NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is upgrading the Somersby Falls picnic area in the Brisbane Waters National Park to make it more universally accessible and improve the visitor experience.
What the project involves
The initial works will include:
- the completion of a new car park, which will increase parking capacity and include accessible parking
- a new, small bus turning circle and drop off point
- better universal access across the new car park and linking to the existing picnic area
- walking track links to the picnic area
- new accessible pathways and landscaping in the existing picnic area
- replacement of the storm-damaged elevated walkways and steps to the lower falls
- the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage sites
- final design planning for upcoming works, including improved viewing and safety at the top falls.
Future proposed works (currently out of scope) will include:
- increased facilities such as barbecues and picnic tables
- upgraded amenities for universal access.
Stage 1: Project planning and preliminary design
NPWS secured funding in 2019 under the 4-year Improving Access to National Parks program.
We undertook project planning during 2020 and prepared a preliminary design or concept plan.
Stage 2: Public consultation on preliminary design
We exhibited the preliminary concept plan for 3 months, from 18 January to 18 April 2021. We received 5 submissions and considered all points that were raised.
NPWS will continue to liaise with Central Coast Council regarding Somersby Falls Road and utilities throughout the project.
We began the process for an Aboriginal heritage impact permit in late 2021. This included consultation with community representatives on the cultural sites located at Somersby Falls.
We consulted with Crown Lands regarding the planned works at this stage and will continue to consult with them throughout the project.
Stage 3: Final design and planning approvals
The final design considers feedback received on the preliminary concept plan during its exhibition. Input was also provided during consultation with other relevant land managers, including:
- utility providers
- Crown Lands
- Central Coast Council
- park neighbours
- commercial operators
- other key stakeholders.
Planning approvals needed included:
- an Environmental Impact Assessment (review of environmental factors)
- an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit
- a licence from Crown Lands.
Stage 4: Procurement
NPWS followed the required process to procure a contractor for the planned construction works. A suitably qualified contractor was engaged via competitive tender.
Stage 5: Construction
During construction, Somersby Falls precinct will be closed to visitors for safety reasons, including existing car parking, walking tracks and amenities. Once each phase of construction is completed, and the works are certified for public use, the site will be reopened to visitors.