Frequently Asked Questions
Why shouldn’t Mt Canobolas be developed as a centre for mountain biking? It is an underutilised community asset that could generate more economic activity and jobs for the region through increased tourism.
The economic benefit of the mountain biking proposal on Mount Canobolas is the most often cited justification for the project. There is little doubt that mountain bike tourism could result in increased economic activity. It is already doing so in the Orange district with the Lake Canobolas mountain bike track network, and tracks in Kinross State Forest and elsewhere.
However, the economic benefit alone is insufficient justification for taking over a very important reserve dedicated for nature conservation. NSW has strict environmental laws designed to prevent biodiversity loss, which has reached crisis levels globally. Projects are only approved if they can meet the test of no net loss of biodiversity. The problem is that Mt Canobolas supports the last known populations and habitats of multiple species and vegetation types that occur nowhere else on earth. It is inevitable that harm would be caused to these species and communities by the mountain bike project, and further, that their habitats would be degraded, reducing their options for places to survive into the future.
Environmental legislation requires that projects should avoid damage to biodiversity as much as possible. Damage to biodiversity is only allowed if there is no other alternative location for the project. Where loss of biodiversity cannot be avoided, for example a mining project where the location of the ore body is fixed, the proponent must compensate for the loss, either by purchasing an equivalent ‘offset’ area and improving it, or by making a contribution to the Biodiversity Conservation Trust Fund, who are then charged with finding and improving the offset area. In the case of Mt Canobolas, the habitats and species are so unique that no equivalent areas are available to offset the biodiversity losses. In this circumstance, the only way to avoid biodiversity loss is to relocate the project to disturbed lands outside the SCA.
There are lots of walking tracks on Mt Canobolas and everyone accepts them, why shouldn’t mountain bike tracks be allowed as well?
Yes, there are walking tracks on Mt Canobolas. Many people use them and they have some of the same problems as for mountain bike tracks, such as soil erosion, weed invasion and fragmentation of habitat.
However, the walking track network is much smaller than the proposed mountain biking track complex and covers a much more limited area of the reserve, thereby having much lower impacts. The scale of the walking track network is much more in keeping with the small size of the SCA. Large parts of the SCA have no walking tracks and remain in an essentially ‘wilderness’ condition, where the native flora and fauna are largely undisturbed.
The Orange City Council (OCC) proposal would impose 10 mountain bike circuits on the SCA totaling 63 km in length. They would cover most parts of the SCA, leading to much more widespread weed invasion, soil erosion and habitat fragmentation. Overall, this would accelerate these processes leading to habitat degradation and decline of species over time. In short, the scale of this project is completely inappropriate within a small nature conservation reserve.
The OCC proposal also envisages the holding of mountain bike competitions within the SCA. The added pressure of many thousands of spectators accessing observation points through the bush would multiply the degradation several fold through trampling vegetation, baring the soil at favoured viewing points and discarded litter. This scenario is a recipe for wholesale deterioration of the natural communities within the reserve. The CCA is totally opposed to the concept of competition mountain biking within the SCA.
Wouldn’t there be more incentive to look after the mountain, such as controlling the weeds and feral animals, if more people were visiting for activities like mountain biking?
It is wishful thinking to imagine that increased use of the mountain will lead to a flow of funds for weed and feral animal control. The sums of money needed for blackberry and pig control are very large – hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is unrealistic to expect such funding would be generated from the profits of mountain biking events. The Orange Mountain Bike Club would organise any mountain biking events in the SCA and there have been suggestions that club members may participate in weed control activities. This is also unrealistic. As managers of the reserve, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), for occupational health and safety reasons, only allows herbicides to be used by qualified professional operators.
It is entirely unclear as to where the proponents expect the money for weed and feral animal control to come from. NPWS will remain the manager of the reserve, even if the OCC proposal goes ahead. Currently, weed and pest control in the SCA is undertaken by the NPWS using contractors (weeds) or NPWS staff (pigs). Funding is provided by government allocations. The problem is not a lack of will by NPWS to control weeds and pests in the SCA (and elsewhere), but a shortage of funding. Inadequate funding for weed and pest control is a chronic problem for government land managers who often have very large and inaccessible areas to look after. This has allowed weeds and feral animals to escape control in many areas, a problem which only an increase in government funding can fix.
You greenies just want to keep the mountain for yourselves and don’t want anyone else to use it?
This misses the point that the SCA is first and foremost a nature conservation reserve. It is used by 1000 species of flora and fauna for their survival within the last intact remnant of montane and sub-alpine habitat in the Orange district. The Canobolas Conservation Alliance speaks on behalf of these species so that they may continue to persist as their ancestors did for aeons before them. Our wish is that Mt Canobolas maintains its natural integrity and continues to be a peaceful place for the quiet enjoyment of the timelessness and complexity of a natural system that has evolved unbroken over many millions of years.
Conservation reserves are not playgrounds for humans, who have many other places they can go to for entertainment, including mountain biking.
Won’t the extra visitors result in better facilities for everyone?
Mount Canobolas is already the number one tourist destination in the Orange district. It is also the most visited nature conservation area in the Central West. This has been recognised by the National Parks and Wildlife Service who have responded with plans for a $2 million upgrade to visitor facilities on the mountain. These upgrades are much-needed enhancements of existing facilities that do not threaten the integrity of the mountain’s ecosystems.
By contrast, the mountain biking proposal would have significant impacts on the natural ecosystems of the SCA and amount to an overuse of the reserve leading to ecosystem degradation and species declines. Most of the facilities created would be dedicated to mountain biking and of little benefit to the general public.
Why are you people against mountain biking?
The Canobolas Conservation Alliance is not opposed to mountain biking as a sport or pastime. We are only opposed to the proposal to take over the most important nature conservation reserve in the Central West for a National Mountain Biking Complex. We support the establishment of such a complex in an appropriate venue that does not have high values for nature conservation, such as the adjoining State Forests.
Can’t mountain biking co-exist with nature conservation and more passive forms of recreation?
The proponents of the Mt. Canobolas National Mountain Biking Complex often call for a ‘balance’ between intensive mountain biking, low intensity recreation and nature conservation in the SCA. They also claim that mountain biking and nature conservation can co-exist ‘harmoniously’. In reality, the notions of ‘balance’ and ‘harmony’ in this debate are beguiling myths, invoked to justify the takeover of land dedicated to nature conservation for another purpose. Mountain biking does not exist in ‘harmony’ with nature. Rather, mountain biking is just another threat to biodiversity and inevitably reduces the viability of the natural systems upon which it is imposed. Even the best managed mountain biking tracks cause significant environmental damage, as demonstrated by a large and growing literature. The unavoidable conclusion is that mountain biking is incompatible with nature conservation, the primary function of the SCA.