Legal challenge may follow decision to allow eco-tourism project on edge of Royal National Park

An appeal may be lodged against a state government decision that paves the way for the controversial Spring Gully eco-tourism project on the edge of Royal National Park to proceed.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton approved a road through the national park to service the project on former Scouts land at Bundeena.

The Land and Environment Court had earlier ruled in favour of the developer, but the project was dependent on the minister granting road access.

The proposal is for “glamping”, or up-market camping, in which accommodation and facilities are of a higher standard than traditional tents.

It would include six tents for accommodation, another for communal dining and a caretaker’s residence.

Chairman of the Spring Gully Protection Group, Mark Da Silva, said, while the size of the development might appear small, the required asset protection zone to guard against bushfires would result in the removal of 430 trees from a critically endangered ecological community.

The protection zone was three quarters of a hectare, equivalent to 12 home sites, he said.

Mr Da Silva said preliminary legal advice received by the group was the minister’s decision could be challenged.

“Our intention is to appeal the decision, but we are awaiting the full documentation and advice from our  barrister,” he said.

A group of former National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) officers, scientists, botanists and researchers, who have joined in a group called Park Watch, said it was “another example of how the Berijiklian Government continues to damage our national parks”.

“The fact Minister Upton would approve the construction of a road across the iconic Royal National Park, the world’s second national park, destroy a unique ecosystem in the process, just to service a small eco-tourism development located outside the park boundary is not only astounding, it is irresponsible,” spokesman Ross McKinney said.

“Park Watch welcomes tourist developments associated with national parks that encourage people to get out and visit our precious natural areas.

“What’s missing is a NPWS policy that starts with parameters around a tourist proposal that ensures the ecological, cultural or visual aspects of a development do not adversely impact on the integrity of the park.

“There are plenty of opportunities.  It’s not hard. It starts with listening to experienced NPWS staff which the current NPWS executive is incapable of doing”.

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