Coastal Walks and Local Councils
I am a great fan of the SBS program “Scenic Coastal Walks with Kate Humble”. It is shown on Thursday evenings and beautifully captures the contrasting delights of the British coastline and the wonderful opportunities the public has in accessing tracks through land of different tenure. Last Thursday, 30th June, she traversed the cliffs of the southern shore of the Isle of Wight revealing the exposures of the colourful tilted Tertiary sediments of Alum Bay, a place I longed to visit. But we have our own great coastal vistas and glorious rock formations and steadily we are finding ways to get easier public access to enjoy them.
Of course there are many great walks in our coastal national parks that are essentially the responsibility of state and territory governments. Here I am interested in tracks that require local councils to take the initiative and use public funds to acquire, build and maintain tracks on lands that offer us extraordinary views of seascapes. It is often the case that councils have to battle with landowners and even state agencies to acquire lands for tracks. The tradition of permitted access across private property is not something that we have inherited from Britain so it can require a purposeful council to act in the public interest.
In recent months I have walked parts of council managed tracks in NSW, at least for short distances on my wonky knee. Each summer, Randwick Council invites me to conduct a walk and talk south of Coogee. This is an established path with educational signs for visitors to enjoy. I relish the opportunity of raving on about the Hawkesbury Sandstone and all the geological and geomorphic actions subsequent to the Triassic as well as do a little dive into local cultural history. Andy Short and I had a great time visiting a number of walking sites on headlands in the Northern Beaches council area in autumn. He was keen for me to recognise the grandeur of cliffs and platforms carved into rocks of the Narrabeen series.
On our way north to the Coastal Conference in May, Irene and I did the short but ecologically and scenic walk on the northern headland of Charlesworth Bay near Coffs Harbour. Like a number of tracks involving local councils that I have experienced in recent years this has been upgraded to make access easier. In this way councils are recognising and investing in such facilities including in the case of my own council Woollahra, the installation of solar lights along the cliff pathway so we can enjoy a walk in the evening.
Over a period I have been privileged to help Kiama Council in NSW to establish a track. It is 6km in length extending from south Kiama to Werri Beach just to the north of Gerringong. Its delights can be seen online. The acquisition of an easement across six properties required the assistance of the NSW Government through funds under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme. The landowners resisted purchase of the easement and a compulsory acquisition process was required. By 2012 Kiama had an asset that is now very popular and offers visitors stunning views and cliffs carved into basaltic rocks that are interbedded in the Permian sedimentary sequence of the NSW south coast. Its proponents, including me, saw this as Stage 1 of an extended track that would go all the way south to Gerroa.
On 28th June, Kiama Council resolved to bring into its operational plan for 22-23 scoping of the Kiama Coastal Walk extension from Gerringong to Gerroa. This is Stage 2. Peter Stuckey and Howard Jones are local residents familiar with all that was done under Stage 1; they have been vigorously advocating for this extension. Over the past few years council has shown interest and its Walking Tracks and Cycleway Committee had previously endorsed Stage 2. Now council will formally scope out the route and consult with landowners including the golf course. On 30th June, Irene and I, along with two councillors and Peter and Howard, visited the mid-section of the proposed track via a council path on the north boundary of the golf course. This path leads to Walker’s Beach. I was awestruck by the vista as we crested a little hill and viewed this beach and its majestic southern headland. In this section siltstone and sandstones of Permian age form dramatic rock platforms, seen also at Black Head, Gerroa.
Much more is to be done before Stage 2 comes into fruition. There is no doubt that it will add to the tourist potential of the area. For those who can come to Kiama and walk south it should be possible to go all the way to Shoalhaven Heads on public land. This is what we are striving to achieve. Partnership between a council and state government as was the case with Stage 1 should make Stage 2 a reality. We can but hope.
Words by Prof Bruce Thom. Please respect the author’s thoughts and reference appropriately: (c) ACS, 2022. For correspondence about this blog post please email firstname.lastname@example.org