Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy Public Exhibition Report

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council prepared the Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Draft Strategy in response to the need for better management of mountain bike use of the escarpment.

The demands and impacts of mountain biking on both legal and illegal trails on the escarpment are increasing. Many trails provide a good riding experience, but their condition and sustainability vary greatly. The adverse safety, environmental and cultural impacts of illegal use and ad-hoc trail development need to be addressed to ensure the activity is sustainable into the future.

National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council developed the draft strategy from a mountain bike concept plan prepared by Dirt Art, a company who specialises in mountain bike trail design. Environmental data, field investigations, a preliminary cultural heritage assessment and information from mountain bike riders and other stakeholders was also used. A Mountain Bike Working Group that consists of state government agencies, tourism bodies, mountain biking groups and land managers have also had input into the draft strategy.

The primary emphasis of the draft strategy is the provision of safe sustainable recreation for a broad range of riders. The draft strategy identifies a potential mountain bike trail network of 82 kilometres on the escarpment.

Public exhibition process

The draft strategy was on public exhibition from 30 October 2018 to 21 December 2018 and provided the community with the opportunity to have their say on mountain biking on the Illawarra Escarpment. The original closing date of 10 December 2018 was extended by 10 days due to a high level of public interest.

A total of 956 submissions were received from a broad range of stakeholders, including NSW Government, non-government organisations and private individuals.

The high volume and varied sources of the submissions confirm a high level of interest in the proposal, as well as divided views on best location of trails.

Overview of public exhibition responses

National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council reviewed all submissions. The submissions addressed a wide range of issues that have been summarised under 6 key themes.

  1. Development of the draft strategy
  2. Trail network and scale of proposal
  3. Infrastructure and services
  4. Impact on the community
  5. Environmental and cultural heritage impacts
  6. Future management

Documents

How can I get more information about the proposal?

For further information on the draft Strategy please contact National Parks and Wildlife Service by phone on 02 4224 4188 or email at npws.illawarrahighlands@environment.nsw.gov.au

What happens next?

Stakeholder consultation

National Parks and Wildlife Service will continue to engage with stakeholders to finalise a draft strategy.

An Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Advisory Group will also be established. Membership will reflect a broad range of business, risk and technical skills to provide advice on strategy development and management approaches. Aboriginal stakeholders will be represented in this group.

All cultural heritage and environmental assessments, that informed the final strategy, will be publicly available.

Assessment process and final strategy

NPWS will undertake a comprehensive and detailed environmental assessment to determine the impact of the proposal when a draft trail network is finalised. Activities within NPWS reserves are assessed under Part 5 of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The final design of the trail network is subject to this assessment and may be refined or changed to reduce the environmental and cultural impacts.

Governance arrangements and roles in managing the trail network have yet to be determined.

What will happen now given National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council have gone through a consultation process?

National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council will continue to engage stakeholders on the development of a mountain bike strategy. An Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Advisory Group will be established to provide advice on strategy development and management approaches.

What happened with the public comments from the consultation?

The Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy Public Exhibition Report provides a summary of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council responses to the issues raised from submissions.

Who will sit on the proposed the Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Advisory Group?

National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council and Regions NSW will invite representatives from Destination Wollongong, Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council, Illawarra Mountain Bike Alliance, Illawarra Escarpment Alliance, Illawarra Wingecarribee Alliance Aboriginal Corporation, Destination Sydney Surrounds South, National Parks Association, South 32, Water NSW, Office of Sport and University of Wollongong.

Why has the process taken so long?

Due to the high volume and broad range of feedback from stakeholders, with a total of 956 submissions received, it has taken National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council time to review and develop a response.

Why isn't the proposed mountain bike network going ahead as per the concept plan developed?

The concept plan formed the basis of the draft strategy. National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council have considered feedback from the public on the draft strategy which will help inform the final strategy.

What are the next steps in progressing the mountain bike trail network?

The next step is the development of a framework (operating framework) setting out how to develop and operate the mountain bike trail network across different land tenures (national parks, local government land and possibly other land). This will include, how to best to address public risk, maintain assets, conduct trail maintenance and how will the parties work together.

A comprehensive and detailed environmental assessment also will be undertaken to determine the impact of the proposed trail network will also occur.

The final design of the trail network is subject to this assessment and may be refined or changed to reduce environmental impacts.

Will Aboriginal people be involved in this process?

National Parks and Wildlife Service will continue to engage with the Aboriginal community to find a sustainable mountain bike trail network that protects cultural sites. A representative from the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council and Illawarra Wingecarribee Alliance Aboriginal Corporation will be in the Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Advisory Group.

Members of the Aboriginal community will also be invited to take part in a cultural heritage assessment of the proposed mountain bike trail network.

When will the environmental assessment take place?

An environmental and heritage assessment will be undertaken before any works commence on potential mountain bike trails. The studies will identify the significant environmental and cultural values and identify how best to reduce any impacts where trails are proposed.

As part of the draft mountain bike strategy, existing trails that are not required for the trail network will be closed and rehabilitated.

Where feasible existing mountain bike trails will be used, reducing the need to develop new trails and lessen the need to cause further ground disturbance.

When can we expect works to start to develop a mountain bike trail network?

The start of work on any trail network is subject to the completion of environmental and heritage assessment, further consultation, finalising trail design, funding and developing an approach to managing the network.

Will mountain biking occur on Mount Keira because of its cultural significance?

The National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council recognise the cultural significance of Mount Kiera and will continue to work with the Aboriginal community to find a sustainable mountain bike trail network that protects cultural sites.

How will National Parks and Wildlife Service manage the mountain bike trail network if it goes ahead?

The governance arrangements and roles of National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council in managing the trail network have not been determined. National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council are exploring all options, including ways to involve mountain bike organisations, local businesses and riders in trail management and compliance.

How will you make sure cyclists stay on the tracks?

Responsible social behaviour will be promoted through signage, education and partnering with stakeholders that represent mountain bike riders to develop a positive culture of doing the right thing.

What will happen to the existing illegal tracks that are not proposed to be part of the mountain bike network?

Over time, all existing illegally constructed tracks that are not required, or not suitable, for the track network in the strategy will be closed and rehabilitated.