Parks appeases privatisation concerns, but Light to Light accommodation questions remain

Members of the Eden community discuss their concerns about the proposed changes to the Light to Light walk wiith NPWS executive director Robert Quirk. Photo Rachel Mounsey
Members of the Eden community discuss their concerns about the proposed changes to the Light to Light walk wiith NPWS executive director Robert Quirk. Photo Rachel Mounsey

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services consultants didn't seem to ease the concerns Eden residents have regarding proposed changes to the Light to Light walk.

The draft plans of the proposed upgrades have failed to win over many locals since being released to public three weeks ago.

And Thursday's public consultation forum held at the Eden RSL didn't seem to ease tensions.

Within a couple of hours of opening the doors, around 50 residents had already voiced their concerns at the one-on-one-style interview layout.

Chairman of Friends of Davidson Whaling Station Historic Sites Martin Davidson said although he was hopeful upgrades to car parks at Boyd Tower, he held concerns regarding the proposed changes to Green Cape Light house accommodation. The draft plan states "The Lightstation [may] no longer being available for casual short-stay accommodation".

"They need to give it some serious thought. The plans mean people will no longer be able to casually go whale watching and stay at Green Cape," Mr Davidson said.

NPWS executive director Robert Quirk Photo: Rachel Mounsey

NPWS executive director Robert Quirk Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Eden resident John Ironmonger agreed.

"Whale watching is weather dependent. Sometimes it just cant be planned for ahead of time," he said.

Other concerned locals discussed openly with NPWS executive director Robert Quirk their disappointment at the prospect of not being able to set up camp with their kids at a long time favourite campground, Mowarry Point.

NPWS plans for eco-style accommodation at Mowarry Point and Hegartys Bay means walk-in and bush camping will no longer be permitted at these sites.

Speaking with the Magnet Mr Quirk said people will still be able to camp "but only in regulated camp sites".

"That is one of the biggest changes we have made and that's mainly because of popularity," he said.

Mr Quirk said due to the growing popularity of Ben Boyd National Park, more people are camping, resulting in fire scars, rubbish and human waste.

"There's no toilets in these areas and no proper fire places. We get lots of people passing through these areas and as a result we have to be more formal about how people camp."

A decade ago when the initial plans for the Light to Light walk first surfaced, Mr Quirk said NPWS was already having discussions about regulating camping if the walk became popular.

"The popularity has meant that we now have to do something."

In response to people feeling locked out of the park due to the installation of paid eco-accommodation, Mr Quirk said one of the aims of the hut to hut facilities was to ease the burden of carrying packs and other gear along the walk.

"This is an attempt to provide a walk for the non-traditional bushwalker. It will open the experience up to people who wouldn't normally have the opportunity of participating in a nature hikes, for example the elderly or people with small children," he said.

Despite negative feedback about people who like to walk and 'bush camp' being disappointed with plans, Mr Quirk said those people can set up further south at Saltwater or Bittangabee.

"The cabins will be available for those that want to use them, but there will be a cost involved. To stay in a cabin will be dearer than staying at a campsite," he said

"This will be the one three-day accommodation walk we will have anywhere on the NSW coastline. There are plenty of opportunities for other experiences in other locations."

Regarding claims of privatisation in a public national park, Mr Quirk compared the opening up of the park to commercial operators to the experience of visiting the snow.

"Saying it's privatisation is not correct with what we're talking about.

"Yes the sites will be available to commercial operators. We're happy to work with those people, we work with them across NSW.

"We've been open about partnerships with local businesses wanting to help people enjoy parks, whether that's the coffee store in the historic building or the person helping provide camping opportunities in our camping locations

"I don't see that as commercialisation, that's really about helping local business and helping people enjoy parks."

And while the huts and ec-accommodation would be utilised more by commercial operators than day hikers and casual campers, Mr Quirk said it would be NPWS staff acting as site hosts.

"When we looked around Australia as well as overseas the walks visitors enjoyed the most were the ones that have a person on site, someone who was a ranger, someone who has a connection to the location and can provide information. That's the model we're looking at at the moment.

"Read the plans, Have a good look and tell us what you think. We're really in the masterplan phase at the moment, it's still very early."

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