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Second round of MTB Discussion paper forums

Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 08 February 2011

Sydney North Forum

All, there is some disappointing news to share here, but perhaps we can turn it into a positive.

It has come to my attention that the Colong Foundation has questioned the validity of forums NPWS set up last year as part of the submission process for their mountain bike discussion paper[1].

... The Colong Foundation for Wilderness has today called for the results from these public meetings to be thrown out and for National Parks and Wildlife to explain why it granted such a sensitive task to a mountain bike advocate and who is also involved in building tracks.

Mr Anthony Burton, the facilitator of the bike forums for National Parks and Wildlife appears to be a mountain bike advocate and consultant...

NB: It seems NPWS will only put on these forums if there is enough demand. So I would discourage people from contacting NPWS to confirm their attendance in the hope some of these meetings might not even happen. Call your local NPWS office or the venue a few days before the meeting you'd goto and confirm if it is on if you are interested in attending.

That aside, you note that the complaint has no issue with any written submissions made, so we are safe in that regard as it is widely know the overwhelming majority of written feedback was for sustainable trails.

Of course it is imperative that NPWS show no bias to either side in this debate. It is my personal belief that no bias was shown to either side by the facilitator in the meeting I attended. Members of the Colong Foundation were present and vocal. They were given ample chance to talk and write comments on the butchers paper around the room, just as all other members of the public present were. This situation was repeated in other forums from what I hear.

That said, I can see the point the Colong Foundation make above that a truly independent facilitator with no links to either side is required. While I witnessed no bias, the chance of bias may have existed and this cannot be allowed to happen. Thus, sadly again, I can see why a second round of meetings is necessary in order to completely remove any doubt in the minds of either side that preferential treatment has been given to either.

From what I can tell, this second round of meetings will be run by a facilitator nominated by conservation groups. I guess in this case they think two biased rounds may make for a more unbiased outcome? Of course, that would be true of the Colong Foundation were not calling for the first round to be thrown out, which they are. I find this rather hypocritical. Even more so when it is clear that the second round of forums has been kept quiet.

All that said, we now know of the second round, and these will be public meetings and I would encourage anyone with an interest in these to once again attend, be polite, make your points and correct any misinformation that may be raised.

This is where the positive lies... most of the opponents of sustainable riding are confused about what it means and what mountain bike riders are asking for. Many even confuse mountain bikes with motor bikes! Here is an opportunity to be at a meeting when such confusion is bound to be present, where one should be able to raise a hand and politely explain that mountain bikes are no motor bikes, that mountain bike riders want to conserve the environment as it is in their best interest to do so, that poor planning and rainwater are the main causes of erosion, not traffic on wheel or foot for that matter, etc, etc.

The forum dates I am aware of are below. Make your choice and attend as you see fit:

Update: Some of these meetings have been cancelled due to lack of interest. Looks like the people who caused the stink have no backing from the community.

Springwood: Monday 14th February 6-8pm, Springwood Country Club, Hawkesbury Rd Springwood.
Newcastle: Wednesday 16th February 6-8pm, Kahibah Bowling Club, 63 Kenibea Ave Kahibah. Cancelled
Nowra: Monday 21st February 6-8pm, Nowra Showground, West St Nowra.
Jindabyne: Tuesday 22nd February 6-8pm, Quality Horizons Resort, Kosciuszko Road Jindabyne. Cancelled
Port Macquarie: Thursday 24th February 6-8pm, Port City Bowling Club, 4 Owen St Port Macquarie. Cancelled
Turramurra: Monday 28th February 6-8pm, Turramurra Bowling Club, 181 Bobbin Head Road Turramurra.
Sutherland: Tuesday 1st March 6-8pm, Sutherland United Services Club, 7 East Parade Sutherland. Cancelled


hawkeye's picture

Was it not the Colong Foundation representatives who were swearing at you and I at that last meeting? Paragons of rational discussion, that lot.

Better this happens now I suppose, than at the very end of the process and we have to start over...

So we'll just have to show 'em - again - that our interests are aligned, we love the bush and want it preserved and conserved so that we can continue to enjoy it. An identical or similar outcome to last time will hopefully send the message loud and clear that CF are just a bunch of fringe dwellers.

Meeting time locked and loaded. Evil

cambowambo's picture

There is a fundamental political rule : if you don't like the outcome, try to discredit the process.

We must be making progress Smiling

mudgee's picture

Though your comments about a neutral facilitator will no doubt be misconstrued by our Coolong Foundation friends as validation of their complaints. I can already hear them saying things like "even the mountain bikers agree that is could have been biased"

The alternative view would be that you couldn't find a neutral facilitator (i.e. no biking, bushwalking or conservation affiliations) that also has adequate understanding of parks to do justice to the task, so someone with a foot in both camps is actually the best choice. In that case there will always be questions over where their affiliations lie by those looking to criticise the process and it looks like this is what parks are trying to manage.

However, this doesn't change the outcomes, feedback and ideas gathered from the previous facilitated session. Given that everything was happening out in the open and that the facilitator deferred to NPWS or audience for content, I don't even see how it's possible that the facilitator choice could bias the process.

What were dealing with is the 'perception' that he 'may' have biased the process. Which is yet another step back from your 'chance' that he 'may' have.

All the Coolong Foundation have really achieved is to spend more NPWS budget on rework to hear the conservation groups opinions again (most of which had been aired in previous consultation activities) instead of letting the department do their job, make their decisions and get on with looking after our parks.

I had a beer with one of the Coolong Foundation guys after the previous forum and it seemed that he was fired up about mountain biking mainly because he'd missed the Tourism Bill stoush due to illness and wanted to make up for it. Other than some ideologically driven opinions about park infrastructure and a fundamental fear of anyone engaging in any commercial activity anywhere, (I understand his point of view but don't necessarialy agree) he didn't really seem to have a lot in the way of objections to mountain biking itself. His comerade just didn't seem to like the way mountain bikers looked, declared us all vandals, declared most environmental impact assessment processes undertaken by parks a sham and insisted that any reasonable person would agree that we should be excluded from his parks. - Should be an interesting session!

ar_junkie's picture

They want to discredit Mr Burton and any forum that has taken place in the past due to his ties to MTB?

So I take it that any other facilitation/spokesperson/ etc. has no ties to walking or the environment?

Rob's picture

No, from what I can tell... well... here is a quote from the email sent out to some people:

This further consultation will take the form of workshops, facilitated by [name removed], who has been nominated by the [organisation removed].

Obviously the organisation making the nomination has a colourful history of anti-MTB rhetoric.

The Brown Hornet's picture

Rob, do we just rock up to our local venue or is it a matter of RSVPing?

Rob's picture

Well... I'm just going to rock up Eye-wink

Although one is meant to RSVP by 11th February.

The mail I saw said they would only put on these forums if there was enough demand, so I would encourage people not to RSVP (assuming they are happy with the previous round) then call their local NPWS office or the venue a few days before the meeting you'd goto and confirm if it is on.

Flynny's picture

I've ask my local DECC office to confirm if the meeting is taking place and if so why it hasn't been advertised to all interested parties.

I couldn't make the first round due to prior commitments and had indicated I was disappointed not to be able to attend. If more rounds were planned it would have been nice to be included.

I haven't heard any thing back yet but plan on turning up

Ray R's picture

Has anyone found info on these new public meetings on the NPWS web site?

Rob's picture

No, these meetings are not disclosed on the NPWS website, nor the Shape Your State forum.

Both these sources of information have unchanged information stating submissions closed Oct 25.

Hop fiend's picture

Colon Foundation-oops I mean Colong Foundation til a couple of months ago!

moggio's picture

Its interesting that Anthony Burton is tarred and feathered for having knowledge on the topic which was being discussed. He is "also involved in building tracks" is used as a way of defining him as a social outcast of some type. Working on Stromolo, crikey, that pristine lunar landscape after the fires.

Well I couldn't get to the last set of meeting so it will be good to go to these ones. Be very interesting to see how fair and unbiased they are this time... its a good start that they are being unbiased by not informing any mountain bikers.

Its a shame that in a mature and professional process that interested parties can't be allowed to work together to a common solution using the benefits of each areas expertise to come to a rational result.

Ray R's picture

I think we should keep our comments included on this public web forum directed towards our aim of reasonable MTB usage in National Parks. The Colong Foundation has a long and successful history of conservation - and we should recognise their success in making (for example) the Blue Mountains NP what it is today. Without their work in the late 1960's and 1970's we would not be blessed with the incredible diversity of Parks we have around Sydney.

Our job is to convince a wide range of groups that MTB is a reasonable usage of National Parks and that we are concerned about conservation as well. Let's keep the focus!

Flynny's picture

I'm just concerned this is a delaying tactic. Colong Foundation call a new round of meetings. these aren't advertised properly. We complain they are thus deemed invalid. A new round of meetings need to be set up... DECC blow through their budget... No action ever happens

hathill's picture

This really irks me. For goodness sake we don't live in a vacuum. Humans have been doing terrible things to the planet but in the great scheme of things, mountain biking certainly is not one of them. People want to get out there and enjoy the countryside, not see it locked away. This seems to be the attitude taken by the holier than thou brigade who have appointed themselves as keepers of all things NPWS'y.

It's nothing more than simple selfishness in my opinion, everyone is entitled to access the bush in an appropriate manner and I see no problem with mountain biking as being one of these appropriate activities. No one here is pushing for commercial use of any of the parks, we are all aware of the damage that badly designed tracks be they walking or cycling tracks can cause and as responsible cyclists we are all aware of the need to take care when sharing the park facilities with others. A little less of an extreme view and a little more reality would be wonderful but I am afraid it's probably too much to ask.

Flynny's picture

I got this back from the department

Hi Craig,

Thanks for your query regarding consultation on the NPWS Cycling Policy Review and Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy Discussion Paper. I appreciate the opportunity to allay any concerns regarding this consultation.

As you would be aware, we sought public comment on the discussion paper in September and October last year. Submissions were accepted via an online forum, email and mail. In addition, open public forums were held in north and south Sydney, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Springwood, Nowra and Jindabyne. We received more than 2,500 submissions on the paper from a wide cross-section of the community. The submissions demonstrated significant public support for a proposal to provide more opportunities for mountain biking in national parks where appropriate.

Following the public consultation process, concerns were raised by some members of conservation groups that the process did not allow their views to be adequately considered and addressed. We are determined that the final outcome of the policy review and strategy development is not undermined by concerns about the conduct of our public consultation process. We are committed to ensuring that all stakeholders have the opportunity to have their views heard and properly considered. We therefore felt it would be sensible to offer a final, targeted opportunity to members of conservation groups to contribute any comments that they felt unable to express during the previous workshops.

The formal submissions received from conservation groups, such as the NCC and NPA, were received by the Department during the consultation period and will not be amended as a result of these workshops.

We believe that in order for the community to accept the outcome of the consultation process and any resulting policies or strategies relating to mountain biking in NSW national parks, they must feel that the Department treated all stakeholders fairly and equally. Unfortunately, feedback received suggests that while the mountain biking groups felt their views were heard, some members of the conservation groups were alienated by having a facilitator whom they regarded as biased.

To address this concern, we have requested that the proposed workshops be facilitated by a person nominated by the National Parks Association. However, if there are people within the community who wish to attend these additional workshops then they are welcome to attend even if they are not a member of a conservation group. I can provide you with further details on the workshop location and time if this would assist further allay any concerns regarding the workshop sessions.

Please note that the workshops will only be going ahead where there has been sufficient interest shown by conservation stakeholders regarding their final opportunity to have a say – consequently we are looking at cancelling a number of the workshops.

Please be reassured that all of the comments made during the formal consultation period from all of the various sources, including the online forum, will be analysed and taken into consideration in the development of the strategy and review of the policy.

Flynny's picture

According to Anthony there are some glaring holes in the "facts" as put in the question, but nicely answered any way

Lach's picture

also that Clover Moore asked this question. Not just a friend of the (urban) cyclist......

ar_junkie's picture

It was too transparent for them, a concept that seems to be avoided in their general modus operandi...

I'm sorry, but this type of bureaucratic bull-$@!# is why people stop caring about due process and leads to groups doing their own thing i.e. Portland & Aspen.

This of course will derail all previous consultations and relationships forged over the last umpteen number of years. I guess this is what our friends over at Colong Foundation are hoping to do anyway...

Flynny's picture

Apparently my post linking the parliamentary question has been see by some as overly aggressive.
I apologize if it came across that way, just passing along information as posted elsewhere.

In hindsight "glaring holes in the facts" should have been "question marks over the facts"

I'm not against the new meetings taking place, only questioning why they were not advertised to all interested parties

familyguy's picture

Having just looked over the Coolong website, I have to say it reminds me very much of the Pedestrian Council. Despite Coolong's concern about bias, the later comment from the NSW NPWS about 'formal submissions' not being amended goes a fair way to silencing their renewed voices. The tone of the whole letter posted from the NSW NWPS is heartening, I think. It would be interesting to see if they resort to the name-calling and slanging matches hawkeye referred to if someone other than Coolong "comrades" turn up.

This Sierra Club link may be of interest:

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