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May 31, 2022

Gardens of Stone – wonderland, or theme park?

The National Parks and Wildlife Service without environmental assessment, site selection process or public review has proposed an adventure theme park at the base of Lithgow’s best natural asset, the awe-inspiring Lost City pagoda. The facilities include zip-lines and landing platforms, an activity hub building, via ferrata ladders, a flying fox, rope swings, and high ropes that will all detract from the view.

Subsequent environmental and cultural impact assessments, and public consultation won’t help once these proposals are enshrined in the reserve plan of management. Further, these commercial adventure tourism proposals are located below the prime lookout proposed for the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area, so that the majority who come to quietly enjoy the view will have their enjoyment spoiled.

These proposals represent the worst tourism theme park proposed in a NPWS reserve ever, but it doesn’t have to be this way as alternatives that deliver better outcomes are possible. The iconic Lost City lookout needs to follow the example of Echo Point, Katoomba, where the Skyway and Scenic railway are tucked around the corner out of sight.

The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area should become one of the best reserves in NSW. With your help the diversity and rarity of its scenery and native flora, and its Aboriginal cultural heritage should be enjoyed by thousands. With your help we can ensure that these values are not desecrated.

Significant funding is available to enable world-class, nature-focused presentation of an astounding array of values and to restoration of its internationally significant pagoda landscapes. Help make Lithgow the gateway to the Gardens of Stone without visual blight and an access free-for-all. Tourism needn’t cut the eyes out of the scenery with a muddle of disconnected and counterproductive proposals. Help improve the current management proposals.

Use your own words and the following points to write a short submission. If you have time, please use the attached detailed submission guides for the draft Plan of Management and draft Master Plan. The reserve management plans are on exhibition until July 5th.

For more information go to www.gardensofstone.org.au

Take Action using the webform guide 

Email your submission to the NPWS at: [email protected] 

Mail your submission to: 

Manager
NPWS Planning and Assessment
Locked Bag 5022
Parramatta NSW 2124

Put the following points into your own words:

Do say that you’re delighted that the NSW Government has protected the Gardens of Stone but that now it’s time to fix reserve management.

Support:

  • A revised, re-published and re-exhibited draft Plan of Management that defines the location and extent of proposed visitor facilities and access, with criteria set out that ensure this work is done in a sustainable manner
  • Nature-focused basic facilities like campgrounds, walking tracks, carparks and lookouts built on already disturbed land and serviced by good 2WD roads that everyone can use
  • The traditional Owners’ wishes to care for and share Country and Aboriginal culture
  • Pine forest restoration with endemic native species
  • Environmental rehabilitation of heritage values as key part of reserve management
  • An emphasis on 2WD park roads accessible to all, with minor provision of 4WD trails where they can be managed sustainably and at low cost as defined on the plan’s map
  • Prohibition of vehicle use off roads, including motorised trail bike riding on single track
  • Multi-day walking tracks with overnight camps set out to help inexperienced walkers improve their bush skills
  • Relocation of the adventure tourism activity hub to State Mine gully to protect the iconic Lost City from visual blight and encourage visitation to the State Mine and Railway Museum.

Oppose:

  • A vague framework of strategic intentions and details across two documents that amount to a 'plan for a plan'
  • The absence of environmental restoration actions, despite the significant biodiversity offset funds available for this work
  • Carbon storage 'investment' that goes beyond restoring natural woodlands to create ‘tree farms’ and that requires changes to the National Parks and Wildlife Act
  • Tourism growth as a reserve management objective, as management that restores, protects and presents the reserve’s outstanding heritage values will deliver better outcomes
  • Processes that permit additional approved access routes for vehicles, horse and bike riders through private consultations with the groups who want it, instead of defining access on the plan of management map through broad consultation
  • The proposed ziplines and via ferrata facilities that blight views of the iconic Lost City and the development of four accommodation hubs requiring vehicle access

By Keith Muir

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Australian Foundation for Wilderness Limited
ACN 001 112 143
ABN 84 001 112 143
Advocating as 'Wilderness Australia'
Formerly The Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd
Registered Office 10/154 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000
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