The surprise backdown that saw NPWS agree to the restart of the public review for two proposed tourism leases in the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area must prompt the incoming Minns government to consider whether to proceed with these developments at all.
On Friday 24 March the NPWS notified Bushwalkers NSW that the Gardens of Stone lease notices for Wild Bush Luxury Experience Pty Limited and Trees Adventure Holdings Pty Limited would be readvertised over the coming months.
Nature Defenders* this week withdrew its case in the NSW Land and Environment Court to challenge the validity of the lease processes for these Gardens of Stone tourist developments, given the last-minute backflip by the NPWS.
Nature Defenders had initiated its case in response to the unwanted developments after the NPWS alleged in the Blue Mountains Gazette on 22 March that its Gardens of Stone lease process “was fully compliant with the requirements of National Parks and Wildlife Act.”
“Nature Defenders is prepared to take legal action to ensure lawful, open and transparent public consultation processes are followed when commercial leases are proposed in national parks and reserves”, said Keith Muir, spokesperson for Nature Defenders.
“We are now seeking information from the NPWS to ensure that the same unwanted proposals are not pushed forward this second time around.
“We also question the excessive infrastructure proposed for the Gardens of Stone that would spoil the natural beauty of the area that’s central to growing Lithgow’s tourism-based economy,” he added.
“We support Nature Defenders in its efforts,” said Kirsten Mayer, executive officer of Bushwalking NSW Inc. “The leases must not be simply readvertised to overcome technical legal concerns. We don't want to see any leases to any private entities. Also, we want to see the pagodas protected and the zipline and via ferrata gone.”
“Conservation groups will continue to work to ensure that nature-focused tourism as outlined in Destination Pagoda report is delivered. Destination Pagoda can achieve greater benefits for nature and the local community by directing visitors to facilities in Lithgow,” said Annette Cam, spokesperson for the Blue Mountains Conservation Society.
“Resorts and adventure theme parks in the national parks and reserves aren’t eco-anything; these developments need to be removed from the reserve”,
”NPA welcomes appropriately located, low-impact facilities for nature-focused visitor use for NSW national parks and reserves. We hope that incoming Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe, uses this pause in the leasing process for a major rethink”, said Gary Dunnett, CEO of the National Parks Association of NSW.
For more info, contact
Keith Muir, Nature Defenders, 0412 791 404
* Who is Nature Defenders?
Nature Defenders is a volunteer-led incorporated association and sister organisation of 4nature formed in 2016. Nature Defenders chair is Andrew Cox who has been working closely with Keith Muir to support the aspirations of conservation groups to protect the Gardens of Stone from overdevelopment and deliver the ecologically sustainable tourism plan called Destination Pagoda.