Fire in Ben Boyd National Park
On New Year's Eve, a fire from the East Gippsland complex of fires crossed over the Victorian border into Nadgee Nature Reserve becoming known as the Border Fire. It entered the Ben Boyd National Park on a southerly wind change on 4 January and merged with the Poole Road fire on 5 January, creating a fire of over 150,000 hectares that burnt through large tracts of Ben Boyd National Park.
Much of Park's visitor infrastructure, including parts of the Light to Light Walk, were damaged by fire. The visitor facilities at Boyds Tower were significantly damaged and need replacement. Impacts to the campgrounds at Saltwater Creek and Bittangabee Bay were less severe and have already been reopened. Green Cape Lightstation was not affected.
Staff are continuing to assess the damage and undertake rehabilitation and recovery works across the park. This includes wildlife conservation programs and making safe and rebuilding damaged visitor infrastructure.
Responding to the bushfires
We would like to acknowledge the impact that the fires have had on our community and many other communities across New South Wales and Australia, including the loss of homes and property and in some situations, also loved ones.
Working with other emergency services over the fire season including NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), NSW Police, NSW State Emergency Services (SES), Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Ambulance and Forestry Corporation of NSW, our staff committed over 55,000 days fighting fires across the State and will continue to work on fire protection, prevention and recovery.
Reopening of the Light to Light Walk
The majority of the walk will need to be reinstated as it was burnt away completely in many locations. The track will be closed to allow extensive planning assessments, approvals and track construction works to be undertaken.
Phased reopening of the entire Light to Light Walk will start in 2021 and be completed by 2022. The existing walking track between Bittangabee Bay and Green Cape is now open as it only received minor damage from the fire compared to the rest of the walking track. The Bittangabee Bay campground and Saltwater campground are also open. The track between Boyds Tower and Bittangabee Bay is closed while fire recovery work is undertaken.
The Boyds Tower precinct was also severely impacted by fire. Site clearance and landscape restoration works have begun, and detailed site planning is expected to start in July 2020. Full reinstatement of the visitor facilities will be completed in the first half of 2021. We are working to reopen vehicle access to the precinct and the walking track to the tower by July 2020 as an interim measure.
Update on the Ben Boyd National Park and Bell Bird Creek Nature Reserve Plan of Management Amendment and Draft Light to Light Walk Strategy
Mid-2019 we exhibited the draft amendment to the Ben Boyd National Park and Bell Bird Creek Nature Reserve Plan of Management (Light to Light Walk Improvements) and the Draft Light to Light Walk Strategy.
During the exhibition period we held several meetings with key stakeholder groups and 3 public open house sessions, at Pambula, Bega and Eden. In these open house sessions, stakeholders and interested parties were able to drop in, ask questions and clarify their understanding of the proposal. We encouraged all stakeholders attending these sessions to lodge a formal submission as part of the exhibition process.
We reviewed the public submissions as part of the ongoing project planning, as well submitting them for review by our peak stakeholder advisory bodies, the NPWS South Coast Regional Advisory Committee and National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council. The submissions received will inform the Plan of Management amendment.
Environmental and heritage assessments
Environmental protection and conservation is a fundamental aim of the Light to Light Walk project. The project is being designed to protect threatened species. The Light to Light Walk will deliver sustainable visitor experiences, including the accommodation proposed to improve our ability to meet the increasing visitation demand.
We've engaged technical experts to carry out environmental and cultural heritage assessments on the walking track and where hard roofed accommodation is proposed. The Review of Environmental Factors started in 2019 and is still progressing. We will release it for public comment when completed.
We have engaged a consultant to work with the Aboriginal community to survey the proposed development area and prepare an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit (AHIP).
Heritage consultants have undertaken a preliminary assessment at Green Cape Light Station.
Revised completion date
We're extending the original completion timeline for the Light to Light Walk from mid-2021 to late 2022. The revised project period gives us enough time to respond to community feedback, finalise the project design, manage all environmental and cultural impacts and to secure all approvals. It also allows adequate time to construct the project, within a sensitive and remote location.
We will also identify impacts from the recent fires and COVID-19 restrictions on the delivery of the Light to Light Walk, including possible delays to the current completion date of late 2022.
We look forward to continuing to engage on the project and provide updates as the project develops. To keep up to date with the Light to Light Walk visit our project page.