Plans for redevelopment of the Light to Light Walk in Ben Boyd National Park, near Eden on the Far South Coast, seem to be forging ahead, despite the fact required environmental, Aboriginal cultural and heritage approvals have not yet been received.
David Gallan, president of the Far South Coast branch of National Parks Association (FSCNPA) said the proposal was about "providing park experiences to a small group of high return visitors" and was not inclusive.
"It's not addressing a substantial need or deficiency in the park, as the targeted clientele appears to be the wealthy elite at the expense of everyday people who have enjoyed the park for decades," Mr Gallan said.
"The development is a solution in search of a problem and is grant driven. In our view, it gets the balance wrong, sacrificing environmental protection for a handful of visitors and at the expense of a well established existing visitor base."
A tender for the construction of hut accommodation at Mowarry Point and Hegarty's Bay was released by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) at the beginning of this month.
The project scope for both locations includes communal huts, hiker and staff accommodation, connecting raised footpaths, landscaping and basic services, with the entire development slated to be completed during 2022.
"Our members feel the release of the tender makes a mockery of the consultation process," Mr Gallan said.
Members of FSCNPA felt the release of the tender was indicative how much attention was given to the public, with a strong sense submissions were simply ignored, not just in the case of this development, but also many similar proposed within national parks across the country.
"We have very deep concerns about the trend to open up Australia's national parks to commercialised activities and new accommodation buildings," Mr Gallan said.
"In an age where wild areas are becoming a rarer and more valued commodity, NPWS management want to compromise the values and natural beauty of our parks.
"We were told that steep sections were being replaced due to erosion and maintenance costs, however on the ground inspection showed that the track wasn't steep, that there was no discernible erosion problem.
"The track re-routing has more to do with maximising ocean views.
"In a few parts this is acceptable, however the fauna survey also indicated at one of these 'steep' re-route sites that the new route would pass through valuable habitat," Mr Gallan said.
According to NPWS, most of the building work would be completed offsite with modules flown into position, and the contract for the construction of accommodation would not be awarded until the required approvals were received in early 2022.
The Ben Boyd Light to Light Walk Community Action Group (BBLLAG) fear the proposal was getting to a critical stage with the tender released for construction, which the group saw as imminent.
A BBLLAG spokesperson said despite having made extensive individual submissions in the short time available, many members felt unheard.
"The vast majority of people we have spoken to in the community, including commercial tour operators, fishers, hikers, and conservationists, do not want this development," the spokesperson said.
"It will clearly have an enormous impact on sensitive environment devastated by recent bushfires and ongoing logging on its western boundary."
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According to the BBLLAG spokesperson, under the original draft strategy, walk-in and bush camping across Ben Boyd National Park was to be banned, including at Mowarry Point and Hegarty's Bay, where the public can currently camp for free along with many other places across the park.
The spokesperson said due to outrage from the community, the revised strategy allowed for the construction of a walk-in campground at Mowarry Point only.
"There are now fears that even the campground at Mowarry Point has been removed from the revised plans as it is not mentioned in the recent tender," the spokesperson said.
"Clearly it's questionable to release the tender when approvals haven't been given.
"The consultation process was woefully inadequate. The vast majority of people are completely unaware of this project and its potential environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts to the region."
Mick Ripon of Green Cape Fishing Alliance (GCFA) agreed the situation was becoming more desperate.
"The tender closes two days before Christmas - this is grubby and disrespectful behaviour towards the community, many of whom spent weeks trawling through mountain loads of paperwork to submit responses," Mr Ripon said.
The $7.9million state government plan was funded under the NSW Government's Regional Growth - Environment and Tourism Fund.
"The public are being deceived here, it's sleazy and undemocratic," Mr Ripon said.
"The park will end up going to the highest bidder and it will kill the Cape. They really need to hold back and do some proper assessments."
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