The controversial $7.9million development plan for the Light to Light Walk in Ben Boyd National Park is a contentious election issue for many Far South Coast residents and stakeholders.
The Ben Boyd - Light to Light Walk - Community Action Group (BBLLAG) and the Green Cape Fishing Alliance (GCFA) are both calling for more consultation, a release of park use costs after the development, and a delay of the project.
The commencement date for a separate project to upgrade the visitor infrastructure at Boyds Tower began on February 8, however a formal start date for the Light to Light project has not yet been released.
With the Bega by-election scheduled for Saturday February 12, candidates were canvassed on the development. Six responses were received, with all agreeing to meet and discuss with the community.
Greens candidate Peter Haggar said his party was opposed to National Park privatisation and it was a party priority to stop, "inappropriate developments planned for the Light to Light Walk", regardless of whether or not he was elected.
"No decision should be taken without proper community consultation particularly when it involves such an important part of our place.
"The idea that our 'Light to Light' could be effectively privatised, making it more difficult for locals to access should be abhorrent to all local residents.
"This is a clear case of putting profit before people- something this government just keeps doing over and over again," he said.
Liberal candidate Dr Fiona Kotvojs said as a strong supporter of our parks and passionate bushwalker she was concerned the community had not felt heard.
"I intend to meet with the local community to hear their concerns directly.
"If elected, I will be able to organise a meeting with the NPWS and the Minister to ensure that the community is given a proper opportunity to put their views forward.
"I believe that our NPs are our heritage, and I will fight hard to protect them for future generations," she said.
Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate Victor Hazir said his party had called out this "poor consultation process when it first began", in the Upper House.
"NSWNP have a history of tokenistic consultation presenting plans of management to community, then flatly rejecting any feedback.
"Public land is supposed to be open and free to access for all, I do not support the public being locked out or discouraged from accessing public land.
"My colleagues in the Upper House have the ability to interrogate the minister and department through budget estimates and if need be, pass an SO52 parliamentary call for documents to forcibly release information."
Candidate for the Sustainable Australia Party Karin Geiselhart said the development should be halted until community concerns, adequate binding requirements for transparency, and sufficient timing for the gathering of responses has been achieved.
"Australia should retain, and where appropriate regain, public ownership of Australia's key public assets, to serve the broader public and national interests.
"Any development of accommodation should be designed to be affordable for all. This should be enshrined in any contracts.
"We need a transparent, democratic and environmentally sustainable planning system. I would fight for proper community consultation, including citizen juries on key issues such as this," she said.
Independent candidate Ursula Bennett said community consultation and sufficient response time was essential and that, "the community consensus should be binding on the outcome within the parenthesis of common law."
"The government's role is to collect taxes to operate certain infrastructure that are open to and used by all.
"If public assets are being sold, it should be not be sold to any foreign entity, and sold in such a way that citizens have the opportunity of buying shares, similar what happened to the sale of Telstra 30 years ago," she said.
Labor candidate Dr Michael Holland said National Parks are one of our most precious public assets and are both important conservation areas and drivers of our local economy.
"Over the last ten years National Parks have had over $120mil cut from their budget, that means that they are forced to commercialise many of their activities to try to plug the funding gap," he said.
"The Light to Light Walk needs to be urgently reviewed and there needs to be genuine community consultation.
"If elected I will meet with local groups as soon as possible and bring them together with National Parks staff to work through the issues."
"The current proposal is unacceptable," he said.
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