Despite protracted and sometimes heated debate at its meeting on January 29, Central Coast Council voted to stand by its decision of December, 2018, to scale back the design of the Winney Bay Clifftop Walk.
A rescission motion aiming to reverse the December decision and revert to the original design was lost in an 8-6 vote, but the question of the day is, does that mean that the $4.6m in State Government funding which was promised for the project is lost forever?
Member for Terrigal, Adam Crouch, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the Council’s decision, said Infrastructure NSW had advised him that the proposed changes would make the project too different to the original, and that Council could either “continue with the original approved project, or decline the funding”.
He slammed Council’s “poor decision-making which has seen our region’s largest ever tourism infrastructure grant get trashed”, and has indicated he would not support a new funding application from Council for a scaled down design.
But Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith, said that although she had had similar advice from INSW, she understood Council was still able to submit a new proposal for funding consideration.
“Council staff will be preparing a detailed proposal,” Smith said.
“Our final proposal still meets the needs of the community.
“It is accessible and it honours the Aboriginal community.”
Despite assertions from Crouch that Council had now burnt bridges with Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council, Regional Development Australia Central Coast, the 5 Lands Walk Committee, and the community, Smith said the issue had received mixed responses.
“On Tuesday night, we were addressed by two members of the Aboriginal community who favoured the scaling back of the proposal, and one representative from the Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council whose main concern was the relocation of the whale-themed lookout,” she said.
“I think we can still come up with a design which will address their concerns.”
Council staff will now work on a revised design with the path width reduced to 2 metres, without the bridge and market stall spaces, and with a relocation of the lookout.
Smith said the project had a long history, dating back to well before the merger of Gosford and Wyong Councils.
The 5 Lands Coastal Walkway Masterplan was prepared in 2011 to identify a permanent walking trail connecting the coastal communities of Macmasters Beach, Copacabana, Avoca Beach, North Avoca and Terrigal.
It identified various options for the route, including at Copacabana and Winner Bay, and was adopted by the former Gosford Council in 2012.
Smith said various changes had been made to the Masterplan over the years, and when the new Central Coast councillors were elected in 2017, they decided to revisit the walkway issue.
“In the past 12 months we have had a community meeting, various consultations, on-site inspections and a meeting with stakeholders,” she said.
“There is no doubt that most people want a walkway, but there is a diversity of views on the detail.
“I believe we have come up with a good compromise solution that still delivers an upgraded and accessible walk, a fantastic lookout, is more compatible with the local environment, and better protects Coastal Open Space System (COSS) lands.
Smith said it was disappointing that Crouch had “politicised” the issue and continued to argue against the revised project, which she said met the objectives of the approved grant, addressed community concerns, and delivered a permanent coastal pathway to support the 5 Lands Walk.
“Mr Crouch should be working with Council to secure this funding for the community.
“That is what the community expects and deserves from their local member,” she said.
“Council will continue to make decisions in the best interests of its community, our tourism and business partners, and the natural environment that we all love about the Coast.”
Media release, Jan 25
Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith
Media releases, Jan 24 and Jan 29
Adam Crouch, Member for Terrigal
Media statement, Jan 30
Central Coast Council
Interview, Jan 30
Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith
Reporter: Terry Collins