Gleniffer Master Plan delayed while council talks amenities

It’s a tourist hot-spot, and if this summer’s anything to go by, it’s only going to get busier, yet the vexed problem of how to cater for the masses at Gleniffer is proving challenging for Bellingen Shire Council.

A crew from Coffs Harbour enjoy Gleniffer’s rivers. The area is gaining in popularity and council is uncertain as to how to best cater for the masses.

The issue is not a new one and it was hoped the long-awaited, nearly $260,000 Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan would set out a course for sensible management of the area.

However, at last week’s council meeting councillor David Scott threw a slight spanner in the works by moving to delay the Master Plan’s passage through Local Government.

The motion requested five additional points to be addressed by council employees:

– the toilet facilities and car parking at Earl Preston Reserve
– car parking (including the cattle grid) at Arthur Keogh Reserve
– picnic facilities at Angel Gabriel Caparero Reserve
– the provision of refuse bins throughout the area covered by the Master Plan and
– an update of the graphics within the report.

In essence, the councillors’ concerns merely reflect what locals have been highlighting for years, namely excrement and environmental damage, and which are not explicitly addressed in the Master Plan.

This apparent oversight was not just Cr Scott’s beef either – Cr Gordon Manning spoke frankly of his unease regarding the plan.

“I have concerns about people shitting in the river and I do not think these have been answered,” Cr Manning said

“I don’t understand how this has not been addressed … there is just no solution in the report.”

Given the cost of building and maintaining toilets, Cr Desmae Harrison asked, “where is the money going to come from?”.

Cr Manning suggested “trialling port-a-loos during the peak summer period to see if that could be part of the solution”.

Council’s Michael Grieve responded to councillors’ queries by saying the Master Plan focussed on “information and education as the key strategy to addressing people’s toilet habits” and “it was a controversial issue regarding toilets … many for and against”.

He also noted once council “endorses a precinct” it encourages people to a central place and there are “consequences that come with that”.

Another aspect touched upon was Forestry Corporation’s Tuckers Nob State Forest, which surrounds the four council reserves. Though council staff were quick to stress “we have a good relationship with Forestry” the dichotomy of control means even the best practice document relies on State Government cooperation.

At the very least, it flags that people can park and camp free, and amenities are not closely available.

Or to put it another way, rubbish and folk’s faeces can wash down the river or lay by the roadside, thereby negating council’s best endeavours for hygiene.

Concluding the discussion, Mayor Mark Troy said he was “concerned the already lengthy engagement process was being extended further” but conceded it was important to get the document right.

Thus the motion was carried unanimously and an additional report, to be tabled at April’s council meeting, will be prepared to address the councillors’ queries.

The Gleniffer Master Plan acts as an overarching document with focus on five key themes:

1. Visitor numbers, sustainability and cultural heritage

2. Riverine environmental improvement

3. Reserve amenity values – infrastructure and maintenance

4. Managing positive visitor behaviour and

5. Local management amenity impacts.

A key finding of the plan is the recommendation to establish what has been termed as the Gleniffer Stewardship Advisory Group. It is anticipated that this group would guide the implementation of the Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan, provide advice to council and steer ongoing commitment to the protection, preservation and sustainability of the reserves. Implementation of the plan is proposed to be staged and priorities have been set within the plan with probable costings and suggested funding sources (including grants) linked to each.

Alice Burnet | The Bellingen Courier Sun | 15th November 2014