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NPWS issues - It's time for some letter writing!


Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 13 May 2010

Although we have had positive engagement with NPWS staff in the last six months, more recently I have become concerned that things are stalling at government level and am less optimistic about the process that started last year (see NPWS Sustainable Cycling and Mountain Biking Workshop).

Seems I'm not alone in this thinking, as below is some information one of the NoBMoB advocacy crew put together.

The bottom line is, it's time to get a concerted email campaign going. We need to show the powers that be we appreciate efforts to date, but that concrete results on the ground (in the bush!) are what is needed.

Please, everyone, do not leave this to chance. Do not expect that everyone else will be writing and your little bit won't make a difference. As we saw with Manly Dam, every letter counts and you can make a difference!

Even if you only string a short paragraph or two together saying you enjoy riding and would like to see legal single track in the Northern Beaches that would help. If you have time to include some background and a personal perspective all the better.

Below are the addresses of the current minister (Frank Sartor) and some DECCW management that need to hear our message:

office@sartor.minister.nsw.gov.au, lisa.corbyn@environment.nsw.gov.au, sally.barnes@environment.nsw.gov.au, alistair.henchman@environment.nsw.gov.au, gary.dunnett@environment.nsw.gov.au

Click here to email them all.

Read on for more information on this and ideas of what needs to be said...

All,

I am growing concerned that progress is stalling. This is despite considerable effort to reach a solution for unapproved trail construction and mountain biking in this region by:

  • Trail advocates from NobMob and other groups
  • NPWS managers and rangers
  • Proactive friendly green groups (Eg public forum with Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment, STEP)

While these effort have greatly assisted in changing our public image from confrontational bush bandits to a group of people that are friendly and reasonable to deal with and can undertake well balanced and rational discussion, things are approaching a critical point for us. The noise and political pressure from some of the people that oppose mountain biking is getting very loud. I believe that to shift things forward it is essential that we write to:

This list includes key decision makers and also those that operationally manage our friendly rangers. The aim is to get decisions and progress happening and also make sure the efforts by our friendly rangers are valued by DECCW and NPWS. DECCW is the department that NPWS is under.

The letters should:

  • State what we are requesting
  • Back up with justification/ issue summary
  • Be appreciative of staff and community efforts to date

See http://www.efa.org.au/Campaigns/lobby.html#effec... for tips on letter writing.

Some suggested information is below.

Request

National Parks are seen by the community and other land managers as leaders in managing conservation and community access to bushland areas.

We are requesting your assistance to:

  • Proceed with the necessary steps in policy and strategy review so that the community and operational level staff efforts are supported and issues addressed.
  • Provide the necessary state level leadership so that a cross land tenure solution can be found that:
    • Caters for the different aspects of mountain biking.
    • Encourages more people in the urban environment to take an interest in enjoying and protecting the bush.
    • Allows for greater community education and involvement in bush regeneration and trail maintenance.
    • Publishes results of previous discussion between riders and green groups.
  • Provide part of a sustainable managed trail network that protects and enhances the ecological value of the bush and also increases its value to the community.
  • Provide the direction so that regional level issues can be resolved by operations staff, riders and the community.

Efforts to Date

It is important that our letters are appreciative of the time commitment to date by NPWS staff members In addition to their normal duties and official role they have been:

  • Meeting with the many stakeholders (green groups, land owners, Mtbers, councils).
  • Investigating areas.
  • Consulting IMBA and World Trail.
  • Holding workshops for land owners, riders, green groups, other parks users with IMBA and World Trail.

It is also worthwhile pointing out the considerable community effort by both riders and non-riders. Some of our advocates have been dedicating up to 8 hours per week over the last 12 months liaising working with green groups, community, NPWS and DECCW staff, councils, state level advisors, MP’s and also acting as mediators between more confrontational personalities. This has been in addition to professional working hours which has taken time away from family life , recreation time (even mountain biking!) and annual leave.

Issues

While we know the situation the people we are writing to may not understand background information.

There is currently no apparent consistency in the reasoning as to why riding on single track is permitted in some of Parks land and not others around the state.

Unapproved construction and unapproved trail riding on single track occurs in National Parks because:

  • 20+ year history of riding single track trails in national park areas at urban interfaces (this has in part led to community understanding that existing trails were legitimate).
  • Loss of bush land outside of Parks containing other trails due to urban development.
  • Shifting in park boundaries to occupy trail segments previously outside of National Parks.
  • Failure at state, regional and council level to achieve integrated planning for trail networks and bike park areas in an established but rapidly growing recreational activity (despite government documentation of the need for trails and precedent in other States and regions).
  • Fringe element in community constructing trails to meet user group demand not met by authorities.
  • Unapproved construction in National Parks areas so that trail will not be destroyed later by urban development in other land tenures.
  • Shortage of other and areas in Sydney (State Forest, State Recreation Area, Regional Parks).
  • Lack of approved alternative that caters for sufficient ride duration and technical skill level.

As identified by environmentally minded riders and community groups unapproved construction can lead to:

  • Damage to sensitive areas.
  • Soil erosion.
  • Poor trail construction.
  • Trail user conflict.
  • Unmitigated risks.
  • Waste of time and resources.
  • Unmanaged trail networks.
  • Little or no maintenance.

There are established solutions to these issues that have been implemented in other States, countries and NSW regions.

Current concerns are:

  • Progress seems to be stalling.
  • We are concerned that our efforts may soon be lost/buried in the lead up to the State election.
  • Unapproved trail construction is continuing.
  • ‘Closures’ have increased pressure on other networks such as Manly Dam to a level that was not sustainable without significant upgrade works.
  • ‘Closures’ increased perceived risk for potential injury and user conflict at Manly Dam due to increase in rider numbers (resulted in initial banning of riders then a reversed council decision banning walkers).
  • Considerable parks staff and advocate time is being expended going over same ground and perceived issues with different green groups and active individuals.
  • It has now been up to two years since many of us became active to regain or get improved access since enforced ‘closures’ at Oxford Falls and Bantry Bay.
  • We still have very few official riding options other than fire and maintenance roads which mainly cater for beginner skill levels or speed.
  • It was August 2009 that some of us met with Carmel Tebbutt (to discuss trail ‘closures’) and from a day to day riding perspective we are in the same position, trails ‘closed’. (I use ‘closed’ as technically they were really never official and open).
  • We have ‘lost’ further unapproved trails outside of National Parks that have a long history due to development and local council political decisions (eg Blue Mountains).
  • Potential for additional trail 'losses' due to State level Part 3A residential/retirement village approvals by ministers that over ride local council objection to further development in bushland areas.
  • We are uncertain of the progress since the announcement in September 2009 that Sydney's Northern Beaches National Parks were to pilot Sustainable MTB Access.
  • The pilot was positioned as an initial stage of consultation that would direct the Government's broader strategy on mountain biking, which was to be finalised at the beginning of 2010?
Rob's picture

Here's what I just said to them:

http://nobmob.com/node/14832

Simon's picture

All please note that local NPWS staff have been working really hard behind the scenes with workshops, consultation and meeting with green groups and user groups. All this while performing their normal duties.

From what I hear they have also copped some flack on our behalf from people who are opposed.

I believe they need more high level support to enable them to move forward with a solution both in terms of resources on the ground and politically in addressing both founded and unfounded community environmental concerns.

Lenny_GTA's picture

I'm not on top of what the current state of play is in Northern Sydney, but from my experience with Glenrock you need to make sure you keep the local guys on side.

A lot of people ask why it is we can build what we do and it comes down to nothing more than the support of the local staff. We spent a lot of time educating them (and them educating us) and made a few concessions, but I think it is worth it in the end and should present more opportunities in the future.

So when your making these submissions, point out where there has been good work. Letters to the minister ultimately filter down to the local staff to comment on, so you don't want to be upsetting those who you really need to be getting along with. The NPWS machine is slowly changing for the better and we need to give credit where credit is due.

If the staff are supporting you, the best thing you can do is support them. not trying to sound preachy here, just want to throw in a perspective from a group who has great support from the NPWS.

Lach's picture

Received from NPWS today. Sounds positive enough, just I hope I'm not too aged and decrepit to actually ride these trails by the time all the processes have been completed.....

"Thank you for your recent email regarding mountain biking in National Parks.

For many years the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has welcomed visitors and supported their recreational aspirations while protecting the conservation values of the parks and reserves. We recognise that bike riding and mountain biking riding in particular is growing in popularity. Bike riding can be good for the environment and good for people’s health and therefore community wellbeing. It is also another way of connecting people to nature and if managed carefully can link to the intent of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

We do however need to be clearer about how and where mountain biking should occur and then how potential impacts should be considered and managed on a park by park basis. I can confirm that the NPWS is finalising a discussion paper that not only reviews our current Cycling Policy but also develops a Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy for NSW National Parks.

The paper is substantially informed by meetings with representatives from northern Sydney mountain biking groups and networks and a workshop held with a broader range of stakeholders including environment groups. My hope is that through a community consultation process we will be able to establish an agreed direction on the provision of mountain biking in national parks and reserves. The paper will include recognition of the high demand for riding on singletrack, while ensuring that protection of the natural and cultural values of our national parks remains pre-eminent.

On the local front, Northern Sydney parks staff have met with World Trails to plan three possible singletrack mountain bike tracks in three different areas. I have asked staff to continue talking with representatives from the mountain bike fraternity on these trails. I understand they have hosted a World Trail workshop with representatives from a number of user groups including bike riders and conservation groups. They have also conducted a workshop with land managers within the region to facilitate cross tenure mountain bike trails for all technical abilities.

The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 requires that all activities in national parks are carried out in accordance with the relevant plan of management. Most current plans of management, including those for parks in northern Sydney, do not permit the creation of singletrack mountain bike tracks. Consultation with representatives from mountain bike groups and networks has suggested that Garigal National Park has strong potential for the installation of environmentally sensitive singletrack. NPWS is investigating potential routes and design specifications for an appropriate section of singletrack within Garigal National Park. I expect that work will commence shortly upon the environmental impact assessment and a possible plan of management amendment processes - both of which are required for any such changes to activity within a national park. The proposed amendment to the plan of management will involve public exhibition and review by the Regional Advisory Committee and National Parks & Wildlife Advisory Council.

A proactive approach to mountain biking is further advanced at Glenrock State Conservation Area near Newcastle. I have attached a link that illustrates the partnership with the community. The National Parks & Wildlife Advisory Council recently visited the park and specifically commented on the collaborative approach taken by our staff to work with various groups to get the best recreation and conservation outcomes. http://www.twentysixinches.com/2010/glenrock-vol...

I trust this reassures you of progress that the NPWS is making on this issue. I encourage you to continue your involvement and input through the consultation processes.

Yours sincerely

Sally Barnes
Deputy Director General
Head - National Parks and Wildlife Service
Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water"

Lenny_GTA's picture

Well, who would have thought that the NPWS would actually read something I wrote......(the link they sent that is).

Rob's picture
I trust this reassures you of progress that the NPWS is making on this issue.

Not really.

If there was a published plan which included some dates on when these various reviews were to be completed, and when this would translate into legal riding opportunities then maybe.

Otherwise... well... I'm sure this is very good news, but somehow it doesn't feel that way Sad

Trev's picture

Got the same reply from Sally Barnes NPWS. And something very similar from Minister Sartor. Rob are you telling me not to hold my breath till the sweet Garigal single becomes a reality? Smiling

flubberghusted's picture

I feel dirty all over!

Bothering the ministers office makes it feel like we're taking them away from other priorities ... ah stuff it, they're public servants. Serve us dammit!

CB's picture

Got the same reply

Hope it leads to something .....

CB

drew.d's picture

Yep,
same reply... but that's only 1 reply, for the 6 or so different emails I sent. And I did try to tailor them a bit for who they were sent to.

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