Responding to the NSW bushfire disaster
We would like to acknowledge the devastating impact that the recent bushfires had on the many communities across New South Wales and Australia.
While the Port Stephens area was not impacted by the fires, local National Parks staff spent many months supporting the emergency fire suppression work across New South Wales, along with other emergency services.
The high priority now for National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is the important bushfire recovery work in all affected national parks across New South Wales.
The NPWS Hunter Coast staff continue to refocus on the local parks and reserves including delivering key projects such as the Tomaree Coastal Walk.
Update on the proposed Tomaree National Park Plan of Management Amendment
The public exhibition of the proposed amendment to the Tomaree National Park Plan of Management and the Draft Tomaree Coastal Walk Strategy closed in September 2019. Over 130 submissions were received and have been reviewed by the NPWS stakeholder advisory bodies. The amendment is currently being finalised for adoption by the Minister and we will continue to update the community about the progress of this important planning work.
Feedback received from the community during the exhibition is also being considered in the development of the walk including the master plan.
Introducing the Tomaree Coastal Walk Reference Group
In June 2019 we established the Tomaree Coastal Walk Reference Group to ensure the views of the local community are considered in developing the Tomaree Coastal Walk, as well as providing greater opportunity for the community to input into the project.
The group includes the following local representatives:
- Port Stephens EcoNetwork
- Tomaree Rate Payers and Residents Association
- Friends of Tomaree Headland
- Shoal Bay Community Association
- Worimi Knowledge Holders Aboriginal Corporation
- Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council
- Port Stephens Council, Destination Port Stephens
- Crown Lands (DPE)
- NSW Rock Climbing Access Group
- National Parks Association of NSW (Hunter Branch)
- Newcastle Bushwalkers
- National Parks and Wildlife Service.
So far, the group has met 3 times and will continue to meet throughout 2020 to discuss challenges and opportunities, provide input into the Tomaree Coastal Walk Interpretation Strategy and stay updated on the project's progress.
Participation in the group is not the only opportunity the community will have to provide input into the project. There will be several formal and informal consultation opportunities as the project progresses, including the opportunity for everyone to review and provide comment on the draft master plan.
Review of Environmental Factors
A review of environmental factors is currently being prepared for the Tomaree Coastal Walk project, under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
As part of this, independent contractors have been engaged to conduct detailed environmental impact assessments of the project area, with particular focus on Aboriginal cultural heritage, historic heritage, the Tomaree Headland and the proposed walking track corridor.
The review of environmental factors will examine the significance of likely impacts and identifies measures required to mitigate adverse impacts to the environment, cultural heritage and historic heritage. The review of environmental factors will guide the preparation of the Tomaree Coastal Walk Master Plan and people will have an opportunity to review the review of environmental factors along with the master plan in mid-2020.
Preparing the Tomaree Coastal Walk Master Plan
We have engaged landscape architects Turf Design Studio to prepare the Tomaree Coastal Walk Master Plan, with cultural, historic and environmental conservation being a key consideration in developing the plan.
Many pieces of the puzzle need to be brought together to achieve the best outcomes for the park and community. These include the review of environmental factors, the Tomaree National Park Plan of Management and community feedback received on the Draft Tomaree Coastal Walk Strategy.
The master plan is a non-statutory document that will provide conceptual plans for the Tomaree Coastal Walk. It enables the community to see the types of improvements that are proposed as part of the project, such as upgraded walking tracks and new and improved visitor facilities. The master plan will consider what is important about Tomaree National Park, what improvements are being proposed and how the park's character will be conserved and improved into the future.
There is still much work to be done to bring the plan together, however, we are aiming to place the draft master plan along with the review of environmental factors on exhibition for public review and comment in mid-2020. As part of the exhibition, we will also host drop-in information sessions in the Port Stephens area to provide people with an opportunity to discuss the draft plan with staff.
People will be advised of the exhibition date by email and local media. Anyone who has not yet registered their interest or contact details can do so via the project on the Tomaree Coastal Walk page.
Interpretation Strategy – connecting and sharing stories to create memorable experiences
Interpretation is a key focus for the Tomaree Coastal Walk project and we have engaged Trigger to prepare an Interpretation Strategy for the walk.
The strategy aims to deliver rich and engaging interpretation to immerse visitors in the landscape, promote the park's natural, historical and cultural values, and create memorable experiences for visitors.
The opportunity to develop the interpretation strategy with the master plan and review of environmental factors ensures that the interpretation is embedded in the walk's design. It is expected that the interpretation will come in all forms including, digital innovations and programs and the tried and tested mediums such as park signs, information panels and wayfinding.
Last week Trigger met with Worimi community representatives as well as the Tomaree Coastal Walk Reference Group, to discuss the preparation of the interpretation strategy and start an ongoing dialogue with the community about interpretation for the walk.
Other work happening in Tomaree National Park
We have also secured funding through the NSW Government's Improving Access to National Parks program, to better protect cultural sites and improve visitor safety and experience at Samurai Beach.
The work is per the Tomaree National Park Plan of Management and will involve the replacement of fencing along the four-wheel-drive access track and around the Samurai campground, dune rehabilitation and protection work, installation of a gate on the access track for emergency management, and improved visitor information. In conjunction with this work, we will also be increasing ranger patrols in the area to improve visitor experience and compliance.
Initial planning for the improvement work is underway with the project expected to be completed in 2021.
- Environmental, cultural and historic heritage assessment work continues, as part of the review of environmental factors.
- Informed by the environmental, cultural and historic heritage assessments, the landscape architect will continue to progress the project design as part of the master plan development. The draft master plan and review of environmental factors is expected to be exhibited for public comment in mid-2020, including community information sessions in the Port Stephens area.
- NPWS and Trigger design will continue to develop the interpretation strategy in collaboration with key stakeholders.
- We will continue to consult with the local community and other stakeholders.