The presentation was hosted by the NPWS, and focused on the plans the NPWS would like to implement on the Middle Head area. The meeting was held by invitation only to registered persons and groups interested in the Master plan. The following people presented the Master Plan:
· Peter HAY – NPWS Regional Manager – Metro NE;
· Stuart McMAHON – NPWS Community Engagement Officer;
· Adam HUNTER – Director at Environmental Partnership & Andersen Hunter Horne;
· NPWS – planning officers and others, including Mari KOECK; and
· Sydney Harbour Trust officers.
Mari KOECK opened the presentation and gave an overview of the results of the public questionnaire that closed in Jun 2016.
Major Issues raised by the respondents were:
· Heritage – indigenous and military
About 830 submissions submitted with 27% received during the extension deadline period.
(It should be noted that there was no indication of the rating or importance of these issues. Considering that many of late submissions are likely to have come from various beach focused interest groups.)
The linkage of scenic walks also focused on the plans with:
– Complete the missing links for the Harbour Scenic Walks (see attached); and
– Safe access from the road.
A strategic focus of facilitating the historic connection between Middle Head and the harbour and beaches.
Adam Hunter – consultant – lead the presentation of the plans for Middle Head.
A vision was outlined to give people different and varied levels of experience of the headland – memorable and rewarding for all – recognising some will just walk to a lookout and some will spend a whole day there.
NPWS and Harbour Trust recognise all periods of historical development of the headland – i.e. indigenous, military and more recent developments over the last 30 years.
The planned development divides the headland into 5 separate precincts and the presentation outlined the plan for each.
The main features of the presentation over the 5 precincts included the construction of a series of walkways that would allow pedestrian access to the views of the harbour area. The most significant being walkways through the bush between:
– Chowder Bay Rd and the harbour on the western side of Middle Head;
– The northern side of the Headland from the forts to Cobblers Beach; and
– Minor paths to existing fort establishments.
During the presentation, the project vision kept with the notion not to upset or reduce the impact on any current users of the headland and cause a minimal environmental impact.
There was significant focus on the plans to the entrance of the on headland (the area at the end of the car parking area) its intended to recognise the military historical aspects by:
– Building an interpretive ‘bridge’ over the defensive ditch;
– Predominately defining the defensive ditch;
– Extending the existing fort establishment and concrete gun emplacement with deck extensions; and
– Only ‘touching the ground lightly’ around the outer forts.
These works it was claimed would minimally impact on the area, however, the Community gardens would be effected. This raised some objection from the floor as it would affect a group of 20 people – the presenters quickly amended their ideas and this was changed so the gardens would be slightly effected to appease the objections.
It was re-iterated an Intention to maintain all activities that currently occur on the main central green area including the Sydney Skinny which NPWS recognise as a significant event
However, the presentation attempted to overlook the plans for Cobblers Beach and the presenter needed to be asked to outline the plans. These included a number of wooden platforms that could be used for overnight camping and by beachgoers during the day. The walkway planed for the northern side of the headland would finish on the grassed area of the beach. There was a brief mention of the significance of the ‘location of first encounter’ which was considered to means Cobblers beach.
Comments during the meeting of the beachgoers are the major stakeholders of the headland were largely dismissed and further questioning was dismissed as the meeting was not about the legal classification of the beach.
The sentiments of the comments by the presenter and NPWS could be taken the intention is for the plan routing the walkway through the beach to discourage clothing optional usage. (This was exactly the same approach adopted to discourage the nudists at for Reef Beach in the early 1990’s).
Later on there was much discussion about the routes of walking tracks along Chowder Bay Road and the suggestion by some in the audience to avoid removing any bushland to construct tracks – yet these folk had been quiet earlier when the proposal was put up to construct a whole new track around the north side of the headland and straight through Cobblers Beach. The main objection to this was the destruction of the existing bushland.
The issue of camping was raised again later in the meeting when the plans may also include camping near the vegetable gardens after discussions of keeping people out the military structures at the end of Chowder Bay Rd during the night. Major concerns have been raised of the vandalism and anti-social behaviour in this area during the night and the efforts to keep people out of the area during the night. The general consensus from the floor was a strong opposition to camping in the area. However, there had been no opposition when it was suggested for Cobblers Beach.
The meeting concluded with a ‘butchers paper’ of ideas for each precinct. These reiterated many comments from the floor during the meeting.
After the meeting it was suggested to Stuart the beach users being major stakeholders to his notes (but he didn’t). It also suggested that the new track around the north side of the headland should intercept the Cobblers Beach Road about half way up the hill so that the roadway remains the only way down to the beach – beaches should be a destination, not a through route (this seems to be the current NPWS strategy for Obelisk Beach). Stuart said he will take note of the comments. Its guessed that these ideas will be dismissed.
The plan is to put the master plans (NPWS & Harbour Trust) on public display from about October this year for two months were public submissions will be received.
We may have discouraged plans for camping on the headland but the current plans still have the lower northern track going straight through Cobblers Beach. A better plan would be for the walking track alignment further up the hill (as discussed above).
NPWS and The Harbour Trust appear to be downplaying the significance of the responses received from beach users following the May meetings and their intentions/plans for Cobblers Beach.