Unicorn Falls is approximately 15 kilometres south-east of the village of Uki on South Chowan Road within Mount Jerusalem National Park. The Unicorn Falls master plan is part of the Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails project, which aims to increase nature-based tourism, boost regional visitor economies and improve community wellbeing.
Final master plan for Unicorn Falls
Following the public exhibition of the Unicorn Falls Draft Master Plan and public feedback on the revised master plan.
The Unicorn Falls draft master plan originally included proposals to:
- develop a day use area at Unicorn Falls on Chowan Creek, South Chowan Road, in Mount Jerusalem National Park
- develop a camping area next to Manns Road, near Unicorn Falls, in Mount Jerusalem National Park.
The proposals have been revised twice in response to community feedback. See the final master plan for more detail.
The proposed multi-day Tweed Byron Hinterland Walk commences in Mount Jerusalem National Park and finishes 45 kilometres to the south at Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park.
The Manns Road trail head acts as the northern drop-off and orientation point for walkers. It also provides parking for visitors to enjoy the short walk to Unicorn Falls and its surrounding rainforest. No facilities are currently provided at the site.
The works at Unicorn Falls will allow safe access to the base of the falls and enable visitors to enjoy the beauty of the falls and its rainforest environment. There are currently no formal paths, and visitors often walk across the top of the falls to get to the pool below, presenting a significant safety hazard. Similarly, the steep descent to the pool is eroded and also hazardous. These works will also rehabilitate a degraded area above the falls.
The public exhibition of the Unicorn Falls draft master plan closed in mid-July 2020. This provided an important opportunity for people to review and comment on the draft proposals.
We received 51 submissions from various stakeholders, including individuals, residents, business operators, other government agencies, non-government organisations, Aboriginal organisations, park users and environmental groups.
Over 160 separate issues were raised in these submissions. See Unicorn Falls Draft Master Plan Submissions Summary for detail.
The revised master plan, with the proposed changes made in response to these submissions, was shared for further public comment in July 2021. Additional changes to the final master plan have now been made, considering the feedback provided in the 67 online survey responses from the community.
What is proposed in the final master plan?
We have again taken community views into account and considered where changes could be made to propose a final master plan that improves outcomes for the park's natural and cultural heritage values and for visitors.
- The site at Manns Road, formerly proposed as a campground, will be the main car park and the trail head for the multi-day walk. The Manns Road site will also provide car parking for day visitors enjoying the new walking track to Unicorn Falls.
- There will not be a campground at the Manns Road site in Mount Jerusalem National Park. Cutters Camp in nearby Mebbin National Park has been upgraded to offer additional camping opportunities.
- A composting toilet with disabled access, a visitor information shelter and 19 vehicle bays (including a minibus drop-off point) will be provided at the Manns Road trail head.
- The multi-day walking track will depart the Manns Road trail head on a purpose-built track to the start of Whisky Creek Trail, approximately 600 metres away.
- At Unicorn Falls, formed pathways and steps to the pool at the base of the falls will provide a safe access route and prevent further erosion. Visitor information and informal rock seating will be provided.
- South Chowan Road will remain open to vehicle traffic, cyclists and horse riders.
- A small car park at Unicorn Falls will provide up to 7 car spaces using the existing disturbance footprint. Additional visitors will be required to park at the Manns Road trail head and walk to Unicorn Falls once this smaller car park reaches capacity.
- A short walking track (as proposed in the initial draft master plan) will link the Manns Road trail head to Unicorn Falls (approximately 2.1 kilometres each way) to provide a new visitor experience. This will follow part of the route of the Tweed Byron Hinterland Walk before the Walk turns to the west to follow Whisky Creek Trail.
- No camping is permitted at Unicorn Falls. BBQs will not be provided at either site to minimise fire risk.
This map shows the location of Unicorn Falls on South Chowan Road, the Manns Road trail head and the proposed connecting walking track.
Great care has been taken to ensure that the final designs for both sites have minimal impact on natural and cultural values. Both areas take advantage of previously disturbed areas:
- a former log dump in the case of the Manns Road site
- a denuded informal picnic area at Unicorn Falls.
Reports prepared by environmental and cultural heritage consultants (the latter including input from Aboriginal advisers) have greatly assisted with the design process in identifying sensitive areas and mitigation measures and informed the preparation of the Review of Environmental Factors.
Due to the proposed changes to the draft master plan, we have also reconsidered the Review of Environmental Factors (which was prepared based on the draft master plan) and made any necessary changes. The revised plan for Manns Road will see fewer mature trees removed for the car park construction than was previously proposed for the campground.
See the Review of Environmental Factors (with addendum) for more information.
It is proposed to commence construction in spring 2021. Traffic management plans will be prepared for road safety. Heavy vehicles will not use Manns Road for construction purposes during school bus operation times. Access will be prohibited to Unicorn Falls during the construction period as necessary to minimise safety risks to the public.
Work undertaken for the project will be in accordance with NSW Government Procurement Policy Framework to ensure an equitable process that guarantees the best outcomes for the region and community.