Project update 5

December 2023

Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk

This is Gumbaynggirr Country and we acknowledge Elders past, present and celebrate their ongoing cultures and connections to the lands and waters of New South Wales. We respect the rights and aspirations of Gumbaynggirr People as custodians of their Country.


Have your say

Two months down, one to go

This is a quick reminder that submissions close on 15 January 2024 for this key consultation opportunity. Please make sure you have submitted your feedback on the draft plan of management and draft master plans before then. A big thank you to all those who have already completed the feedback survey or sent in your comments for consideration.

There are 2 separate consultations underway:

A summary of submissions will be shared in early 2024.

Engaging our stakeholders

Consultation briefings with Destination NSW
National Parks Association Armidale
Australian adventurer Peter Treseder AO

National Parks and Wildlife Service has actively engaged with a range of groups and individuals to inform and refine the concepts presented in the draft master plans. The project has provided impetus for us to build closer relationships with a range of stakeholders, community groups and organisations, including park neighbours, Aboriginal groups, local councils, NSW Government agencies, local community and business groups, bushwalkers, conservation groups and others.

We have held 4 public information sessions and numerous briefings and meetings - both online and in-person. We have given over 30 presentations, listened to a wide range of views and answered thousands of questions. This is the fifth email update sent to over 1,400 stakeholders and people on the register of interest list.

We are looking forward to collating and considering your feedback on the draft plans when the public exhibition period closes in mid-January.

Figure 1: Project engagement activities to date

Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment underway

A key pillar in planning for the walk is to facilitate meaningful partnerships with Aboriginal people that recognise and respect Gumbaynggirr connections, culture and perspectives. We are committed to engaging with Aboriginal groups throughout the project to guide decisions and involve Aboriginal people in managing and protecting their cultural heritage.

Interested Aboriginal parties have commenced reviewing the proposed walk route and assessing Aboriginal places of significance to provide guidance on spiritual and cultural values associated with Country and how best to respect these values. Seven initial field trips have covered the rainforest centre precinct and several sections of the proposed walk route within Dorrigo and Bindarri national parks. These surveys will continue in 2024 to cover the whole walk route and ensure all relevant Aboriginal groups have the opportunity to contribute.

Cultural heritage surveys
Malakai, Philip and Josh from Dorrigo Aboriginal Land Council
 Brentyn, Dean and Ciaron from Yurruungga Aboriginal Corporation

Environmental impact assessment surveys

Eco Logical Australia concluded the initial survey phase of heritage and environmental impact assessment work on the Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk and Dorrigo Arc Rainforest Centre proposals in November. The Eco Logical Australia team includes both environmental and heritage experts who will complete the review of environmental factors required under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The review aims to determine the project's overall impact and ensure that impacts are either avoided or mitigated.

The team tackled an array of logistical and physical hurdles, with survey work extending beyond the established walking tracks into remote and difficult terrain. This involved long days, often in poor weather conditions, traversing steep and rocky sections, navigating through dense rainforest understory and coping with thorny vegetation such as smilax vine and lawyer cane thickets. Not to mention the leeches.

Collaborating closely, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Eco Logical Australia teams identified biodiversity constraints and opportunities, devising alternative routes to avoid threatened plant species and critical animal habitat. Sharing knowledge about plant identification, threatened species and habitat features helped to ensure the information gathered was robust and reliable.

The review of environmental factors and supporting documentation will be placed on public exhibition in the first half of 2024 to enable public feedback. The review will also be referred to the relevant Commonwealth and NSW environment and heritage agencies in light of the parks' world, national and state heritage listings.

Meet the expert – Phoebe Smith, Ecologist

The Senior Ecologist on the Eco Logical Australia team, Phoebe is leading the environmental impact assessments. Based in Coffs Harbour, she possesses extensive expertise in various domains, including the NSW biodiversity assessment method, plant identification, vegetation mapping, ecological restoration and conservation, and biodiversity offsets.

Phoebe is in her element when she can venture into the wilderness as part of her day's work. Her focus is on using her expertise to find solutions that protect the natural values of the parks.

ELA ecologist Phoebe Smith records a ravine orchid (listed as vulnerable in NSW)
ELA ecologist Phoebe Smith records a ravine orchid (listed as vulnerable in NSW)
The proposed track route will be adjusted where needed to avoid impacts on threatened species

Behind the scenery

Urumbilum Road bridge replacement

Searching under the bridge for microbats and relocating a Fletcher’s frog from inside the work zone
Searching under the bridge for microbats and relocating a Fletcher’s frog from inside the work zone
Searching under the bridge for microbats and relocating a Fletcher’s frog from inside the work zone

We are replacing the old timber bridge over Bangalore Creek on Urumbilum Creek Road in Bindarri National Park. A civil engineer has assessed the old bridge as being close to the end of its structural life. As the bridge provides key access to a large section of Bindarri National Park for recreational use as well as emergency and park management access, a new 16 m pre-cast concrete and steel bridge is being installed.

Substantial fencing was erected to manage any sediment from the works, and experienced National Parks and Wildlife Service officers conducted 2 nights of surveys prior to any work commencing, in line with the environmental approval. This included an active search for microbats in all vertical gaps in bridge stringers and abutment logs and a surveillance of any bats leaving roost sites under the bridge for the evening.

They also conducted call-back surveys for threatened frogs possibly occurring at the site, including sphagnum frog (Philoria sphagnicolus), northern stuttering frog (Mixophes balbus), giant barred frog (M. iteratus) and glandular frog (Litoria subglandulosa), as well as a ground search of the riparian zone and leaf litter within the 'fenced' area.

No threatened frogs were found within the fenced area and no bats were detected under the bridge. One northern stuttering frog (Endangered in New South Wales) was detected some distance downstream of the bridge. Of the non-threatened species, a Fletcher's frog (Lechriodus fletcheri) was the only frog found in the work zone and was captured and released in litter on a bank upstream of the sediment fence.

Urumbilum Creek Road has been closed at the intersection with Baree Fire Road for the duration of the works, affecting access to Urumbilum Creek Falls. The expected completion date is 20 December 2023. Check park alerts on Alerts for NSW National Parks.

Sediment control fencing
New bridge taking shape

Crystal Shower Falls walk reopens for the holidays

The popular Crystal Shower Falls walk is now open for the school holidays. This provides a 3.6 km return walk to the falls from The Glade picnic area and also allows visitors to complete the 6.6 km Wonga Walk circuit. Contractors may be on the track during January to complete minor patching works that should not cause any delays to walkers.

Partial closures will be re-introduced after the school holidays, on Tuesday 30 January 2024, to complete the renewal and resealing of the track. Crystal Shower Falls will remain accessible via the lower Wonga Walk (7.8 km return).

For further information contact Dorrigo Rainforest Centre on 02 6657 5913.

Crystal Shower Falls in Dorrigo National Park

Best wishes for a happy and sustainable year in 2024

Thank you for your support and involvement in the Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk project in 2023. We look forward to a collaborative and productive 2024.

Rainforest mistletoe in Dorrigo National Park