A REPORT into Hunchback Hill mountain bike tracks raises questions about Wodonga Council planning approvals, a lobby group says.
Protect Wodonga Hills reacted to the release of a consultant’s review commissioned by land manager Parklands Albury Wodonga with a shot at the council.
It followed Parklands chairman Daryl Betteridge saying his organisation “accepts the reviews findings that tracks have been developed and built without following the correct planning process”.
Anonymous quotes included in Protect Wodonga Hills’ media release on Tuesday took aim at the council.
“The admission that Parklands Albury Wodonga did not seek proper planning, environmental or cultural heritage approvals leaves many more questions unanswered by Parklands Albury Wodonga,and about the planning responsibilities of Wodonga Council,” a figure said.
“The community expect better management of Wodonga’s hills and wider genuine, community consultation.
“Why Wodonga Council failed to require proper planning approvals from Parklands Albury Wodonga is another question?”
“The good thing is that this disgraceful example of land management will never happen again – the community now know what should happen and expect better management of Wodonga’s hills!”
In response, the council’s chief executive Patience Harrington issued a statement which did not answer the concerns over planning procedures.
“The outcomes of this report ensure that there is a balance in preserving the significant environmental values in this area while allowing the community to enjoy all that it has to offer,” Ms Harrington said.
“Parklands Albury Wodonga do an incredible job across the Border community and we look forward to working alongside DELWP and Parklands to continue to maintain our hills and reserves for the enjoyment of our community.
“The council recognises and agrees that the hills that provide the stunning backdrop for our city are important assets not only for our city but all our people as well.
“As such, respect for the environment remains at the forefront of any of our planning and management of these hills while continuing to meet the ongoing diversity in needs, usage and access they provide.”
Four reports compiled by Red-Gum Environmental Consulting, at the behest of Parklands, examined the Felltimber Creek Nature Conservation Reserve’s Aboriginal heritage, mountain bike trails and vegetation impacts of the cycle paths.
Parklands has also been urged to construct 1.27-kilometre of new track, including a realignment of the mixed tape trail to avoid a patch of the smooth darling pea, a plant found in Victoria in only two areas.
Overall, it was found 2.21 hectares of native vegetation had been lost to mountain bike routes, “comprising only remnant patches and no scattered trees”.
Consultant Damian Wall advised Parklands would have to negotiate offset credits with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning for the loss of flora, with a possible requirement for a specific offset for the smooth darling pea.
In rating the area’s reptiles, 2200 rocks were inspected with threatened species, the lace monitor and woodland blind snakes, found.
Other recommendations call for a new car park, finishing line facilities and interpretation hub at an existing events centre in Felltimber Creek Road and the development of a “whole of reserve management plan”.
It was also stated that any future trails should “not be constructed without a threatened flora and fauna impact assessment” and that all rock piles created through bike track formation should be “deconstructed”.
Mr Betteridge has said an advisory group, involving mountain bike figures and Protect Wodonga Hills personnel, would be established to consider the recommendations and their implementation over coming months.