Environmentalists have told Orange City Council to “go back to the drawing board” over a proposal to turn Mount Canobolas into a “mountain biking mecca”.
On Tuesday, Council floated spending $500,000 from the 2020-21 budget to prepare a development application to place 10 trails covering more than 60km on the mountain.
Canobolas Conservation Alliance spokesperson Colin Bower said council had failed to account for endangered species on the mountain – some of which live nowhere else on earth – with the bike trails to face serious environmental hurdles on the road to approval.
“The proposal in its current form wouldn’t fly. Council would be ill-advised to proceed … I don’t think it would pass an environmental assessment,” Dr Bower said.
“If the council spoke to some environmental consultants it would realise the number of things which will need to be changed and it’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”
Dr Bower said council had suggested the trails would adversely impact the mountain.
“On Tuesday councillors said the mountain biking tracks at the lake had been flattened due to people using them and now they want to move that destruction to Mount Canobolas,” he said.
If any of the pie-in-the-sky ideas had been subject to any sort of independent analysis I’m not sure we’d still be talking about them.
Dr Colin Bower
“They’re admitting mountain biking is bringing damage without having big events.
“I guess you can take all sorts of precautions but making it a mecca for mountain biking implies having competitions and people coming to the mountain in large numbers … people congregating up there in numbers would do damage.”
On Tuesday, Council’s sport and recreation committee chair Cr Jason Hamling said the Lake Canobolas trails had been very busy over the long weekend.
Dr Bower said he and the Orange Field Nationalists and Conservation Society had charted the mountain since the 2018 fires, and the group had discovered previously unmarked aboriginal heritage sites and artwork, as well as “more threatened species than we thought”.
Mayor Reg Kidd said on Tuesday an environmental impact statement would be part of a development application, and federal and state ministers would be spoken to about government funding.
Cr Kidd also said money would be set aside for repairing the environment, including removing invasive species of animals and plants, and while Dr Bower said more funding was needed, attaching it to the development application wouldn’t reach the desired effect.
“We agree there are problems on the mountain … but I don’t think the answer is this,” Dr Bower said. “There should be ways of getting funding without attaching it to this plan.”
He also rubbished the idea of running a chairlift up the mountain – which was again floated on Tuesday – as well as allowing people to pay to drive up when it was covered in snow and having a restaurant at the top.
“If any of the pie-in-the-sky ideas had been subject to any sort of independent analysis I’m not sure we’d still be talking about them,” he said.
[Story from Max Stainkamph, Central Western Daily, 19 June 2020.]