In a landmark move that’s divided opinion, the NSW State Government has announced the incorporation of 30,000 hectares of Crown land and state forest into conservation lands. The area on the western side of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales will receive protection from expanding coal mines in the area as well as a $50,000,000 injection turning the region into an eco-tourism destination. The planned park projects 200,000 visitors annually from domestic and international tourism as well as the creation of 190 local jobs.
The funds are ear marked for a variety of tourist attractions including Australia’s longest zipline, rock climbing routes, and elevated walks through the canyons. NSW state Premier Dominic Perrottet says, ‘This new set of reserves will improve access to this spectacular region, attracting domestic and international tourists.” The plans also include a six-day overland hike from Wollemi to the Gardens of Stone, something the NSW state government are heralding as “one of the world’s great long-distance walks.”
While conservation groups are rightfully elated that the region’s unique landscape will be protected for future generations, 4×4 groups across the state are less excited. The region’s close proximity to Sydney has seen it become a popular destination for 4x4ers, dirt bike riders, and campers looking for a weekend escape into the wilderness, often met with track closures, locked gates, and defect station’s targeting tourists in the area with minor infractions. The state government have included plans for outdoor activities like a 30km mountain bike track and a “4WD circuit” which are fantastic to see but sceptics have concern it’ll be little more than a graded fire trail, removing the challenging 4×4 tracks the region is known for in the process. As eco-tourism becomes more of a buzz word in the halls of government we’d love to see 4×4 and outdoor recreation groups more involved in the planned use and management of areas designated for public use.