Community feedback on Dorrigo tourism project proposals

An artist’s impression of an aerial view of Arc Rainforest.

PLANNING is underway for the new Dorrigo Arc Rainforest Centre and Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk in Dorrigo National Park.

The NSW Government is delivering its largest investment in national parks history with $450 million for more than 200 visitor infrastructure projects across the State, and the $56.4 million project in Dorrigo was announced in June this year.

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“The NPWS project team and I have shared the draft project concepts at more than 20 community and stakeholder briefings over the last four months, including the recent North Coast Tourism Symposium,” said NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Coffs Coast Area Manager Glenn Storrie.

“Amazingly, there have been more than 19,000 views of the project website since its launch in June and more than 1000 people have signed up to receive project updates via email.

“From the community meetings and briefings it is clear there is strong interest and excitement about the project,” Mr Storrie told News Of The Area.

“Considering the Arc Rainforest Centre and the beginning of the multi-day walk are located in Dorrigo, our initial focus has been speaking with the Dorrigo community.

“In addition to meeting groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Local Aboriginal Land Council, Lions Club, Rotary and the University of the Third Age (U3A), we also had a stall at the local Made in Dorrigo market.”

This provided a great opportunity to speak directly with the local community and hear their feedback.

“Overall we have heard strong support for the project,” Mr Storrie said.

“Some issues that have been raised are about impacts from an increase in visitors, such as road access and availability of accommodation, and NPWS will work with the community, local and state government agencies to work through any issues.”

Mr Storrie told NOTA there will be plenty of opportunities for the community to get involved in the project in the New Year.

“In 2023, we will be talking to the community about a new plan of management and masterplans for both the Arc Rainforest Centre and Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk.

“We want to attract more visitors, entice them to stay longer, learn more, connect more and, ultimately, care more,” said Mr Storrie.

“We’re planning to start improvements to the existing tracks next year while we finalise the plans of management and masterplans.

“We expect these plans to be complete by the end of 2023, allowing sufficient time for community consultation, with construction of the new walking track to commence in 2024.

“We’ll continue to keep the community informed as the project progresses.

“We’re also on the lookout for specialist contractors who may be able to assist us during the planning and construction phases of the project,” said Mr Storrie.

However, local ecologists and conservationists have another view.

“The negative economic impacts of the Dorrigo Gondwana theme park are immense and highly detrimental to the public conservation estate,” Mark Graham, an ecologist from the Bellingen Nature Company told NOTA.

“An environmental concern is that building major new infrastructure in pristine World Heritage habitats and bringing lots of people to places that currently have none will bring weeds and diseases like the chytrid fungus that has caused so many frog extinctions.

“Worryingly the areas proposed to be developed across Dorrigo and Bindarri NPs have the highest diversity of threatened frogs on the continent; these are highly sensitive ancient Gondwanan species.

“The maintenance budget for just keeping this giant mausoleum clean takes precious public money away from managing weeds, fire and feral animals across the conservation reserve estate,” Mr Graham said.

“This means that local conservation reserves will degrade further from the money being sucked in to propping up and servicing this major infrastructure development in a World Heritage area.”

Having considered the calculations, Mr Graham believes the amount being spent on the Dorrigo Gondwana development could have been used to stop all industrial logging of public native forests across the Great Koala National Park area.

“The Gondwana theme park is nothing more than a Coalition smokescreen to divert attention from the fact that they are making our koalas extinct and the local NPWS branch is playing a very active role in this appalling situation.

“It is highly likely that the Gondwana theme park will draw business away from Dorrigo small local businesses and won’t lead to economic benefits for the local business community and the local economy.

“It is worrying that Bellingen Shire Council seems to be supporting this development and not even mentioning the Great Koala National Park in their recent economic development strategy,” closed Mr Graham.

Local companies and individuals can register on the project webpage to be kept informed of relevant opportunities as they arise and for more information visit


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