Ku-ring-gai Council has commissioned a report on developing the tourism potential of the municipality. Ku-ring-gai Destination Management Plan 2017 to 2020 is open for submissions until Friday 12 May.
The report focuses on a plan:
… to redevelop the St Ives precinct to achieve a ‘wow factor’ to attract visitors, benefit residents and help grow the local visitor economy.
The aspirations presented in the report are:
- to develop the precinct as a distinctive destination for nature-based and Aboriginal cultural tourism experiences
- to establish the precinct as a unique trekking hub and gateway for adjoining national park trails and Hawkesbury River to Sydney Harbour linkages to achieve similar iconic status as the Three Capes Track in Tasmania
- to develop events infrastructure and supporting facilities to position the precinct as centre for international-standard performances similar to those staged at the Hope Estate in the Hunter Valley for music, cinema and performing arts
- to rebrand the precinct to reflect its competitive advantage and world-class potential (e.g. Centennial Parklands and Western Sydney Parklands)
- to commission a revised master plan to balance existing recreational and community activities with a new tourism focus under a trust governance model used elsewhere
- to achieve the precinct’s full potential as a seven day a week, four seasons integrated mixed-use destination for international and domestic visitors
The possible developments described are more prosaic. Many of the suggestions are for the upgrading of existing facilities but STEP would be concerned by proposals for:
… unique accommodation experiences that complement these experiences (e.g. a five-star eco-tourism lodge sited near the boundary of the national parks escarpment, hostel accommodation for education and recreation groups and flash-camping).
Details are needed on how this sort of development can be achieved without damaging the environmentally sensitive E2-zoned land including endangered the Duffys Forest Ecological Community. The map at the top of the page also seems to show some national park land as being within the precinct. STEP will be looking at these plans very closely.
The report does acknowledge the environmental constraints:
It should be recognised that the recommended strategy, focused on nature based and Aboriginal cultural tourism, has environmental protection and enhancement at its core. There are numerous examples around the world of sensitively designed accommodation and infrastructure within and adjacent to national parks and areas of high ecological value. It is proposed that all new development in the St Ives precinct will be sensitively designed, constructed and operated in accordance with best practice and there should be a net improvement to environmental performance on site such as increased biodiversity, improved drainage runoff, Aboriginal cultural interpretation and signage. It should also be appreciated that many parts of the St Ives precinct are in a degraded environmental condition.
Proposals to upgrade walking tracks within the precinct and links to Ku-ring-gai Chase and Garigal National Parks are welcome. Many of the existing tracks are degraded and unattractive because of weed infestations. Funding has always been a problem, both for council and National Parks and Wildlife Service. This highlights the perennial problem, where will the money come from? It seems that public private partnerships and commercial leases are the only hope.
National Parks Development
The report (p19) states that the NSW government is about to release a new master plan for national parks covering partnerships with nature-based tourism stakeholders. A draft new Plan of Management for Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is due to be released this year. It is going to be another busy year for preparing submissions.
Old Nursery Site
The plan for an indoor sports centre at the site of the nursery does not get a mention. Has that idea fizzled out? Instead there is mention of a native wildflower nursery funded by the private sector.
Road Links and Parking
The report highlights the need for traffic lights and a pedestrian crossing at the main entrance on Mona Vale Road. It also suggests that the exit at the Wildflower Garden be closed with internal roads being used to gain access via the main showground. There is a suggestion for overflow parking on the other side of Mona Vale Road. The effects of car parking on the Duffys Forest vegetation and soils has always been a problem and is currently controlled by the use of bollards and parking restrictions. If the number of visitors is to increase significantly the control of parking will be more important than ever.
In early 2015, Ku-ring-gai Council invited submissions on a draft plan of management for St Ives Showground and Precinct Lands. On 26 May 2015 the plan was adopted.
One area of concern to STEP was the Mini Wheels Training Club's use of a site containing an endangered Duffy's Forest ecological community. A consultant's report concluded that the club's use of the site could not be managed sustainably and was also damaging the coastal upland swamp down the slope below the site.
Council resolved not to renew their lease (due to expire in March 2016) and to prepare a report on biodiversity offset funding options to rehabilitate the site.