Tomaree Coastal Walk route causes concern as submissions extended until November 3 to allow more feedback on master plan

CRITIC: Shoal Bay geologist Neil Fraser believes the draft Tomaree Coastal Walk could damage the Port's foreshore. Pictured is the view atop Tomaree Head.
CRITIC: Shoal Bay geologist Neil Fraser believes the draft Tomaree Coastal Walk could damage the Port's foreshore. Pictured is the view atop Tomaree Head.

National Parks and Wildlife Service's proposed $6.7 million Tomaree Coastal Walk has become a contentious issue for the Port Stephens community with a growing number of people critical of the planned route.

Included in that group is Shoal Bay resident Neil Fraser, a geologist with 40 years' experience working in the mining and resource industry, who has called on NPWS to abandon plans for tracks across the eastern slopes of Stephens Peak, Quarry Hill and Green Hill.

"The funds saved would be better spent on providing additional visitor parking," Mr Fraser says in his submission on the project's draft master plan.

Due to the high community interest, NPWS has extended the submission period for the draft master plan and review of environmental factors, which outlines the planned 20 kilometre link between Tomaree Head and Birubi Point.

The red line shows the current Tomaree Coastal Walk route. Picture from the Tomaree Coastal Walk draft master plan.

The red line shows the current Tomaree Coastal Walk route. Picture from the Tomaree Coastal Walk draft master plan.

Submission will now close 5pm on Tuesday, November 3.

"Public exhibition provides an important opportunity for the community and other stakeholders to have a say about the proposed Tomaree Coastal Walk and future visitor facility improvements in Tomaree National Park," NPWS director Kylie Yeend said.

"We value everyone's feedback. The extension will allow individuals and groups more opportunity to finalise and make a submission or make changes to submissions already lodged."

The draft Tomaree Coastal Walk Master Plan provides a framework and conceptual designs for the delivery of the 20km route connecting Tomaree Head to Birubi Point and future visitor facility improvements in Tomaree National Park.

"Turf Design contractors prepared the draft master plan in collaboration with National Parks and Wildlife Service, informed by extensive geotechnical, engineering, environmental and cultural assessments, and community feedback received on the plan of management amendment and draft Tomaree Coastal Walk Strategy," NPWS said.

The draft master plan supersedes the draft Tomaree Coastal Walk Strategy.

While there has been widespread support for a Port Stephens coastal walk, a debate has been raging over the planned route and the potential damage that could be inflicted on the peninsula's shoreline.

An artist's impression of the Tomaree Coastal Walk. The yellow line shows the planned track alignment. Picture from the Tomaree Coastal Walk draft master plan.

An artist's impression of the Tomaree Coastal Walk. The yellow line shows the planned track alignment. Picture from the Tomaree Coastal Walk draft master plan.

Lending his support to an opinion piece penned by Port fishing identity and author John 'Stinker' Clarke in the October 8 edition of the Examiner, Mr Fraser says his review of the environmental factors indicate that some sections of the proposed walk pose unacceptable risk to both constructors and visitors.

"The proposed track across parts of Stephens Peak traverse ground that is inherently unstable. There are seven recent slope failures (landslides) on the slopes of the peak together with a number of historical failures," he said.

"On the south slope of the peak there are four recent slope failures and at least four historic slope failures within a continuous zone of failure over 200m long. On the east slope of the peak there is a recent slope failure over 80m long that extends to the ocean and on the north slope there are two recent slope failures, the largest of which is over 100m long and extends onto the south end of Zenith Beach."

Mr Fraser said that the proposed track alignment passed within 10-20m of the head of two of the failures.

"These slope failures are rotational slides and have been induced by saturation of the slopes during periods of high rainfall. The scarp at the head of these slides is near vertical and unsupported, and will continue to fail in future periods of heavy rainfall," he said.

"Construction of tracks across these slopes will provide enhanced access for rain water into the ground and produce additional failures or remobilise existing failures.

"As well as damaging the environment, failures would constitute unacceptable risk to the safety of construction workers and visitors. Additional slope failures would produce a high degree of visual impairment to the headland.

An artist's impression at the top of Tomaree Head once upgraded as part of the Tomaree Coastal Walk. Picture from the Tomaree Coastal Walk draft master plan.

An artist's impression at the top of Tomaree Head once upgraded as part of the Tomaree Coastal Walk. Picture from the Tomaree Coastal Walk draft master plan.

The geology and landform of Quarry Hill and Green Hill is identical to Stephens Peak and it is probable that construction of tracks across the slopes of these hills would also induce similar slope failures.

"I am aware that a risk assessment for landslips has been completed by a consultant which states the alignment of the track falls within the acceptable risk range. The report is not included in the REF. This is unacceptable when issues of risk to constructor and visitor safety is involved," Mr Fraser said.

"If the proposed alignment is adopted, significant costs will be involved in attempting to stabilize some of the existing failures and there is no guarantee they will be successful."

The Tomaree Coastal Walk draft plans can be viewed online at environment.nsw.gov.au/consult, at the Tomaree Library and Community Centre in Salamander Bay or immediately below.

Submissions can be lodged by: