Central Coast Council has invited the community to provide feedback on the design of the Winney Bay Clifftop Walk, that will lead from Captain Cook Lookout to Winney Bay Reserve.
The draft concept plans for the $4.6m State Government funded project were originally exhibited by the former Gosford Council in 2011, and incorporate a three metre wide clifftop pathway, bridge and whale watching platform.
Mayor Jane Smith said Council had listened to concerns and agreed to re-exhibit the plans to ensure the community could have a say in the final design of the “iconic” walkway.
The Save Winney Bay community group, encouraged by spokesperson and Copacabana resident of 35-plus years, Heather Graham, has called for the work to be stopped and urged community members to provide feedback to Council by giving the proposed clifftop development a “low” rating.
“In April, I attended a public meeting at Copacabana to discuss current and future plans for the walkway and it was clear that the community wanted more of a say with regards to this project,” Mayor Smith said.
“Protecting and enhancing our natural environment is a key priority for Council as well as creating recreational and tourism opportunities.
“I can assure residents that Council is already acting on these priorities, including commencing an environmental assessment for the project and developing a weed management and bush regeneration plan for the whole of the Winney Bay Reserve.
“We also want to ensure that the project acknowledges the original inhabitants of the land in an appropriate manner by considering elements such as interpretive signage and the use of culturally significant endemic species.”
On June 23, at the annual 5 Lands Walk, the NSW Government announced a $4.6m grant to construct the Winney Bay Cliff Top Walk, between Captain Cook Lookout and the stairway constructed earlier this year.
The draft concept plans for stage two include a bridge across the coastal ravine that references the annual whale migration, a lookout that faces the rising sun on the first day after the Winter Solstice, and multi-use spaces along the Cliff Top Walk for local events, exhibitions and weddings.
In August, Council completed the first stage of the upgrade, which included a 510 metre set of stairs and pathway linking with the existing fire trail at the north western end of the reserve.
The project was enabled with the help of an $875,000 grant contribution through the Federal Government’s Improving Your Local Parks and Environment Program.
Heather Graham said she stumbled across the beginning of work on the staircase in January.
“I then saw the synopsis from Regional Development Australia, did a bit more research, inquired among other long-term locals and they had never heard of it,” she said.
According to Graham, an information night held at the surf club in April included a Council presentation about the path and stairs completed in August.
“But they neglected to provide information about the Stage 2 cliff top development and it would have been a great forum to present that information to the community,” she said.
By April 12, Stage 2 was already in play, but all they did was focus on the Bitou Bush, the weeds and the rationale for developing the road and the stair case.
“What they are planning for the top is a service road, which will run parallel to the concrete path, presumably to service the market stalls and the whale watching platform.
“The plans include a huge modern architectural bridge over a chasm that has been deemed unstable by Council.
“There are signs at the bottom and top of the cliff advising it is unstable, and local fishers have seen huge rocks fall when they have been there.
“We oppose the construction of the service road and excessive use of concrete and steel.
“We have concerns about the environmental impact of the construction, which may impact on the habitat of several endangered species, and the lack of meaningful consultation with locals, many of whom have not been aware of the 5 Lands Coastal Walk Master Plan.
“The type of construction planned is not appropriate for a bushland reserve setting and we are concerned about the capacity of Copacabana to sustain a large influx of tourists as anticipated by Regional Development Australia Central Coast.
“We recommend a natural bush trail, the removal of weeds and rejuvenation of the bush that has already been damaged.
Save Winney Bay provided information about plans from 2015 when Council had its drop in sessions at Copacabana Surf Club on October 4.
“Council officers provided information on a one to one basis and they had plans on the wall of the surf club for the proposed bridge and platform, but lots of the plans were missing.
“Save Winney Bay exhibited in the foyer as people were coming up and we felt people were very interested.
“We handed out a leaflet and provided advice on questions to ask Council staff.
“One question was whether the Copacabana Aboriginal community had been consulted, and we had a letter from a member of the local community. John Oates, protesting strongly against Stage 2.”
Oates’ statement said: “There is no recognition for the true cultural significance of Bulbararing Headland, the biggest and most powerful headland in this part of the world, a headland that connects everyone to the powerful relationships of Mother Earth, the moon, sun, stars and ocean, not just the whales, and not just for one day a year.
“There are already two lookouts on the headland, why not improve wheel chair and disabled access around these vantage points?” he said
Graham said Member for Terrigal, Adam Crouch, had not responded to her request for a meeting to discuss Stage 2, for several months.
“Council never exhibited the plans prior, this is the first time they have been made available to the community outside the Five Lands Walk Inc.
“The current panorama from Winney Bay lookout and Captain Cook lookout is going to be completely obliterated once they build the ramp and the pathway and the service road.
“Winney Bay has so far attracted $10m in funding over the past eight years.
“We have received no information about frequency of use of the market stalls, the community does not know whether Council intends to lease them out or just make them available to sell whale paraphernalia when the tour buses roll in to Copacabana.
“They keep calling it a path, but it is for vehicle access, and according to the 2012 Coastal Walkway masterplan, the whole of Winney Bay was designated a bush track, it was never intended to be concreted.
“Someone has made a decision at some stage to go ahead with a full-on development.”
Interview, Oct 8
Heather Graham, Save Winney Bay
Media release, Sep 28
Central Coast Council media
Jackie Pearson, journalist