"Allowing mountain bikes on Mount Keira would be similar to allowing bike riding on Uluru."
That’s how Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council executive officer Paul Knight feels.
A plan to create an 82km network of mountain bike trails on Mount Keira, Mount Kembla and Balgownie has gone on public exhibition. The Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy plans to formalise a range of existing trails.
Wollongong City Council has also put its Mount Keira Summit Park management plan on public exhibition. The strategy 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.
Aboriginal people recognise Mount Keira as a culturally significant site. The mountain and Five Islands off the coast is integral to their creation story and the summit was used for ceremonies and includes a significant women's site.
Mr Knight praised the summit park plan but did not support mountain biking on Mount Keira or Mount Kembla.
“I support the plan of management in principle because it talks about respecting Aboriginal values and says the main activity will be understanding, through education, the site's cultural significance,” Mr Knight said.
“I do not support mountain biking on Mount Keira and Mount Kembla but have no concerns if biking riding occurs along other parts of the escarpment.
“I don’t see the need to desecrate the site for the purpose of mountain bike riding.
“Mount Keira is a culturally significant site where education not entertainment should be prioritised."
Mr Knight said he would like to see passive and active education at Mount Keira Summit Park.
“Signage could explain the site’s Aboriginal heritage, and walking tourists could come to the park so they understand how Mount Keira connects with Mount Kembla and Five Islands,” he said. “The sites could also be used to educate school and university students.”
Mr Knight fears mountain bike riding will damage the culturally and ecologically sensitive sites on the mountains. He would rather see the sites managed and conserved so people understand the site's significance.
The executive officer said mountain bike riders were not concerned about Mount Keira’s environment.
“If they were concerned, then they would not have created the trails in the first place,” he said. “Trees were chopped down to make way for the tracks and that is completely against the law. If they were interested in the environment then riders would have waited until there was plan.”
Feedback can be provided through the council’s online Have Your Say platform, at an onsite drop-in information session on November 24 between 10am-12pm, or by emailing the Engagement team.
Members of the Aboriginal community can also sign up for a targeted workshop on November 14 from 4pm at Wollongong Library. Copies of the draft Plan are available at Council’s Administration Building, our libraries or on our website.
The Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Strategy is available on the state government's website. Submission on the bike strategy close December 10.