Residents angry council want more tourists at any cost to ratepayers

A vocal group from the Minnamurra community has condemned Kiama Council for their handling of the Minnamurra Boardwalk and Cycleway, in particular not addressing issues raised regarding the design of the brand new tourism drawcard. 

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A petition posted online at change.org and available at various locations in Kiama calling for an alternate design, has attracted 630 signatures. 

The Friends of Minnamurra River, while not against the boardwalk, would like to see the 600 metre over-water section scrapped and instead cantilevered off the riverbank.

Kiama Downs resident Richard Norville said he would not be opposed to the boardwalk if it was built beside the road. 

“We have no issue with that, but not put it in the river and spoil the river, the river can’t speak for itself, so somebody has to stand up and say this is not the right thing to do,” he said.

“It’s going to spoil it, and it’s going to cost money to ratepayers to maintain it.”

Wollongong-based firm Cardno, who council contracted to develop the detailed design, delivered the final route report for the $4.5 million boardwalk and cycleway in October.

The report contained a number of written submissions from groups and departments, including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), Roads and Maritime Services, Minnamurra Progress Association and Landcare Illawarra. 

Some concerns raised included increased traffic, litter, river bed scouring and likely impacts on local Aboriginal heritage.

Residents are also worried about the ongoing cost to maintain the structure.

The viewing platform on Riverside Drive has been in a state of decay for some years, according to Minnamurra’s Sheree Smith.

She also believes Kiama Council has not “been very transparent” about many of the design details of the 1.6 kilometre walkway and cycleway, an opinion shared by a number of community members who gathered to talk with the Kiama Independent.   

“Maybe the general view of people is that it’s a pretty boardwalk, but they haven’t really shown the public what they plan to do,” she said.

“At the furthest point the boardwalk goes out 15 metres into the river. Council has a video on their website and it does not represent what the actual boardwalk will look like, it’s very misleading of them.

“Council says 94 per cent of the community want the boardwalk based on 46 surveys, that’s not okay.

“They have used the Minnamurra Progress Association as a reflection of what the community wants when it’s less than 5 per cent of our population in Minnamurra. Cardno has used their opinion in their report, and it doesn’t reflect what we want.”

Glenn Moran lives on nearby Duguid Way and said he had not been notified by council about the prospects of a car park only several doors from his house, which appear in the recent maps of the project.

“According to the map, people will have to access the boardwalk down my little narrow dead-end street. If they’re talking about a car park as well, that will impact on my street,” he said.

“Council informed me they hadn’t determined where the car parks would be going as yet. That seems a bit strange, that you have all this planned, and you haven’t got any idea where you’re going to put the car park.

“I definitely don’t want it down the end of my street.”

Stephen Trotter is concerned the boardwalk will become an “eyesore” against the pristine backdrop of the Minnamurra River.

“Currently, it’s a great big white structure which will invade that whole space, the river is narrow there, it requires good water flow to stop it banking up rubbish. It’s a disproportionate use of the space,” he said.

“We’re suspicious of council, they keep saying ‘we’re holding consultation’ and they make a presentation as given, and they continually do that. The community sessions are not consultative.

“You’ve got a group on the council who are pro-tourism at any cost, and stuff the residents and ratepayers.

“That’s what’s happening here – that’s the most fundamental thing of all.”

A Kiama Council spokesperson argued that Cardno has conducted extensive community and stakeholder consultations in determining the final route of the Boardwalk.

“This consultation, along with considerable other information about the process used to determine the final route, is contained in the Final Route Report,” the spokesperson said.

“Cardno subsequently conducted a further community information session to explain and answer questions about the report on November 12.”

Cardno is now conducting a review of environmental factors regarding the Minnamurra Boardwalk, as required by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

“This review involves the NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), NSW Roads and Maritime Service and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage,” the spokesperson said.

“Once this review is completed, a report will be placed on public exhibition, for submissions to be made. These submissions will be included in a final report to council.”