Safety prioritised and legal obligations addressed, in relation to Mountain Biking in our Shire’s natural areas.
Shaping the future of recreational trails in Wingecarribee Shire’s natural areas is something many community members are passionate about. At this week’s Ordinary Meeting of Council, actions taken to progress decisions about unauthorised mountain biking trails at Mount Gibraltar, were reported. Subsequently, a statement has today been issued by Council Administrator Mr Viv May, calling for decisive action in response to recent vandalism of the site.
“On June 28, Council sought legal advice regarding our obligations in relation to the unauthorised trails at the Gib,” Wingecarribee Shire Council (WSC) Manager Assets, Shaun Robinson said. “The advice is that we have a duty of care to warn and/or prevent access to the trails, commensurate with the risk present, which can only be formally assessed by a suitably qualified and experienced consultant.” Council engaged Iconic Trails to complete a risk audit and the results were received on July 7.
Written legal advice on July 14 notified Council of the requirement to install general risk signage and undertake actions arising from the Iconic Trails audit. Signage was promptly installed on July 18. Among findings of the audit, however, action was required to ensure the trails align with guidelines. “To comply, we would need to extend and modify two of the side trails which is not an option, so access to the trails must be closed until the outcome of a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) is known,” Shaun explains.
Further damage to the Mount Gibraltar site has complicated Council’s pragmatic approach and prompted Council Administrator Mr Viv May to issue a statement today, calling for stronger interventions.
“I visited the site again today with Council officers and what I saw was not recreation, it is vandalism!” Mr May said. “I am extremely disappointed to see that the good intentions of my decision made in good faith at the Council meeting of 12 June, to defer taking action to close the trails until legal advice was sought, has been taken advantage of.”
“Dedicated environmental employees are working hard to decommission a new run, cut into the southern side of Mount Gibraltar. They understandably expressed anger at the destruction of years of conservation efforts by volunteers who have so generously given their time for generations.” Mr May said. “Enough is enough! Several warnings have been issued to the offenders and stronger interventions are warranted – including fines and/or legal action against the parents or legal guardians of minors involved.”
The newly erected signage will, to a degree, limit Council liability should a tragedy occur, “But this is not good enough,” Mr May said. “My recommendations now are; 1. that the officer’s recommendation be adopted, subject to the Review of Environmental Factors being reported to the September Council meeting or an Extraordinary Meeting if available earlier. This report will provide a clear understanding of the current and potential environmental impact of the unauthorised trails at the Gib and inform next steps. 2. That Council endorse the actions of the General Manager in undertaking stronger interventions including fines and/or legal action where necessary.”
Models for the successful co-existence of mountain biking and natural environment, found in other locations across NSW, will be taken into consideration as an action plan is progressed, together with community stakeholders. “Ensuring safety and balancing access to enjoyment of Wingecarribee Shire’s spectacular natural landscapes with the high value our community places on conservation of our bushland reserves and heritage sites, are priorities,” Mr May said.
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For weekly updates on all that’s happening in our Shire, and opportunities to get involved, join Council’s Your Shire e-news wsc.nsw.gov.au/council/newsletters and follow us on socials.