Get active: protect our precious Illawarra Escarpment!

It's time for more action, this time to help protect the Illawarra escarpment! I post sometimes about opportunities to achieve good environmental outcomes, and there's a really important one now. 

Many locals have a soft spot for the Illawarra escarpment and are concerned about the damage of illegal mountain bike riding to the environment and to Aboriginal cultural heritage on the escarpment. This problem has got completely out of control in recent years, and the official solution is to add formal mountain bike tracks. There is a Review of Environmental Factors for part of the track network out now - we only have until 5pm on 18 July to comment.

The Illawarra Escarpment Alliance (EscA) has been working to get a good outcome in this space, and has been calling for closure of the illegal tracks for years but with little action taken in response. EscA would like to see some improvements to the proposed formal track network, to ensure it does the least amount of damage possible, and critically to ensure that there's a credible plan to stop illegal mountain bike riding. I've been involved with EscA since the start, and it's been great to have a wide alliance of groups involved, including the Local Aboriginal Land Council, National Parks Association of NSW and many other local community groups and concerned individuals.  

If you'd like to have a say, you can see EscA's submission guide here: - have a look and reach out if you have questions or would like advice.  

Some key changes you could request to the Review of Environmental Factors are: 

1. The REF needs to include (or be presented jointly with) a detailed, costed plan for closing and remediating all illegal tracks, and ensuring that new illegal tracks aren't created. Without seeing a plan for addressing illegal riding, how can the community be confident the new formal tracks will replace the illegal ones, and not just lead to greater overall damage? If you only have the time/energy to make one point, make it this one. 

2. The REF needs to do more to avoid damage to threatened species and ecological communities. There shouldn't be any tracks through critically endangered Illawarra Subtropical Rainforest, particularly not new tracks, and tracks should avoid moist gullies that are roosting and breeding habitat for Powerful Owls and Sooty Owls. (The current proposal is to survey for these species after the tracks are built and try to close tracks near nests during the breeding season - how will that work?)

3. The National Parks and Wildlife Service and Wollongong City Council need to ensure that all the impacts of the Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Project are assessed together in a single REF. This REF needs to cover the track network between Mount Kembla and Mount Keira, the ancillary infrastructure that will impact on the residents of the Mount Kembla and Kembla Heights areas, and the bike track network planned for Balgownie that almost nobody outside of the mountain biking community is aware of. If there is no plan to close illegal tracks, then the impact of the formal tracks will unfortunately be on top of that already done by illegal tracks. 

4. The REF needs to show that it has fully taken into account cultural values through appropriate assessment and consultation with the local Aboriginal community, and details of how any risks and impacts on cultural values have been addressed. The community has not been given access to the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment and so cannot tell whether this has been done. 

Send an email to or complete the survey here.   

Thank you for reading this far. Here's another image of the Illawarra escarpment!
Image by Keith Horton. All rights reserved. 

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