On July 5th the MCC of NSW made a submission to NPWS for the changes involving the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area and it’s effect on trail riding. You can read our submission HERE.
This submission and assessment process will take about 12 months (July 2023).
NPWS’s response to our submission is below:
“Thank you for your recent submission on the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area Draft Plan of Management. When the exhibition period finishes on 5 July 2022, we consider all submissions and prepare a submissions report.
We provide the Blue Mountains Regional Advisory Committee with the draft plan, all the submissions and the submissions report. They consider the documents, make comments on the plan or suggest changes, and provide advice to the Minister for the Environment.
The Minister considers the plan, submissions and advice, makes any necessary changes and decides whether to adopt the plan under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Once the plan is adopted, we will publish it on our website at www.environment.nsw.gov.au/parkmanagement/ParkManagementPlan.htm. We will advise you when this happens.
It usually takes more than 12 months after exhibition to complete this process, depending on the complexity of the plan and the number of submissions.
Thank you for your interest in this park and participating in the plan of management process. “
It’s been a big week for us here at MCC of NSW. It started with a meeting of the Elders of Mingaan Wiradjuri Aboriginal Corporation to establish some background information relating to our trails. In a nutshell it doesn’t appear that there are any issues relating to where our trails go and any cultural heritage sites but it does need investigation and it’s something we will be pursuing as part of our process to ensure access for riders in the new State Conservation Area. Bear in mind that it may be that if any of our trails impinge on these areas we will have to move or close those trails. It is a sign of the respect that we want to show if we want to earn the same in response.
Next was the NPWS management team who have overriding authority over the Newnes plateau and Ben Bullen SF among other areas. The good news is that as long as you are licenced and riding a registered bike the status quo remains for the next 5 or 6 months. If your bike is unregistered and you are unlicenced our advice is to stay very far away. There will be compliance checks in operation and anyone caught will, hopefully, just be warned initially to get the word out but it is possible they could be fined.
As it stands there is no facility within the current NPWS stucture that permits motorised bikes (that means us) to access single track trails as we know them. The 4×4’s will have dedicated trails and we are welcome to ride those (watch out for the bullbars!) but single track is off limits. We have stated that will not work for us.
There is a draft proposal for MTB single track trails but they are mapped and monitored and have a management plan. The facts are unless we can provide a similar plan that meets all the criteria required by NPWS there will be no further access to single track in NPWS controlled forests. If, and it is a BIG “IF” we can develop a plan (yes we are working flat out on it now) and be able to present it to NPWS as a part of their overall management plan, AND they approve it then yes, we might be able to continue to ride. BUT, once this next 5 or 6 months pass we will no longer have free reign over our trails. Access to the forests will be controlled and we will be limited to approved trails.
Part of this process is for us to provide a map of our trails to NPWS who will then assess them for manageability (this will be done with our input so it is not totally one-sided) and that covers environmental impacts, maintenance, location, sustainability, etc. As part of our contribution we will need to provide a methodology of how we can be a part of that ongoing trail management – this is where you put your hands up! We have been quite forceful about the need for them to compromise but they are limited to the current conditions of operation within the beauracracy – it is our job to change that.
The future…. Whatever we achieve, or fail to achieve here, will effect all future areas that NPWS has under its authority.
Hello friends and supporters. We have an update on the status of access to Newnes – it is certainly not resolved as yet so riding can continue until we know better, but that may not be the case in the future so if you see anything happening up there with regard to closure signage, fencing, new gates, etc please let us know asap!
Here’s what we have done so far and what is coming up next…
This week we meet with Local Land Services with whom we have an excellent working relationship, the aim to collect some background information on the situation behind the decision to move the plateau into the Gardens of Stone National Park and a new State Conservation Area. We have also gathered supplementary information relating to how the other invested parties operate on the plateau and other NPWS documentation that we feel can support our case to continue riding single track. We will be meeting the NPWS representative in the coming week to gain a better insight into what might or might not be the potential for us. We are also endeavouring to open dialog with the Aboriginal custodians of the land to better understand their position with regard to single track and the effect or otherwise on potential heritage sites.
At this time the Bill to pass the most of the plateau into the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area has gone through but there is a lot of consultation to be had before any work is to commence – we are aiming to be part of that consultation process. Be aware that this process will take considerable time, possibly years, even so we will keep you up to date.
From here we will be working to clarify the reality of single track existence (which we know is much less damaging than the perception) and reassuring that the MCC of NSW is advocating the continued access for registered, licenced and insured riding. We do not have solutions yet but have certainly taken all your suggestions on board and eventually we will be able to formulate a response once we have a better understanding of the actual situation.
Must be something to what we are doing because the Daily Telegraph published my letter to the editor (see below).
So let’s take advantage of it and lend some physical support….
Get your pens out or start typing and write a reply to it. If you can add your support via a follow up post in the Daily Tele we might get some recognition from a journo willing to take on our cause. Write/email your local politician and state your case. Make it clear, concise and logical. Add in how riding is a benefit to your health and well-being and that it’s a great way to get kids off the damned PC and out of the house! You know what to write, just don’t be a knob. We need to show that we are legal, smart, eco-aware and NOT eco terrorists!
Do it! (PS, thanks guys! We definitely ARE in this together!)
Published in Letters to the Editor, Daily Telegraph 20/11/21
How much will be taken?
For more than 40 years the Newnes Plateau has been covered in pine plantations which have been harvested and left to rot just as the hardwood forest has also been logged and left barren to recover by itself (‘$50m plan for new ecotourism adventure park near the Blue Mountains’, Saturday Telegraph, 12/11). It is not the “natural” environment the green movement would lead you to believe.
All during this time it has been a haven for 4x4s and trail bikes using the existing and disused fire trails and for campers as every other forest location has been taken over by city-based green influence. Yes there are some spectacular sites on the edges of the plateau but no one would know about them if it wasn’t for the 4WDs and bikes but now the entire plateau is being assimilated into the great green national park conglomerate. How much more is going to be taken? Can’t just a bit of the plateau be left for us recreational vehicle users? We don’t all like touristy garbage and ride mountain bikes. Nup. Nothing for us even though we pay our rego, insurance and licences. If you don’t think there are many voters driving 4x4s and riding dirt bikes, think again.
The recent announcement by the State Government in conjunction with the Colong Foundation has highlighted that we, as the trail riding fraternity have a major problem. And that is that we have no say in our fate. As it is, if the government continues to be persuaded by enviro groups that all trail riding is dangerous, enviro-terrorism and just plain nasty, there will be no more public localities to ride our bikes. We will only have access to private property, and even that is at risk.
So what is the risk here…. well, if we can’t ride we don’t buy bikes. No bikes mean no sales for the dealers, no spare parts needed, no income. And the government is going to lose out big time too – and I can bet they haven’t thought that through… no rego, no insurance, no CTP. Not much? Well when you multiply the average rego/CTP cost (not including 3rd Party or Comprehensive insurance) then for every 10,000 bikes the annual loss of income is near $4.5M.
So can we do anything? Yes. But it may not work. We are already working towards discussions with the stakeholders about the possibility of keeping part of Newnes Plateau open, after all it’s not as if it is a pristine environment. It’s been logged for hardware for more than 100 years; there a hundreds of hectares of now denuded pine plantations; the mines are longwall mining the entire plateau and now sandmining is huge with big open cuts mines in operation. And they are concerned about a few km of single track???!!! We’ve been working with both Forestry Corp and the Centaltablelands Local Land Service up there to protect the peat swamps and they even constructed a rock bridge behind the Clarence MX track specifically for us to transit the Happy Valley swamp. And when Forestry Crop ran a Clean Up Australia Day event at Bungleboori last year who was there to work? We were! Not one 4WD club in sight, and worse NOT A SINGLE COLONG FOUNDATION NOR LANDCARE GROUP!!! Now there is hypocrisy in action!
Where to from here….
The MCC of NSW will be working to keep access to the plateau but we know we are up against it. But you never know unless you try.
We need to organise for the future. We CAN NOT afford to continue to be a disparate bunch of enthusiasts who “just want to ride”. That’s not enough. We need to get off our collect ar*ses and join together with ONE voice and ONE plan! If you are ready to get your hands dirty and be a part of the future of trail riding, let me know. I am coordinating the collective so email ME direct.
Centraltablelands Local Land Services have done some more work around the rock bridge behind Clarance MX track. While it has been excellent for us riders they did notice a substantial amount of sediment finding it’s way down from the eastern approaches. The powerline company came to the party and did some grading to clean up the area and realign the top section of the hill to stop any more sediment from washing down. This is great for the swamp and keeps our access working well. In fact the riders access has done no damage at all which is a great result!
The Happy Valley bridge is complete and ready for use!
From the Centraltablelands Local Land Service office:
“Happy Valley Swamp has suffered for many years as a result of 4WD and trail bikes driving and riding along the powerline track and trying to cross the swamp, creating a lot of damage. Over time this damage has widened as trail bikes (4WD access was blocked by a gate) have had to ride around standing water through the more accessible parts of the swamp. There is a long history of trying to manage vehicle access to the site and we have finally managed to implement what we are hoping is the final piece of work to enable trail bikes to safely cross the swamp and not damage it.
We are hoping over time that as trail bike access is restricted to a single crossing that the damaged sections of swamp can regenerate. Over the coming years we will be working to keep regenerating sections of swamp where access has been restricted. We are hoping to work closely with trail bike groups like Pensioners Express to restore the swamp. The reasoning behind the bridge was to stop the degradation and facilitate regeneration. This is the most important message.
This project is supported by central tablelands local land service and forestry corporation with funding from the Australian government.”
From our perspective as riders, it’s great that a solution was achieved that had the side-benefit of providing trail riders with a way across the swamp. We know it was never done specifically for us, but we’ll take it! 🙂
Centraltablelands Local Land Services have a project to provide a level crossing for trail bikes through a section of the Happy Valley swamp behind Clarence MX track.
Huw Evans, the Senior Land Services Officer based in Lithgow has been asking around for assistance from local trail riders about the design of the bridge. Glenn Alderton, the Admin of the Pensioner Express trail riding Facebook group offered the services of the group in an advisory role to help Huw get the planned structure correct. An onsite meeting was held in late May 2020 and a plan going forward was decided on with consideration to the riders needs and the swamps protection. It will be a rock path of approximately 1 metre width with bordering fences. This will ensure a long-term pathway for bikes and a better future for the swamp.
Over the years the swamp has been heavily damaged by both 4×4’s and bikes and 4×4’s were excluded several years ago from access to the area. Bikes continued to transition albeit reluctantly due to the amount of water and mud.
This new bridge sees the initial stages of a long-term association with riders and government authorities seeking to develop solutions that satisfy all users of the forest.