Public exhibition of the Review of Environmental Factors (REF) provided an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say about this activity proposed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The REF was available for comment from 2 August to 2 September 2019.
Snowies Iconic Walk Review of Environmental Factors
The Review of Environmental Factors to inform the alignment and construction of the Snowies Iconic Walk in Kosciuszko National Park has closed.
The Snowies Iconic Walk is an important project set within one of the most significant and biodiverse national parks in Australia. Kosciuszko National Park contains a diverse array of ecological, cultural and recreational values within unique alpine and subalpine ecosystems.
The Snowies Iconic Walk project proposed construction of new tracks, and upgrades to existing tracks, to deliver a world-class walking trail through stunning alpine scenery that links the 5 existing resort villages at Thredbo, Charlotte Pass, Guthega, Perisher and Lake Crackenback. The walk will strengthen the appeal of New South Wales as a walking destination and provide opportunities for a more diverse range of visitors to enjoy our spectacular national parks.
Three sections of track will be constructed to complement the existing tracks around Mount Kosciuszko and the Main Range:
- Guthega to Charlotte Pass
- Charlotte Pass to Perisher via Porcupine Rocks
- Perisher to Bullocks Flat.
After a detailed analysis of several route options, the final alignment was selected to maximise the visitor experience of each route, minimise environmental impacts and ensure construction costs fit the project budget. The avoidance of significant impacts on threatened species and communities, especially alpine bogs, threatened reptiles and Mountain Pygmy-possum, has been a major driver in selecting the final track configuration.
A combination of construction methods is planned, including elevated structures and bridges, rock paving (including pitched rock) and natural/gravel surfaces. The works would involve the construction of approximately 25 kilometres of new walking tracks which include some minor upgrades and/or realignments to an existing track near Porcupine Rocks. A new bridge over Spencers Creek, small campsites at 2 locations along new alignments and upgrades of car parking facilities at the existing Porcupine Rocks trailhead at Perisher Valley were also proposed.
A Review of Environmental Factors (REF) is used to document the environmental impact assessment of proposed activities on lands managed by NPWS. It examines the significance of likely environmental impacts of the proposal and measures required to mitigate adverse impacts to the environment.
The NPWS is the proponent and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is the determining authority for this activity under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The REF helps the determining authority to decide whether an activity should be approved and assists in the development of appropriate conditions should approval be given.
The Review of Environmental Factors is supported by several documents:
- Snowies Iconic Walk: Flora and fauna assessment and Test of Significance Report (PDF 35MB)
- Snowy Mountains Iconic Walk Project, Kosciuszko National Park: Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment (PDF 7MB)
- Snowy Mountains Iconic Walks Project, Kosciuszko National Park: Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment. Addendum June 2019 (PDF 3.9MB)
- Summary report of construction process (PDF 757KB)
We received 14 submissions during the public exhibition period. Of these, 6 made objections to the proposal, 4 supported it, and 5 were inconclusive related to the proposal.
The Review of Environmental Factors Submission Report: Snowies Iconic Walk analyses the submissions, provides a summary of the issues raised in the submissions and any recommendations made, and provides an outline of NPWS responses to the key objections raised in the 5 submissions that do not support the proposal.
Significant changes were made to the proposed project in light of the extensive environmental and cultural heritage assessments of many alignments over a number of years. The proposed routes had already been extensively reviewed and modified to avoid as much impact as possible on natural landscapes and cultural heritage.
Proposed new track alignments and track construction methods minimise the effects on threatened biota and environmentally sensitive areas by avoiding important habitat features, using minimal excavation and vegetation removal techniques (e.g. steel mesh), reducing the width of track surface to a minimum for walker comfort and strict controls on methodology for and during track construction.
The 2 campgrounds have now been removed from the current proposal and this will further reduce the impacts on habitats and natural values.
The Determination Notice for National Parks and Wildlife Service proponents (PDF 460KB) outlines the decision of the Director South East Branch Biodiversity and Conservation (NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment) to allow the activity to proceed. It also specifies conditions for the activity which will minimise the environmental impacts to best practice standards.
The project was also referred to the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to assess the level of impacts under national legislation, supported by a comprehensive report on any impacts to National Heritage Listing related to Kosciuszko National Park and new walking track construction. The delegate of the Minister for the Environment determined that this project is not a controlled action under the EPBC Act. This means that the project does not need further assessment and approval under the EPBC Act before it can proceed. A copy of the document recording this decision is published on the Department of Environment and Energy's website at (Reference Number 2019/8558): Public notices – referrals.
What happens next?
The Department has determined the Review of Environmental Factors, based on its review of the documents and the information provided in these submissions. Construction of the new sections of track commenced in 2020.
How can I get more information about the proposal?
For further information on the Snowies Iconic Walk visit the project web page or read Draft Walking Tracks Strategy – Kosciuszko Summit Precinct, the strategy that guides management of walking tracks in the southern end of Kosciuszko National Park.