25 August 2021

Urgent call for feedback on intensive development of Kosciuszko National Park

| Edwina Mason
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Snowboarders walking in Kosciuszko National Park

The NSW Government is planning massive expansion of commercial activities in Kosciuszko National Park. Photo: Department of Regional NSW.

An urgent call has gone out for ACT and NSW residents to pay attention to plans for intensive development in Kosciuszko National Park.

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) are calling on members, supporters and the general public to join them in opposing the NSW Government’s proposals for a massive expansion of commercial activities within the 6900-square-kilometre expanse, which forms the state’s largest national park.

The proposed changes are outlined in the Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct Masterplan and proposed amendments to the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management, which are on public exhibition until 23 August, 2021.*

The development includes plans to increase overnight accommodation from 11,000 to 15,000 beds in highly fire-prone areas of the park; allowing helicopter flights onto ski fields; building new and expanded car parks; and allowing four-wheel-drive vehicles onto iconic walking tracks.

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Development proposals for two specific precincts in Kosciuszko National Park – Yarrangobilly and Currango – are further detailed in precinct plans.

The Yarrangobilly Caves precinct masterplan includes proposals to upgrade the 1901 wing of Caves House to the standard of the recently restored 1917 wing; improve access and amenity of the thermal pool; develop a new visitors’ centre and cafe; a cultural heritage trail; and additional cottages and eco cabins.

The NPA said several of the changes – including increasing tour numbers – show little or no appreciation for the sensitivity of the karst environment.

Man swimming in thermal pool

Hidden deep in the valley among towering eucalypts, near the Yarrangobilly River, an outdoor swim in the natural thermal pool is a magical experience. Photo: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The most startling proposal, they said, is to construct a series of bathhouses around the existing springs in the form of Japanese onsens – bathhouses traditionally located around hot thermal springs.

The NPA said the waters at Yarrangobilly are far colder than needed for onsens so the plans propose raising the water temperature using large-scale gas heaters.

“Installing a high-emissions facility in a national park setting is entirely at odds with community expectations,” said the NPA.

The masterplan for Currango Homestead includes proposals to undertake minor interior modifications to the homestead to separate it into two wings, improve the kitchens and furnishings, and develop a new caretaker’s cottage and two additional three-bedroom cottages.

The work is expected to be administered by NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s Department of Regional NSW.

National parks are gazetted for the protection of natural landscapes, ecosystems and their natural and cultural values, and are currently entrusted to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for their management and conservation.

Hot spring in Japan

Japan has thousands of ‘onsens’ – hot springs with bathing facilities and traditional inns – scattered throughout all of its major islands. Photo: Supplied.

NPA executive officer Gary Dunnett said the potential conflict in moving Kosciuszko National Park from NSW Minister for Energy and the Environment Matt Kean and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service into the hands of the deputy premier and his department is disturbing.

Mr Dunnett said the proposed development is reckless and overturns more than 40 years of careful planning and management of the park.

He added that national parks are areas of land protected because of their unspoilt landscapes, outstanding or representative ecosystems, Australian plants and animals, and places of natural and cultural significance.

Mr Dunnett said the plans essentially treat Kosciuszko National Park as a commodity and get the balance between nature protection and recreation completely wrong.

“The NSW Government’s message is that none of their proposals would hurt Kosciuszko National Park,” he said.

“But the masterplan puts Kosciuszko National Park up for sale and treats our precious national parks as nothing more than a private lot ready for development.”

Mr Dunnett said only a few weeks ago that the premier said national parks contribute more than $18 billion annually to the NSW economy through visitation and jobs.

Aerial view of Currango Homestead

Registered on the National Estate, the historic Currango Homestead was built around 1895 and today offers unique heritage eco-accommodation for visitors to the high country. Photo: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

“Why would you risk compromising that contribution through excessive development?” asked Mr Dunnett. “The Snowy is already under siege from bushfires, a feral horse plague, and habitat destruction for the Snowy 2.0 hydro project.

“Kosciuszko needs protection and recovery, not reckless development.”

NCC chief executive Chris Gambian agreed, saying the proposed changes would turn Kosciuszko National Park into a development site and cash cow for tourism operators.

“Frankly, it’s obscene,” he said. “Kosciusko is one of the oldest national parks in the state, created in 1967 by a Coalition government that recognised the need to protect its fragile ecosystems for future generations.”

Mr Gambian said the NCC is calling on the NSW Coalition to honour its legacy by maintaining the highest level of protection for Kosciuszko National Park, and keep the cap on development.

The National Parks Association of NSW and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW have launched a campaign asking the public to provide feedback opposing the developments, with a deadline for submissions of 28 August, 2021.

*Amended to correct date.

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Skye Essington-Wilson1:35 pm 07 Sep 21

I think development in the area should be done outside of the national parks, not inside they should be left as natural as possible. There should be infrastructure put in such as public transport so the impact of more tourists is not on the park.

Gail Podberscek7:58 pm 19 Aug 21

I once had the privilege to visit places which are as close to wilderness as can be found on the planet. These experiences can’t be replicated in any landscape adapted by ‘humans’ for their comfort or entertainment. In the future, I hope Australians will understand what we have been blessed with – are custodians for – is unique in the world. Why on earth (accidental pun) would we risk a unique ecology that has emerged over millennia for some cheap thrills?? I just can’t conceive of doing this. I agree the proposal is ‘obscene’. It shouldn’t be up to the NSW government, this is exactly why we need independent Environmental oversight. Politicians don’t have the capacity to make visionary decisions regarding the natural environment. 🙁

The development should not be allowed to proceed. We have very few natural places left that we have not raped and pillaged, we simply cannot consider destroying such a delicate natural ecosystem. One that is already teetering on the edge after fires and drought.
Natural ecosystems have much more value than simple monetary gain.
They should be ashamed of even entertaining the thought.

Cheryl LeMesurier10:10 pm 18 Aug 21

1- The brumbies are not feral unlike the humans believing this to be so, the humans removing them and the humans allowing this to happen.
2 – Kosciuszko National Park is as it is supposed to be – semi natural. By increasing human activity it ruins what is an open space for all to enjoy. Already spoiled by removing the Brumbies, doubt I’ll be back if there are no Brumbies to be seen.
We holiday there twice a year with friends.
3 – A misjustice to the Brumbies, nature and all tourists to turn this land into business’s with no concern for the Environment only the dollars.

I hate the idea! The park is so beautiful as it is! People go there for wilderness and a pristine environment not a damned multinational or worse a conglomerate from China buying up our beautiful country! I don’t know where these people(aka politicians) have spent their lives or how they can sleep at night with these amoral decisions that they make is totally beyond me! You are not Australian!!

Cassidy Wood3:47 pm 18 Aug 21

This is a reckless act, it’s already a fragile eco system that DOES NOT NEED LARGE SCALE DEVELOPMENT!! Leave management of the park in the hands of the competent.

Robert Webber12:28 pm 18 Aug 21

John Barilaro’s plans for the park make me sick to the core.

Janice Hingston9:49 am 18 Aug 21

15,000 beds means 15,000 humans which means pollution in more ways than one. How dare they call for the removal/slaughter of brumbies who are polluting and apparently destroying (sic) their environment. What do they think this major infrastructure is going to do to the surrounds. It is an absolutely arrogant plan of destruction to an area of wilderness. Leave it alone and let the small eco businesses carry on as they are, melding into the fibre of the bush without damage. This plan is ludicrous and should be immediately shelved.

Rhonda Twomey7:13 am 18 Aug 21

Please leave the Kosciusko High country alone, we do not want or need further development in this beautiful unique area.
No development.

Ashlee Bastiaansen5:50 am 18 Aug 21

The fact that your building hot springs in water that’s to cold really highlights the fact that this development is purely for monetary benefit and is not taking the park into consideration.
John barilaro should not be in charge of any kind of natural resources.

Another money making scheme for a developer in the private sector, there are already to many there now.

This needs to be stopped. The government do not own the land, this is the peoples land and these caniving liberals need to be stopped and voted out. Our children and there children and so on have the right to see this natural land untouched ( well a bit late for that) but should have the right to see it as is with all the animals etc roaming free.

Mikey Puskaric9:31 pm 17 Aug 21

I cannot believe this is happening.

Nicolas MARTIN7:50 pm 16 Aug 21

I fully agree that Kosciuszko NP should not be subject to further developments. It is a special place!

Alexander Maxwell Dunstan6:30 pm 16 Aug 21

It is vitally important that any development within the Kosiosko National Park is approved and overseen by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Not another Regional Development Sector of Government.

Judy Horsfall5:35 pm 16 Aug 21

This is crap and the environment should be protected as number 1. Similar risk to parks is happening in SA also. Privatising and developing.

Bronwyn Dobeson5:35 pm 16 Aug 21

Have the people ever been to Yarrangobilly Caves that are proposing these changes. Sit by the pool quietly of an evening and you will be rewarded with glimpses of Platypuses in the river. The stillness and wildlife are a joy to behold.
National Parks in NSW are needed to be a reservoir of our flora and fauna , especially in a very fragile alpine environment. Both Liberal and Labour governments of the past knew this when they were formed.
Please protect our heritage!
Bronwyn Dobeson

Susanne Page11:48 am 16 Aug 21

There are quite a few countries that limit visitation to their precious environments to save them from degradation. We should be doing the same.
Gas heating for the natural thermal pools?
A hideous suggestion!

Maybe sanity will eventually prevail and the assault on this iconic area will be defeated. Here’s hoping. This exploitative development madness of a state owned (ie. you and me) and managed area must end before all we have left is not the Kosciuszko National Park but the Kosciuszko Alpine Theme Precinct. Gas-fired Onsen style thermal pools at Yarrangobilly! What are these people on?

Karen O'Clery2:26 pm 15 Aug 21

NO, NO, NO! The real estate developing Deputy Premier should not be allowed to run rampant through National Parks.

Where is the Department of the Environment? Why has this even been given air? OBSCENE.

Deputy Premier Bolsonaro, Kosciusko is not your Amazon!

Hazel Watson3:32 pm 13 Aug 21

Important to protect this very special part of the Snowy Mountains. Kosciusko is absolutely unique.

Christina Kennedy6:01 pm 06 Aug 21

I endorse the statement in the article above that “Kosciuszko needs protection and recovery, not reckless development.”
Why is our state government so hell bent on destruction of our treasured resources both in the built and unbuilt environment all in the name of beneficial development? We cannot allow any more trashing.

Most, if not all of this proposal is typical of John Barilaro’s juvenile, unempathetic attitude to Australia’s natural heritage.

He’s treating the National Park like his own private sandpit. Eco tourism should not be destructive and exploitative; it should be undertaken in hand with the regeneration of degraded areas, not the degrading of pristine areas.

John Barilaro needs to be kept well away from any responsibility for mananging natural heritage estates.

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