In last Saturday’s Central Western Daily Orange City Council announced the successful tenderer to do an environmental impact statement for a mountain bike track on Mount Canobolas. As well as producing an environmental impact statement the successful applicant is charged with designing a mountain bike track which will be partially within the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area. Presumably, whether the mountain bike track is to proceed is dependent on the recommendation of the consultant.
The consultancy that was successful in obtaining the tender is The Environmental Factor, a Bathurst-based consultancy that has worked previously with Orange City Council developing its Biodiversity Mapping Scoping Study in 2019. They were unavailable for comment at this time.
Orange Mayor Reg. Kidd made it clear in his statement in Saturday’s paper that a mountain bike track would only be considered if it stood up to ”rigorous independent assessment.” Mayor Kidd’s statement suggests that in the event of the consultant’s report recommending against the construction of the track Council would shelve the proposal.
Such a recommendation should be highly likely, given that the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area is special and unique. It is a rich biodiversity refuge, containing nine species of plants and animals that occur nowhere else in the world and depend entirely on the special environment provided by the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area for their survival.
The SCA also contains 12 species listed as threatened and two endangered ecological communities that are only known to occur on Mount Canobolas. The Mount Canobolas SCA is by far the most important regional conservation reserve and as such deserves the highest level of protection. It is so highly regarded as to be nominated as an Area of Outstanding Biodiversity Value.
Considering these constraints it would appear highly unlikely that a consultancy report would recommend the construction of up to 60 kilometres of mountain bike track in such a special area, especially, as Mayor Kidd says, that a detailed study of the area could possibly reveal even more unique species.
Council has committed half a million dollars of ratepayers’ money for this exercise. Hopefully the investment will result in research that reveals more evidence of the unique biodiversity of Mount Canobolas and puts the mountain bike proposal to bed once and for all.
By Nick King
Published in the Central Western Daily on 14 November 2020