Put in a submission.
That’s the message from Wollongong councillors who unanimously voted, at Monday night’s council meeting, to put the Mount Keira Summit Park management plan on public exhibition.
The plan sets out the main guidelines for permissible activities at the site to ensure it continues to be a scenic lookout over the Illawarra Escarpment that respects the site’s Aboriginal heritage.
Councillors spoke passionately about the park being a ‘jewel in the crown’ of Wollongong.
Cr Tania Brown, who is also on the board of Destination Wollongong, said the site was a “mountain of possibilities”.
“We know how much the community values the area,” she said. “The community need to get involved, they need to engage with the plan and make a submission.”
Several councillors spoke about the need to hear feedback from all sections of community – including bushwalkers, mountain bike riders, the Aboriginal community, families who picnic at the lookout, conservationists – who use the site.
Cr Mithra Cox wanted to ensure council staff “truly and deeply listened to people who had their say”.
“There are natural tensions between walkers, members of the diverse Aboriginal community, mountain bikers and conservationists,” she said.
“We need to get the balance right and change the plan if that’s what the community want. The consultation needs to be genuine.”
Cr Brown said the park had huge “cultural tourism” potential.
“There is potential to increase and incorporate Aboriginal tourism at the site and we should work with the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council to deliver an authentic experience,” she said.
Cr Jenelle Rimmer said the site had been “under-utilised” and was in “desperate need of attention”.
“We want the summit park to be a place that the community is proud of and that generations to come with benefit from,” she said. “We need to get it right.
“The site needs to be more than a place where people go to the toilet, take a quick photo and get back on the bus.”
Cr Rimmer said the focus needed to be on Aboriginal tourism and creating a permanent restaurant rather than the container cafe that operates on the site.
Cr Cox said she would like to see a restaurant building at the park that was “beautiful” and “inspiring” rather than the “ordinary” container.
Cr Rimmer also wants to see the Five Islands lookout reopened or moved, better signage at the site and a solution to the wild deer population.
“The toilets are also in a state of disgrace,” she said. “There needs to be a new toilet block and we could engage an Indigenous artist to paint a beautiful artwork on the wall.”
Cr Leigh Colacino said Mount Keira was a “powerful place” and the uses at the site needed to fit into council’s vision.
The plan suggests improvements to the lookouts, including reinstatement of the Five Islands Lookout; improved tracks and new trails including a high ropes course; and upgrades to the car park, picnic facilities and toilets.
Food and beverage buildings and services such as a permanent cafe and restaurant or food vans are allowable, as is rock climbing and abseiling; art, sculpture and commemorative plaques including love locks; Aboriginal cultural activities; group tours and events and functions.
Overnight camping, dog walking and hang gliding will be prohibited.
The council only owns 9.4 hectares at the top of the summit. The state government and private landowners are responsible for the surrounding bushland.
An announcement about mountain biking on the escarpment is expected this week.
The plan will be on public exhibition for 42 days and can be viewed via the council's website. There will also be a public meeting and information stand at the site.