11 September 2019

Last days to have your say on $8 million Light to Light plans

| Ian Campbell
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Rainbow Cave, a feature of the Light to Light Walk. Photo: Light to Light Camps.

Rainbow Cave, a feature of the Light to Light Walk. Photo: Light to Light Camps.

Interest in the $8 million makeover of the stunning Light to Light Walk south of Eden has come from near and far, however, the window for comment and feedback on the draft plan is just days away from closing.

Those who spend time on this pink part of the remote Far South Coast speak with passion and of deep connection to the experiences they have had in this ancient environment and of the experiences they want to continue to have for themselves and others.

The Light to Light Walk extends for 31 km from Boyds Tower on the southern shores of Twofold Bay to Green Cape Lightstation, on the edge of Victoria.

Generally speaking, the trek takes three days and two nights to complete; Bittangabee and Saltwater are the two more formal campgrounds where toilets and other facilities are available, however, more basic camping at Mowarry Point and Hegartys Bay is also popular. A night at the end in the old lighthouse keeper’s quarters at Green Cape is a touch of luxury.

The end of the track Green Cape Lighthouse. Photo: Light 2 Light Coastal Walks.

The end of the track Green Cape Lighthouse. Photo: Light 2 Light Coastal Walks.

Just off $8 million has been set aside under the Berijiklian Government’s Environment and Tourism Fund.

The proposal is to “significantly upgrade and realign the existing Light to Light Walk in Ben Boyd National Park, to create a world-class coastal Walk, including NPWS-managed accommodation for walkers,” the draft strategy says.

“Camping where there are no facilities is creating potential environmental impacts, particularly with increasing visitation, with evidence of fires in areas where fires are not permitted.”

The project includes hut style accommodation for walkers at Mowarry Point and Hegartys Bay – which currently cater for walk-in tent campers only in an informal setting. Without a booking in the proposed accommodation, no camping will be allowed at Mowarry and Hegartys.

In the lead up to public submissions closing this Monday, August 26, community discussion has swirled around fears that the walk is being privatised and current user groups will be excluded in order to build a high-end luxury tourist offering.

“There is the very real danger of development-creep,” says David Gallan, President, Far South Coast Branch
National Parks Association NSW.

“The proposal is overwhelmingly geared for fee-paying walkers, so called ‘Adventurers’ who fit into the NPWS preferred 3 night/4 day Light to Light package.

“The flip side is that independent walkers will be subject to greater restrictions. There is concern that this proposal advances the concept of income inequality in terms of public access to national parks.

“Similarly, the proposal to remove Green Cape Light House from casual short term accommodation unduly restricts the walking options.”

Mr Gallen also makes the point that while remote and wild, the Light to Light track is relatively close to an “abundance of private sector accommodation which questions the need for additional accommodation within the park.”

Mowary Beach, a highlight on the Light to Light walk

Mowarry Beach, a highlight on the Light to Light walk. Photo: Light to Light Camps

Some in the local tourism sector have questioned why they weren’t consulted prior to the release of the strategy, with suspicion that high-end corporate operators like Great Walks of Australia are driving the proposal.

“It wasn’t ideal that a leaked document was made public before the consultation period opened,” says Jenny Robb, who runs a local supported camping eco-tourism business – Light to Light Camps.

That leaked first draft made mention of the Light to Light track being listed with Great Walks of Australia.

“This resulted in a lot of misinformation and angst amongst the community,” Ms Robb says.

“We have no concerns about the impact of the proposals from a business point of view, however as community members, our personal values underpin our business values.

“If huts are developed at Mowarry and or Hegartys Bay, we think that bush/tent camping for full pack walkers on the grassy area currently used should still be allowed. These campers can use the toilet at the new hut.

“We are already fielding inquiries from many people who have ‘heard of the proposed changes’ and ‘want to walk it while they still can’ – so the general feeling out there is that many feel they will not be able to afford to walk it once the development takes place,” Ms Robb says.

Wildlife abounds on the Light to Light walk

Wildlife abounds on the Light to Light walk. Photo: Light to Light Camps

Christopher Caldow grew up in Canberra and has been camping, fishing, and diving along the Light to Light for over 20 years, he’s part of a group of friends who continue to meet there every year.

Mr Caldow is an environmental and climate scientist currently working in France and is one of the Administrators of the ‘Ben Boyd – Light to Light Not Great Walk – Community Action Group‘ Facebook page.

The group is made up of Mr Caldow’s Light to Light friends which come from the ACT, Melbourne, Wallaga Lake, Merimbula, and Wollongong.

The group is encouraging others to read and sign the group’s submission and are providing assistance for others keen to do their own.

“We’d like to see the money spent on better, more established camping sites at Mowarry and Hegartys to mitigate any impact and composting toilets,” he says.

“We’d also like to see some upgrades to the track but not the realignment that’s proposed – they’re talking about 10 km of new track which involves slashing the bush.

“And there’s lots about this that we don’t have detail on, we’d like to see another opportunity to comment when more information is public.”

The pinks and purples of the Light to Light walk

The pinks and purples of the Light to Light walk, Photo: Light to Light Camps

A spokesperson for the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) says, “NPWS will carefully consider community feedback and the outcomes of environmental and cultural assessments before progressing any amendments to the Plan of Management and the Light to Light Walk Strategy.”

“More than 150 people attended the three information sessions in Eden, Pambula and Bega and the number of written submissions made to NPWS to date has been pleasing. We encourage everyone in the community to take the time to put a submission together.”

“The consultation process so far has drawn out a wide range of opinions which is important.

“A few points that we would like to reassure the community about – Saltwater and Bittangabee campgrounds will not be closed, in fact, the draft plans propose increasing the capacity for tent-only camping. The community will continue to be able to access car-based camping at these sites.

” [And] NPWS will operate the huts and Green Cape Lightstation and won’t be leasing out the operation for exclusive use.”

“[This is] an exciting proposal for an improved multi-day walking experience that will better manage environmental impacts, protect Aboriginal cultural heritage values and improve the track’s nature-based walking experience on this remote but spectacular wilderness coastal walk.”

Read the draft Light to Light Strategy HERE you can make a submission HERE the last day for comment in Monday, August 26.

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belinda Muller10:37 am 28 Aug 19

Hi, my opinion is that the track needs to be upgrade. However, I do not see any need for cabin access. The track may also, benefit from the construction of some shelter shed. I also believe that the existing camping areas at Saltwater and Bittangabee, could do with upgrading.
For a decade I took students from Eden Maine High School for end of year activities to this area. They walked along the Track from the Ben Boyd’s Lighthouse to Bittangabee, camping here, then the next day they walked to Greencape. We provided the students with a camping experience and with fantastic food. If the camping areas were improved, providing more shelter, better cooking and table/seating areas, a baling style (Asian style) bathing area, I think this would benefit all. We had to take the School’s BBQ. because it was larger, and we knew it had gas, we were caught out once, never again. So my idea is to improve the track , the access roads and the existing camping area, that would be enough to allow all people a great experience. You don’t need to build cabins, as it is possible to camp in comfort. The so called tourist operators should ensure their resources meet the requirements of their clients, they could provide great tents and even bring in a light camper if necessary, it is not up to the State (the taxpayer) to provide cabins. The camping upgrades that I have suggested would benefit the most people. This is a beautiful unique area, it does not need all these changes

Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA)9:22 am 23 Aug 19

The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) has formally advised the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment (DPIE) that the public consultation process on the draft Light to Light Walk Strategy scheduled to close on August 26th, 2019 is seriously flawed.
The association believes the public are effectively being denied the right to make fully informed submissions in respect of the draft Light to Light Walk Strategy, given that the DPIE has not released the Business Case & Cost Benefit Analysis underpinning the draft.
The association has requested the DPIE to consider its concerns, notwithstanding its belief that the public submission process is flawed.
Read more … http://www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/on-consultation-2.html

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