Project update 2

May 2023

Introducing the project team

The Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk project proposes to deliver 2 main components over the next 4 years:

  • the Dorrigo Arc Rainforest Centre – a new visitor centre and elevated walkway on the footprint of the existing Dorrigo Rainforest Centre
  • the Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk – a 46-kilometre multi-day walk with low-impact hikers huts and camping areas.

The team responsible for delivering the project have hit the ground running since the project was announced last year. Principal Project Officer Chris Petrov has a background in construction and brings a wealth of project management experience to the team, including building schools and overseeing infrastructure development at the University of New England. Senior Project Officer Adam Webb will lead the project's Dorrigo Arc Rainforest Centre component. They join long-term National Parks and Wildlife Service officers Tom Denman (multi-day walk), Andy Winter (project delivery) and Barbara Webster (community engagement) on the team, with Alana Cruickshank providing administrative support.

The team is working closely with staff from the Coffs Coast Area, Dorrigo Rainforest Centre visitor experience and education staff, as well as internal and external experts, to ensure the project is well-planned and meets its objectives.

The project team of Adam Webb, Alana Cruikshank, Chris Petrov, Andy Winter, Barbara Webster and Tom Denman

Technology from the sky

Late last year, a light plane was tasked to crisscross Dorrigo and Bindarri national parks firing pulses of harmless light at the ground. The resulting imaging of the parks' ground surface has provided a desktop shortcut to finding previously disturbed areas and old logging roads on which to locate walk infrastructure, which will help reduce the project's additional impacts.

LiDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light as a pulsed laser to measure variable distances to the Earth. Since LiDAR's laser pulses can penetrate forest canopy and undergrowth, surface elevation can be precisely determined – even in dense or inaccessible terrain.

Three images of the same location near Never Never picnic area: satellite, topographic and LiDAR showing benching and ground disturbance from old logging trails
Three images of the same location near Never Never picnic area: satellite, topographic and LiDAR showing benching and ground disturbance from old logging trails


Three images of the same location near Never Never picnic area: satellite, topographic and LiDAR showing benching and ground disturbance from old logging trails

Community engagement

Glenn Storrie addressing a community briefing at the Dorrigo Rainforest CentreThe Dorrigo Arc Rainforest Centre proposal can potentially deliver a range of environmental, social and economic benefits for us and our communities. Expected benefits include ongoing protection of our natural and cultural heritage, improved access to the rainforest, new opportunities for visitors to explore and connect with nature, increased contribution to the regional economy through visitor expenditure and employment, and health and wellbeing benefits for visitors and local communities.

We recognise that community input adds value to our work and can help us meet these important objectives. Manager, Coffs Coast Area Glenn Storrie and the project team have continued to share draft project concepts at regional briefings and have been listening to a range of ideas and opinions from stakeholders.

The team has met with the park neighbours, Bellingen Shire Council, Dorrigo and Bowraville Local Aboriginal Land Councils, local community and bushwalking groups, Gleniffer community association, Bellingen Shire Chambers of Commerce, Forests NSW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service North Coast Regional Advisory Committee.

The Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk project team has also commenced discussions with the State Emergency Service and local rescue committee to develop an emergency management plan for future visitation to more remote areas of the parks.

Recently, we facilitated Elders from the Dorrigo and Bowraville Local Aboriginal Land Council and Dorodong Association, as well as Muurrbay Aboriginal language and culture co-operative, to see the culturally and environmentally significant Killungoondie Plain and part of the proposed walk route near Lanes Lookout. It was a great opportunity to get out on Gumbaynggirr Country and discuss Dorrigo National Park.

We will continue to engage with stakeholders and interested communities in a meaningful and timely way.

(Left to right) Adam Webb, Uncle Cecil Briggs, Uncle Gary Williams, Uncle Tom Briggs, Hector, Andy Winter and Uncle Brian Flanders with a majestic Antarctic Beech tree

Plan of management for Dorrigo and Bindarri national parks

A new plan of management is being prepared for Dorrigo and Bindarri national parks and Bindarri State Conservation Area. The current plans of management are 25 and 14 years old respectively and are due for an update, coinciding with the delivery of the Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk project.

Once a draft plan of management has been prepared, it will be placed on public exhibition for 60 days for community feedback. We will inform you of an opportunity to 'have your say' on the draft plan of management, with public exhibition planned for later in 2023. We are also planning to exhibit the draft project master plans with the draft plan of management.

Developing master plans for community feedback

Draft master plans for the Dorrigo Arc Rainforest Centre, and the Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk are also being prepared to go on public exhibition for community feedback in the next few months. The draft master plans illustrate the design concepts developed for the project and are being shared at this early stage so we can consider the feedback received before the detailed planning and design phase.

They will include an explanation of the drivers for the project, the project objectives and expected benefits, as well as design principles, site plans, diagrams of proposed infrastructure and visual representations of completed designs. They will present an overall picture of the proposed visitor infrastructure improvements to enable our stakeholders and community members to have their say and help shape the final plans.

We will notify everyone on our register of interest directly when they are released and widely publicise this important consultation opportunity.

Environmental impact assessment underway

A comprehensive environmental impact assessment process called a review of environmental factors is underway. The review of environmental factors aims to determine the project's overall impact and ensure that impacts are either avoided or mitigated. Eco Logical Australia, a national environmental consultancy with locally based experts, has recently been selected to complete this work which will take place over the next 12 months.

The review of environmental factors includes an Aboriginal cultural assessment report which requires inclusive consultation with everyone that identifies as an interested Aboriginal party, as well as on-ground surveys. Once completed, the review of environmental factors will be placed on public exhibition to enable public feedback on the potential impacts of the project and any conditions imposed.

Work has also commenced on the tree survey and arborist review to plot and assess every tree near the proposed Dorrigo Arc elevated platform. This detailed assessment will inform the new Arc skywalk and lookout's size, placement and design.

Subtropical rainforest in Dorrigo National Park

Traffic studies

Traffic counts were completed over the peak Easter period to understand the current vehicle and visitor numbers coming to the park. Vehicle counters were installed on Dome Road on the approach to the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, as well as on Dome Road towards Never Never picnic area and on Lyrebird Lane. These counters track visitor numbers as they stop at the centre and disperse to the park's other visitor destinations.

The counters identify the number and category of vehicles whilst we manually counted the number of occupants per vehicle on Easter Saturday to obtain information on total visitor numbers across the day. This information will assist in planning for visitor infrastructure upgrades, including parking and waste management for the anticipated increase in visitor numbers.

Bindarray car park shelter

The Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk is proposed to end at the entrance to Bindarri National Park at Dairyville. An existing interpretation shelter has been upgraded to provide a small shelter for day visitors to the nearby Bindarray picnic area on the Urumbilum River. The shelter will also be handy for walkers when finishing the walk and awaiting transport services.

Interpretation shelter, Bindarri National Park