With the recently announced $5.25M from the Commonwealth and NSW Government’s Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, $672,000 from Building Better Regions Fund, $145,000 from Bushfire Regional Tourism Fund, $75,000 from Stronger Country Communities Fund, along with contributions from Rotary Club and Council the coastal walking trail linking the headlands and beaches of from Batehaven to McKenzies Beach, including construction of a lookout at Observation Point in Batehaven is set to begin. Council advises that high level planning is complete with a detailed design underway for first stage of work at Observation Point with an aim to start construction first half of 2021. According to Council's website they say the Batemans Bay coastal headlands walking trail will be a 33km continuous walking track linking headlands and beaches, starting from a new lookout at Observation Point in Batehaven and stretching to Pretty Point at McKenzies Beach connecting the retail centres of Batehaven, Surf Beach and Malua Bay with the broader network of walking and cycling trails at Batehaven and Batemans Bay. Council advise that the trail will be easy to navigate and feature interpretive signage, Aboriginal and European cultural and historical referencing, and viewing spots to be experienced as a single day walk or short walks over multiple days, linking into the popular National Parks four-day signature Murramarang walk. Council assert that the project aims to grow the visitor economy by attracting a high-value demographic for longer stays aiding bushfire recovery and level out Eurobodalla's seasonality with a year-round attraction that isn't beach dependent.The trail is forecast to attract around 26,000 visitors a year with Council suggesting the direct spending associated with these visitors is approximately $0.4 million per year. While there has been very little, if any, public consultation Elizabeth Rankin, Divisional Manager of Strategy and Sustainable Growth advises that a summary of the aims of the project on Council's website includes a copy of the Batemans Bay Coastal
Headlands Walking Trail Concept Plan (The Concept Plan - Gondwana June 2010). Ms Rankin advises that the initial concept and route selection are illustrated inthe Concept Plan.
IMAGES source: Gondwana Concept Plan for the Batemans Bay Coastal Headlands Walking Trail A required report regarding acceptance of the $5.3M funding has not yet been presented to Council. Four months after the announcement of the "fast tracked" grant that was given to Council with no application that had no councillor approval, no specific public consultation, no publicly available detail of route that might warrant local consultation and environmental considerations, no milestones, no outline of infrastructure needs nor any commitment to resources Council is still not in receipt of a $5.3M Bushfire Recovery Funding Deed and are still in negotiations with the funding body. Unlike the grant for the Mogo Mountain Bike project, Council have advised that there are no co-contributions expected of Council in relation to acceptance of the funds for the Coastal Trail.
Ms Rankin advised that "The ongoing upkeep of the Walking Trail will be scheduled into Council's maintenance program and carried out similarly to every other Council asset." When the Director Planning and Sustainability Services was asked "What will the provisions as required amount to on an annual basis in dollars?" he was evasive of quoting actual dollars responding: "Modelling utilised to determine the cost benefit analysis of the project relied upon the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services data for walking tracks (endorsed and recommended by the NSW Government) of .027% per annum of the construction cost. However this cost will be spread cross the first few years of operation as new improved infrastructure will not require significant maintenance during this period." 0.027% of $5.25M is $14,175 per year. From that figure it appears as if Council is prepared to commit $430 per kilometre to maintain the iconic Batemans Bay Headland Walking Trail. Up until November 2nd 2020 the only thing the community knew of the 33km headland walking track was that Council had made provision for the trail in its four-year Delivery Plan was to "Progress the implementation of the Nature Based Tourism Feasibility Study"
That Nature Based Tourism Feasibility Study 2019 was prepared by consultants in May 2019, that recognised the Gondwana Feasibility Project of 2010, identified the Coastal Headland Trail as a "Category 3 Mid Term Leveraging Project" that was dependent on grant funding to allow the project to proceed. It is clear from the May 2019 Study (Only endorsed in December 2020) that there was still much to be done before any work on the Coastal Walk could begin such as: Undertake community consultation and assessments (e.g. impacts, risk, operational) to meet planning and development approval requirements Review and identify the site Review the budget and prioritise to ensure selected sites and visitor facilities will deliver expectations for quality nature-based tourism experiences The above requirements identified in the Nature Based Tourism Feasibility Study 2019,
that was adopted by Council in December 2020, a month after the announcement of the $5.3M are endorsed actions and MUST be undertaken. It is clear that the project is not "shovel ready" as was required by the "fast tracked" funding now the centre of attention in the latest pork barrelling rorts identified by Michael West Media. When asked "Has Council made provisions in budgets, management and delivery plans for any associated costs?" the Director Planning and Sustainability Services at Eurobodalla Council said of the budget for the 33km proposed Coastal Walk and Observation Point upgrade: "Recent funding approval for the design and construction of Observation Point Lookout allows this component of the overall project to be considered as market-ready." "Council reviews its budgets on an annual basis. Council will make the provision in its budgets for any changes required for the future maintenance based on the improvements that will be made. This arrangement will also take into consideration how Landcare groups will continue to be engaged in the maintenance of the area. Upgraded and new infrastructure will not require any significant maintenance in the first few years of operation." To speak with such clarity of the details of the project comes as a surprise for many in the community who are only now hearing of the Coastal Walk that was approved in December 2020. Until then it was a behind closed doors discussion with planning staff. Even Council's own Recreation and Open Space Strategy document stated it incorporated extensive community feedback gathered between 2016 and 2018. Council's own ROSS reports a key action that was required before moving ahead with the Trail project as: “Consult with relevant stakeholders to investigate key projects and investment needed for
outdoor recreation infrastructure within bushland reserves and foreshores. Key projects
include the Batemans Bay Coastal Headlands Walking Trail, Deep Creek Dam multi-discipline mountain bike park, Deua Valley wilderness trail, and an expansion of the existing kayaking routes” ROSS Key Action E12; pg 57 . (yet no community group or resident located along the route knew of any specific consultation and were surprised at the announcement of the funding and the "approval" of the project without any further community discussion).