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Thankyou for the opportunity to formally comment on the Draft Illawarra Escarpment Strategic Management Plan, (herein after referred to as Draft IESMP), at this late stage.
I am writing on behalf of the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre and in the capacity as Coordinator of The Great Kai'mia Way Project.
Sutherland Shire Environment Centre (SSEC) was set up in 1991, by concerned residents. The Centre's aim is to work in partnership with communities and governments at all levels towards a sustainable environment in the Sutherland Shire and its bioregion. The Centre has been involved with campaigns in the northern escarpment area around Helensburgh and Stanwell Tops to prevent development of areas of high conservation value and riparian zones. Although technically just outside the Draft IESMP, the Centre has been instrumental in helping to protect and conserve the Hacking River Catchment. The Centre's website has a comprehensive database on Hacking River Environmental Issues - "The Protectorate".
The Great Kai'mia Way (GKW) is a visionary community initiative to create a sustainable network of routes for informal recreation (walking, cycling, canoeing) and environmental education across the bioregion, part of which includes the very northern tip of the Draft IESMP between Stanwell Tops and Flat Rock Junction/Maddens Plains area.
1 Scope of the Draft IESMP
SSEC strongly supports the objectives of the Plan. We wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the Council team for responding appropriately to the 1999 Commission of Inquiry with a "holistic" planning tool, which looks at the long-term bigger picture, for sustainable management of a this mega-biodiverse and special area.
2 The next step*
SSEC supports the idea of an Illawarra Escarpment Authority representative of all stakeholders, underpinned by far reaching legislation to: a) oversee the completion of the Plan - the detailed mapping and studies of different areas and issues, and b) to manage a mixed tenure (private and publicly owned) Illawarra Escarpment Park. This would provide for landholders who wanted to stay and for conservation management to ensure that the environmental values would be protected for everyone to enjoy. We strongly urge politicians at Federal, State and Local Levels to work together to secure funds to complete the process.
* SSEC concurs/agrees with all the points raised in the submission lodged by June Pronk of the Illawarra Escarpment Coalition.
3 Relevance of the Great Kai'mia Way (GKW) to Draft IESMP
NB This point relates to GKW routes in the northern escarpment area, as illustrated in Great Kai'mia Way Feasibility Study Final Report which Council should have already received (pages 82 & 83, GUR8 - Illawarra Escarpment). Alternatively visit the website- www.kaimiaway.org.au and click on feasibility study followed by chapter 3, followed by Georges Upper Reaches, followed by GUR8 - Illawarra Escarpment.
The Great Kai'mia Way Project has the potential to strengthen community support for an Illawarra Escarpment Park not just by improving recreational and ecotourism opportunities but by identifying key corridors of sustainable movement which should be protected from development, by providing a focus for local partnerships between community and government at all levels to carry out landcare/conservation projects, and by promoting respect for natural and cultural values of the northern escarpment area.
SSEC requests that the Draft IESMP be revised to include mention of the Great Kai'mia Way Project by name and its potential benefits. It is vital for the long term success of the project that it is integrated into the planning instruments of land managers whose jurisdiction is traversed by the Way.
Sample of the Opportunities Created by GKW
The GKW route connects Dharawal State Conservation Area to Garrawarra State Conservation Area with regional links north to Heathcote National Park and the Woronora Valley via Helensburgh (see W4-A13 Helensburgh Link on pages 140 and 141 of GKW Report) and Cawleys Road; East to Royal National Park via The Burgh Track; and South to the Core Escarpment along Wodi Wodi Track. Currently the Wodi Wodi is a linear route. The GKW would add value by creating a loop walk with high conservation and scenic values.
Long term there is the potential to join up with the coastline cycleway.
Education and Physical Wellbeing
Environmental Education focused on the GKW route will help to enhance understanding and appreciation of the natural environment, its ecological processes and systems and its significance for Aboriginal people. The GKW team has already been successful in developing a pilot program with local school in the Menai area of Sutherland Shire, where students regularly walk sections of the GKW as part of physical activity curriculum. As well as health benefits the students have discovered native flora and fauna and Aboriginal sites.
The way is an "active transport" route for connecting eco-tourism facilities. It can be included as one of the highlights of a tourism or local visitor package. Potential to contribute to creation of employment opportunities in tourism and land management fields and increased patronage of local businesses
By helping people to experience natural areas and the diverse ecological communities of the escarpment, the GKW contributes positively to protection of biodiversity, intergenerational equity and environmental advocacy; encouraging the conservation of local wildlife habitats - increased numbers of landcare/bushcare/streamwatch volunteers
GKW Project connects brings together the community and government, including potential for joint partnerships between: Wollongong and Sutherland Councils and Wollongong and Wollondilly Councils; indigenous and non-indigenous groups, private land holders such as the Conference Centre and Illawarra Coke Company and Landcare and Bushwalking Groups such as the NPA.
Opportunity to design walkway sensitive to ecological communities based on existing tracks around Christian Conference Centre at Stanwell Tops - along outer rather than through it - another reason to protect it from development. SSEC strongly encourages Council to pursue acquisition of the upland swamps so that the land can be managed appropriately to take account of ecological, heritage and recreational values. SSEC requests that any POM for the swamplands includes provision for GKW bushwalking network.
Illawarra Coke Company Holdings west of the Conference Centre.
Infrastructure already exists in terms of roads and fire trails for walking and cycling and potential interpretation of mining history artefacts etc. GKW route offers opportunity to better value sites such as the Stanwell Creek lookout. Also presents a Way of accessing earth repair projects in the riparian zones, to increase native vegetation cover and reduce weed infestations.
SSEC would welcome the opportunity to contribute further to the IESMP Process and to increase ties between the Centre and Wollongong Council, particularly in regards to The Great Kai'mia Way Project.