FAQs on the Draft Wodonga Hills Strategy
Why do we need a hilltops strategy?
Our hills are widely used, not only by our community but for regional residents. They are a wonderful asset for our city and highly valued by our community. More than a decade ago, the council pioneered a policy to protect its hilltops through enacting planning controls to ensure no housing development past what is referred to as the 220 line. This has also been reinforced through further proactive work with the implementation of the WRENs (Wodonga Retained Environmental network) and the council's environmental lands which protect our environmental corridors in and around our valleys and hilltops.
The strategy aims to set out a planned approach to the management of our hills and find a balance between environmental conservation, recreational opportunities and the tourism benefit they provide. Through co-ordinated planning, all agencies can work together to identify actions and directions to realise the potential of these areas for the community.
Did council communicate this draft strategy and consultation with the community?
The draft strategy and associated masterplans went out to the community following the July council meeting. While there was comprehensive coverage of the consultation sessions and information, we recognise it did not reach all residents and we have continued discussions with residents on issues of concerns.
We are continuing to accept additional feedback until close of business Friday, September 2.
All feedback received will be collated and themed and considered in the next stage of changes to the draft strategy.
A feedback report will be provided to councillors at an upcoming council meeting.
Recommendations will be made for updates to the strategy and masterplans which will then be reflected in the documents. Once the updates are made, it is envisaged the documents will be put out once again for public consultation.
When the plan is implemented, there will be further consultation as individual projects and actions across the hilltops are undertaken and developed.
Does the strategy ensure the environment will be protected?
The draft plan recognises the importance of the habitat that remains on the hills and prioritises its protection. The plan has identified areas across all sites where access will be limited or excluded to preserve sensitive areas. Actions are also identified to ensure patches of vegetation on the hills are not left isolated, including active revegetation to connect areas and exclusion of new tracks and trails to avoid fragmentation. For any new track or trail accepted international standards will be applied in the siting, design and construction trails to minimise impacts on soil and water quality.
How will the council ensure all of this work and the hilltops will be maintained?
The draft strategy recognises that with increased usage comes increased management responsibility. Only if adequate resources are available to ensure the intended user experience and safety standards are achieved over the long term, will an action be implemented.
How much will all this cost? And when do works begin?
Any actions would be rolled out according to demonstrated need and the availability of funding.
The strategy and masterplans are still in draft stage. They aim to set out a planned approach to the management of our hills and find a balance between environmental conservation, recreational opportunities and the tourism benefit they provide.
The overall plan is very much long-term, with actions and strategies that will be 20 years in the making.
Is there demand for all the proposed tracks and trails?
At present the draft plans identify potential new trails and facilities. However, that is not to say the demand for all of these presently exists. The draft strategy establishes a process for assessing any new track or trail proposals. This includes demonstrated demand and consideration of whether alternatives exist elsewhere.
What are you going to do to separate walking and mountain biking to make it safe for both to use the hills?
The strategy identifies this safety concern and recommends improved signage, including wayfinding and detailing the type of trail. It is proposed to restrict access of mountain biking on the walking trails and bring in a code of conduct for use of the trails. With an organised approach, maps and community information would be developed to inform residents and users. Physical barriers may also be installed to prevent bicycles from accessing dedicated walking trails.
Won't having more people on the hills will mean a higher fire risk. What is the council doing to mitigate that risk?
Activities to protect the community from fire, such as grazing, maintenance of fire trails and asset protection zones near homes, will continue in consultation with the CFA. The council will continue to work with the CFA to ensure the type and location of any revegetation minimises the fire risk. Existing fire management plans will be reviewed and updated to appropriately reflect the type and volume of usage and may include recommendations such as closure of reserves on days of total fire ban and increased staff presence during the fire danger period.
There appears to be lots of car parking on Hunchback Hill. Why is there a need for so many car parking spaces?
There are two types of parking area proposed within the Hunchback Hill site.
Small formalised parking to cater for day to day users of the site. These will be small gravel spaces with a capacity for five to 20 vehicles. They will allow different users to access tracks and trails from different points.
Large 'event' overflow car parking space has been identified. These are open grassed areas that can be used during events, such as a trail runs, that may occur several times a year. Little to no construction is likely in these areas and they will not be open to traffic outside of event days.
Will there be a campground at Hunchback Hill?
The draft master plan identifies a walk-in campsite on a proposed walking trail. If implemented, use of this site would be managed via a permit system, allowing only small groups to use the site at one time. Camping would not be permitted during the fire danger period.
Will the plan result in more traffic on Coyles Rd?
The existing access from Felltimber Creek Rd will remain the primary access point to the site. A small parking space is identified where Coyles Rd terminates. This would be no larger than the space that currently exists and would allow walkers to access the site from the north side of the hill. It will not be promoted as a primary access point and it will be signposted accordingly. Access to other parking spaces will only be from Felltimber Creek Rd.
Only management vehicles will be able to enter and exit the reserve from Coyles Rd.
Will mountain bike tracks be built all over the hill?
The draft strategy establishes three zones which seek to limit mountain bike track development to the area where existing tracks are already concentrated (Zone 1). Tracks beyond this are will only be approved if either:
Within these zones there are multiple areas where new trails will be excluded for conservation purposes.
It is unlikely any new trails are developed within Zone 3 in the short to medium-term.
Last updated: 26-08-2016
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