Updates: February 2020

Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails is a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service project to create high quality nature-based visitor experiences focusing on a signature walk from Unicorn Falls, near the village of Uki, to Minyon Falls in the far north New South Wales hinterland. The project will also see new sustainable visitor infrastructure at Minyon Falls, Unicorn Falls and Wollumbin.

Fires in the project area

We would like to acknowledge the impact that the fires have had on the North Coast, and many other communities across New South Wales and Australia including the loss of homes and property and in some situations, loved ones.

In early November, the Mount Nardi fire, which started with a lightning strike weeks earlier, flared up in hot, gusty conditions after a record dry spell. It eventually threatened homes in communities near Nimbin in the west, Terania Creek in the south, Huonbrook in the east and Commissioners Creek in the north.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Rural Fire Service firefighters, along with neighbours and community volunteers, and supported by aircraft and heavy plant, worked tirelessly to protect lives and property, and limit the impacts on Nightcap and Mount Jerusalem national parks. The fire affected over 6500 hectares before it was declared 'out' last month, with variable severity as can be seen in the image below.

Over the coming weeks and months, the focus of NPWS staff will be on assessing the damage and undertaking rehabilitation and recovery work. This includes promoting the recovery of wildlife and habitats, and restoration of park infrastructure.

Thank you to all those who have contributed to the bushfire response to date, and we look forward to working with our local communities on the ongoing recovery and restoration.

The Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails project team remains focused on our vision and commitment to creating high-quality nature-based visitor experiences that will bring economic benefits to local communities.

Fire impacts on Nightcap National Park near Mount Nardi

Responding to the bushfire disaster

We are committed to continuing to work on protection, prevention, restoration and recovery from the 2019-20 bushfires. So far this fire season national parks staff have committed over 40,000 hours fighting fires across the state along with other emergency services.

The NSW Government is developing an emergency recovery plan to support the restoration and recovery of all affected national parks. Our scientists are collecting data on fire extent and severity to build up-to-date maps to understand how the fires are impacting the NSW environment and communities, and assessors are being deployed on the ground when it is safe to do so, ensuring that information is provided to decision makers as quickly as possible.

A key area of focus is the recovery of injured wildlife and burnt areas, as the period immediately after a fire is critical for the survival of injured animals and threatened species.

Adoption of the amendments to the Plans of Management

The Minister for Energy and Environment, the Hon Matt Kean MP, recently adopted amendments to the Whian Whian State Conservation Area and the Parks and Reserves of the Tweed Caldera plans of management. See the Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails amendments to plans of management on the website.

The amendments will enable the implementation of the Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails project and the development of walking tracks and associated visitor infrastructure. Although some parts of Mount Jerusalem and Nightcap national parks were burnt in recent fires, the proposed walks and key visitor nodes were largely unaffected. Implementation of the project will help with post-fire recovery of the area by providing a new type of visitor experience, creating local employment opportunities and driving growth in the visitor economy.

Minyon Falls Master plan

The master plan that will guide the upgrade of visitor infrastructure at Minyon Falls and Minyon Grass picnic areas in Nightcap National Park was available for public comment in late 2019. Two written submissions were received during the exhibition period. A summary of issues raised, and NPWS response, is available on the Minyon Falls Master Plan webpage.

The Review of Environmental Factors has also been finalised and determined for the works to proceed. It identifies the significance of likely environmental impacts of the proposed new and upgraded infrastructure within these precincts, and the measures required to mitigate any adverse impacts to the environment.

Construction works are expected to commence on the site in the second half of 2020.

Excerpt from Minyon Falls master plan

Multi-day walking track scoping

Project Officer Richard Greenhill was out in the field for several weeks in spring doing on-ground work to confirm the proposed route of the multi-day walking track within Mount Jerusalem and Nightcap national parks. The track will run from Unicorn Falls to Minyon Falls and will include options for a four-day/three-night experience, plus day-long, half-day or hour-long walks. Identification of the shorter walks is currently underway.

Richard was joined by local NPWS field and Ranger staff and members of the Northern Rivers Bushwalking Club (NRBC) to search for the best alignment for the walk, while also considering a multitude of park operations and visitor experience elements. Feedback provided by key stakeholders, other NPWS staff and Widjabul Wia-bal native title claimants has already guided the project team on Aboriginal cultural values, threatened vegetation communities and species, and opportunities and risks such as waterfalls, lookouts and cliffs. This information has been used to identify a preliminary route, which will now be subject to a full cultural and natural values assessment.

The entire proposed route will then be costed and mapped, including locations of steps, barriers, camping platforms, toilets, shelters, water tanks and signage. Geo-referenced photos of lookouts, waterfalls, geological formations, plants of interest and European heritage will also be produced.

Contracts for two key components of the walk have been awarded this month:

  1. Planning and Design Services which includes campsite design and costings, natural and cultural heritage values assessment and the track master plan.
  2. Detailed Track Design Services including work schedules, maps and costings.

These procurements have benefited from a statewide Expressions of Interest process that developed a pre-qualified list of design and construction contractors to work on track and trail projects for NPWS.

A weed and disease hygiene management plan has also been prepared for the multi-day walking track to ensure visitors don't spread weeds, soil pathogens and plant diseases as they go. Created using a risk management framework, the plan considers elimination, engineering and administrative options such as avoiding high risk threatened species populations, shoe-cleaning stations and education opportunities to reduce the potential risks.

Next steps

  • The master plan for Unicorn Falls day use area is currently being prepared for public exhibition. We will notify you when the exhibition period commences.
  • The 2 contracts that were recently let for planning and design services and detailed track design will be concluded by mid-year.