Orange City Council has recently released the draft of it’s Community Strategic Plan. This Plan has been the result of wide community consultation to determine our community’s priorities to be acted upon during the term of our current Council.
“Maintaining environment must be our number one priority”
It is no surprise that the number one priority in the draft is the need to preserve and maintain our environment. When asked “what is important to you about living in Orange?” participants’ top response was “Our beautiful natural environment.” Mount Canobolas was specifically mentioned as a significant contributor to the natural environment that makes Orange such a great place to live. There was also an awareness expressed by respondents about the challenges to Mount Canobolas posed by the threat of mountain bike tracks. (p.18.) Under Future Projects and Action (p19) was a desire to provide “greater care and enjoyment of Mount Canobolas” These statements are indicative of how much our community values our local environment, and in particular how much we value the natural asset that is Mount Canobolas SCA.
It is therefore disappointing that Orange City Council has allocated 1.5 million dollars of ratepayers’ money towards furthering the proposal to construct over 70 kilometres of mountain bike trails within the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area. Such an action would appear to directly conflict with any community priority to protect and conserve the natural values of Mount Canobolas SCA from harmful development.
The Canobolas Conservation Alliance has been a long-term opponent of the proposal. CCA President Dr Andrew Rawson expresses his concern about Council’s budget allocation when he says “The 1.5 million mentioned in the forward budget for 2023/24 would be better directed to other needs within the local government area, not on a project the community clearly doesn’t want . Planned tracks in the State Forest are more suitable for this type of activity. Protecting the conservation and heritage values of the SCA for the benefit of the whole community should be the priority.”
As Dr Rawson points out, planned tracks in the adjacent state forest are more suitable. This alternative is supported by Forestry Corporations, who are quoted as saying.” State forests are a very suitable tenure for this type of proposal.” In fact, the Orange Mountain Bike Club has just been given a grant to complete their “Trail of Awesomeness” in the pine forest. By embracing this alternative, we can have a mountain bike trail and realise our community’s number one priority to preserve and maintain our environment.
By Nick King
The original of this post appeared as an article in the Earth First column of the Central Western Daily on Saturday 30th April 2022.