopes are covered with dry stringybark, Eucalyptus obliqua, forest. Small areas of tall wet Eucalyptus obliqua forest occur, mainly on the west facing slopes on the eastern side of Freshwater Creek below Point Vision. An area of Eucalyptus regnans/Eucalyptus globulus forest occurs on west facing slopes east of Windred Creek.

Mammals

The Park contains a great diversity of wildlife with some species in abundance. Around Springlawn, common wombats, Bennetts wallaby and Tasmanian pademelon reach some of Tasmania 's highest densities. The area also has some of Tasmania's highest densities of accessible and observable Tasmanian devils.

Before European settlement, the Forester kangaroo occurred in the general vicinity of the Park but disappeared during the 19th century. They were re-introduced to the Park in 1975 in an effort to re-establish them close to their former range and ensure conservation of the species. Subsequent to their introduction to the Park, populations of the kangaroo have been protected in other reserves and also occur on private land.

The kangaroos established on the former pastures around Springlawn, an area where the original natural vegetation would not have provided suitable habitat. Because farming and consequently maintenance of improved pastures no longer occurs ,the suitability of the former pastures for the kangaroos has declined and with it the population of kangaroos. Without regular pasture maintenance, which could take resources away from other priority management tasks, the population of forester kangaroos is likely to continue to decline in the Park to much lower levels than in the early years of introduction.

High densities of macropods, particularly wallabies, made possible by the large areas of cleared former pasture around Springlawn, result in some years in very heavy grazing and mortality through disease or starvation increases.

There is potentially suitable heathland habitat for the rare New Holland mouse in the Park although the nearest confirmed location of the species is approximately 10 kilometres south at Scotts Hill near Beaconsfield.

Brushtail possums and white-footed dunnart are common, although the latter are rarely seen. The spotted-tailed quoll and the eastern quoll occur but are uncommon. The Park is a priority fauna area for the spotted-tailed quoll.

The introduced rabbit is common in disturbed areas around the Park boundaries and in the Springlawn area.

Birds

Birds are another feature of the park, with many species of honeyeater gathering nectar from the abundance of flowering heath plants. In the dry inland eucalypt forests, at places like Point Vision, green rosellas, black cockatoos and various robins are common. Yellow wattle birds and honeyeaters may also be seen and heard.

The Springlawn area has the richest concentration of birds. Here you may see a variety of robins, wrens and fantails. You may also hear the sharp call of golden whistlers. Around the lagoon over seven different species of ducks as well as herons, swans, cormorants, coots, bitterns, grebes and many other water-birds have been observed. A bird hide in the melaleuca at the lagoon offers an ideal spot for birdwatching and photography. For closer viewing of birds, binoculars are recommended. The beaches nearby provide a contrasting habitat for a variety of coastal birds including oystercatchers, gulls and terns. Beach breeding birds use the sandy beaches and dunes in the park. This includes the hooded plover which is vulnerable nationally and requires monitoring in Tasmania. The park is the principal foraging habitat for at least one pair of the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea eagles are often seen.

The tidal mud flats in North East Arm offer yet another habitat for wading birds and their prey, including shellfish and mud crabs. Young fingerling fish shelter and feed in these protected shallows. The rockier foreshores at places like Griffiths Point provide ideal conditions for seaweed, which in turn offers food and shelter for different types of shellfish and other marine life.

Field surveys and literature reviews of the birds of Narawntapu record approximately 116 species.The species most likely to be observed are listed in our animal species list.

Fish

There are several permanent streams in the park and these carry populations of native fish. Two species of galaxids and the Tasmanian smelt Retropinna tasmanica have been recorded.

Geomorphology

Narawntapu National Park is named after the range which roughly bisects the Park in the middle, rising from Badger Head and extending in a south-easterly direction. At its highest point on the Park boundary the range rises to 392 metres. Nearby to the west, and wholly within the Park, Point Vision rises to some 370 metres. At the eastern end of the Park,the highest point is Wentworth Hill at 120 metres.

The coastline consists of long beaches broken by headlands and cliffs.In the east, Jurassic dolerite forms West Head. Badger Beach and its low lying hinterland is predominantly beach and active sand dune with areas of windblown and locally derived sand, including old dunes and occasional patches of gravel. The distinctive headlands of Badger Head and Little Badger Head, which enclose Copper Cove, and the Asbestos Range rising inland, are composed of Precambrian sandstone, slate and phyllite known as the Badger Head Group, with orthoquartzitic layers in places.

Mining on a small scale has occurred for asbestos in areas beyond the Asbestos Range, but never actually in the Asbestos Range itself, and for copper in the vicinity of Copper Cove. The Badger Head Structures have been assessed on National Estate criteria A1 as being an indicative area of National Estate significance (Tasmanian Public Land Use Commission,1997).

Bakers Beach is composed of beach and active dune sand and areas of vegetated, stabilised longitudinal beach sand ridges.Inland is sand, clay and gravel of Tertiary age. Around North East Arm and along Fenton Creek there are alluvium and marsh deposits.Offshore, The Carbuncle and Penguin Island are dolerite while the Shell Islands are alluvium and marsh deposits. Just offshore at Griffiths Point are Cambrian dykes of altered dolerite and micro dolerite.