In 2021, the New South Wales government released its 40-year plan to turn the Snowy Mountains into a ‘year-round tourist destination’. There were two aspects to these plans – a draft Special Activation Precinct plan, which outlined options for future growth in and around Jindabyne, and proposed amendments to the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management (background available here).
The Park Plan proposed substantial new developments within the Kosciuszko National Park. Environmental groups expressed strong opposition to many of the plans outlined in the document. The NSW National Parks Association described the plan as ‘reckless proposals (which would) overturn more than 40 years of careful planning and management of the park.”
Now, the final Kosciuszko National Park Amendment to the Plan of Management Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct has been released (available here).
The plan clarifies and updates decision making and roles for management and planning within the park, and focuses on the fact that the park is becoming more of an ‘all year’ tourism destination. This amendment updates the plan of management’s framework for undertaking activities and development in the resorts.
It appears to be an attempt at a compromise document, seeking to balance demands for more development in the park with community opposition to further intensification of tourism.
As expected, it will facilitate further commercial development within the park, although there are some good amendments compared with the original proposal.
This is a very quick initial look at the documents and will be updated as time allows.
Further development in the park and resorts
The plan will aim to prevent further ‘ribbon development’ along the major road corridors in the park.
The section on Charlotte Pass clarifies that the lease ‘confers certain specified development rights and obligations on the lessee, including the upgrade and expansion of snow making and lifting facilities and refurbishment of the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel’. At Perisher, the Master Plan identifies ‘appropriate year-round village development, infill and commercial accommodation opportunities’.
As the document Kosciuszko National Park Summary of Representations notes (available here) the ‘narrative’ around increasing the number of beds in the park was high on the public agenda.
In terms of an increase in the number of beds in the park, the plan says there will be a ‘limit (on) any growth in visitor accommodation to the maximum bed numbers specified below:
• Camp Hudson – 32 beds
• Cotterills Cottage – 9 beds
• Creel Bay (Waste Point) – 108 beds
• Currango Homestead precinct – 58 beds
• Kiandra – 50 beds
• Kosciuszko Tourist Park– 122 beds
• Ski Rider Motel – 339 beds
• Sponars Chalet – 238 beds
• Thredbo Ranger Station – 100 beds
• Yarrangobilly Caves precinct – 106 beds
In terms of resort accommodation, it increases the maximum number: under the old plan, the total number was 10,433 beds, under the new plan, the maximum would be 14,214 beds, in the following resorts:
Perisher Range Management Unit – 6858 beds (OLD PLAN was 4952 beds) comprised of:
o Perisher Valley – 5270 beds
o Smiggin Holes – 1193 beds
o Guthega – 330 beds
o Bullocks Flat/Mt Blue Cow – 65 beds
Thredbo Management Unit – 6455 beds (OLD PLAN was 4820 beds)
• Charlotte Pass Management Unit – 849 beds (OLD PLAN was 611 beds
• Selwyn Management Unit – 52 beds (OLD Plan was 50 beds)
Year round tourism
As expected, the plan looks at opportunities to expand the range of non-winter recreational activities available, consistent with legislation, which could see the ‘fast track’ of commercial developments: the plan aims to ‘provide a streamlined planning framework with ‘activated’ pathways available for certain types of development consistent with the SAP Master Plan, a revised exempt development pathway and a new complying development pathway’. Anyone concerned about environmental protection should be nervous when they see the words ‘streamlined planning process’ attached to plans for commercial development with a national park.
Camping facilities in the park
There were also proposals for more accommodation ‘nodes’ in new areas of the park. The report says ‘The provision of additional visitor accommodation nodes in the visitor services zone beyond those already provided is generally considered to be inappropriate by the Service’. The new system intends to ‘concentrate overnight visitors in disturbed locations away from more sensitive areas’. Further it says that any further development ‘must optimise the visitor experience, education and conservation opportunities of the sites’.
It does expand the number of ‘Visitor Services Zones’ where development is allowed, to include the campsites at Island Bend and an expansion of the Creel Bay (Waste Point) precinct. Island Bend will remain as a campground, and the Waste Point precinct is seen as a location for staff and visitor accommodation, campground and workshop. The report notes the strong ‘Objection to large scale development (at Island Bend) and the establishment of built accommodation and powered sites due to the potential to diminish the site’s natural character’. Additionally, this area will continue to be managed by the parks service rather than a private operator. It says that there will be ‘improved camping areas at Island Bend supported by amenities such as camp kitchens, hot showers and flushing toilets, to address the high demand for additional camping opportunities in the central region of the park’.
The report says that the ‘provision of camping at Guthega is not consistent with lessee objectives for Perisher Range Management Unit and should be removed’.
Thankfully this ridiculous proposal has been excluded from the final plan.