In response to queries put forward to the office regarding the Cooloola Great Walk, we have contacted the office of the Minister for the Environment, who have responded with the information below:

  1. Community Consultation
  • Between 31 May 2019 and 22 August 2019, the then-Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation invited the community to share their ideas and knowledge to inform future planning of ecotourism development along the Cooloola Great Walk.
  • Input and feedback from this engagement was sent to the shortlisted proponents as part of the 2018 Expression of Interest process to help them deliver an enhanced experience.
  • From 1 to 21 June 2021, the Department of Environment and Science (DES) undertook a public and stakeholder consultation process across the Rainbow Beach, Gympie and Noosa regions.
  • This round of public consultation was intended to present information gathered to date on the project, seek the views of the community and key stakeholders on the proposal, and to notify the public of an opportunity to make a formal submission on the project under a parallel referral process being undertaken by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
  • In total 12 consultation events were held during this process, including targeted one-on-one discussions with key stakeholders, community consultation events, and community pop-up stalls. In total 154 participants were engaged across all meetings and events.
  • Further opportunities for public consultation will emerge as the project evolves, such as in relation to local government development approvals.
  1. Impacts of Proposed Sites
  • The sites selected for the Project were chosen to avoid direct impacts on existing users of the national park, including hikers, campers, recreational four-wheel drivers and canoeists/boaters on the Noosa River.
  • All sites are located away from existing public campsites. The sole exception to this is Site L, which is located directly adjacent to the last tent site in the existing Litoria Walkers Camp in order to utilise an existing disturbed area and minimise ecological impacts.
  • Site N was specifically chosen to avoid impacts on visitors in the nearby area, including public users of the Cooloola Great Walk, campers at Campsite 3, and users of the Noosa River. The site is located over 2km from the Dutgee Walkers Camp and over 500m from Campsite 3. DES will also require that structures at Site N are not visible from Campsite 3, the Cooloola Sandpatch and the Noosa River.
  1. First Camp (N) and Poona Lake (P)
  • Sites N and P are located close to ecologically and culturally significant waterway and wetland values – Site N is located adjacent to the Noosa River and Cooloola Patterned Fens, and Site P is located near Poona Lake.
  • DES has undertaken ecological surveys, environmental impact assessment of both sites, and a hydrological survey of Site P to determine its position within the Poona Lake perched catchment.
  • DES will require CABN, the project proponent, to incorporate an extensive range of measures to avoid and mitigate risks to these values, including:
    • Fully contained wastewater systems, which are pumped out at regular intervals.
    • High grade, reinforced storage tanks for all water and wastewater kept on site.
    • Bunding around all high risk (e.g. any wastewater sources or storage areas) to contain spills or leads of hazardous materials.
    • Strict limitations on potential contaminants where there is a risk of drainage into sensitive areas (e.g. use of hazardous cleaning products outdoors).
    • At Site P, placement of all high risk structures at the southern edge of the site, which DES has determined to be outside of Poona Lake’s catchment.
  • A detailed environmental management plan is currently being prepared by DES and CABN to ensure these measures are implemented. This will result in conditions in CABN’s lease with DES.
  • Alternative sites were considered as part of DES site selection process. These sites were rejected due to a multitude of factors, including impacts on natural and cultural values, natural hazards, impracticality of access, incompatibility with park management, impacts on existing public use and ecotourism potential. The final sites selected represent the best balance to address each of these individual constraints.
  1. River Access
  • Access to Site N will be via boat along the Noosa River to Campsite 3.
  • Boat access will utilise one of the jetties located at Campsite 3 – no private jetty facilities will be provided for the eco-tourism development.
  • Visitors will not be permitted to travel beyond Campsite 3 by boat, as per current restrictions.
  • Use of a boat to Campsite 3 will not exceed current carrying capacity of the Upper Noosa River.
  • The Department of Environment and Science (DES) is currently seeking further advice from the proponent on the specifications of the boat required, frequency of use, and departure point. These details will be required prior to final Project approval.
  1. Operation and Maintenance
  • DES is currently working with CABN to refine critical, outstanding aspects of the Project required for final Project approvals, including wastewater management system and vehicle access requirements.
  • DES approvals will be contingent on the proponent adhering to strict wastewater management requirements, including:
    • Incorporating fully contained wastewater management systems at Sites N and P, with no release of any wastewater into the surrounding environment that may pose a risk to significant wetland values nearby.
    • Additional protection measures being implemented to contain accidental spillages or leakages of hazardous materials.
    • Placement of wastewater storage and pump out facilities at Site P at the southern edge of the site, outside of the Poona Lake catchment.
    • Provision of further details of the level of treatment to be applied on wastewater at sites away from significant wetland values (i.e. at sites L, K and D), with approvals required for any release of wastewater into the surrounding environment. DES expects that wastewater will be treated to, at minimum, Advanced Secondary quality.
    • Development of a wastewater management plan that includes schematics for wastewater management systems, environmental protection measures, and ongoing monitoring requirements for the Project.
  • DES approvals will also require development of a traffic management plan, which contains:
    • Management measures for the sand track network across the Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park, noting that no significant alterations to existing sand tracks will be permitted’ due to environmental, public use and historic heritage constraints.
    • A requirement that CABN maintain any tracks used to access sites that is solely for their use.
    • Details on the frequency of vehicle access and the type(s) of vehicles to be used.
  1. Visitor Management
  • At peak capacity, the operation is estimated to cater for approximately 5500 guests per year.
  • While this is considerably more than use of the Cooloola Great Walk, the walk itself is considered an underutilised asset, attracting less than 2000 campers annually out of a total capacity of over 12,000 people.
  • Increased commercial use of the Cooloola Great Walk will therefore not exceed sustainable levels or impact public use.
  • Individual campsites will also cater for far fewer guests than existing public campsites in the area- for example, based on 2018-19 (pre-Covid 19) data, public Campsite 3 alone attracted over 400 individual bookings for over 2300 individuals.
  • More broadly, the anticipated increase in hiker numbers is also negligible compared to visitor numbers for other users of the broader area, in particular four-wheel driving and vehicle-accessed camping, which attract over 300,000 visitors to the park annually.
  • A visitor management plan will be prepared for the Project and will be required for final Project approvals from DES.
  • DES is also currently developing a broader visitor management plan for the Cooloola Recreation Area.
  1. Track Networks
  • Sites have been located in order to take advantage of the extensive four-wheel drive sand track network across the Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park.
  • Approximately 96km of existing public and management access track and beach driving will be used to access all five sites.
  • An additional 1.365km of track will need to be constructed new, reopened or converted from walking access to connect all five sites to the existing sand track network, representing approximately 1.4% of the total vehicle access route.
  • All walking tracks converted to vehicle access will be either rerouted to provide for ongoing walker access or developed into shared vehicle/walker access.
  1. Bush Fire Management
  • Maintenance of ongoing fire regimes is critical for the ecological integrity of Great Sandy National Park.
  • Current fire regimes will not be impacted by the Project – instead the Project will need to accommodate ongoing fire management and include measures to both ensure that the development is protected from wildfire, and that it does not pose an additional wildfire risk.
  • A bushfire management plan is being prepared for final Project approvals, and will need to be addressed for both final approvals by the State and development approvals for both the Gympie and Noosa local government authorities.
  1. Scientific Studies
  • DES has commissioned a series of detailed ecological surveys and environmental impact assessment of all proposed sites, including:
    • An initial desktop study of the entire length of the Cooloola Great Walk to identify critical natural values and potential campsite locations.
    • A field assessment of 16 potential sites.
    • A detailed field assessment of six preferred final sites.
  • DES also commissioned a groundwater hydrology investigation of Site P to determine the extent of the Poona Lake catchment and depth of confining layers beneath the lake.
  • Further ecological surveys may be conducted to inform baseline environmental condition assessment and ongoing monitoring requirements for the Project if gaps are identified.
  1. Proposal Details
  • The Project is a Queensland Government initiative and is part of the Queensland Ecotourism Trails Program that is co-delivered by DES and the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport.
  • Ecological surveys of all sites and environmental impact assessment have been undertaken by Biodiversity Assessment and Management Pty Ltd including qualified Botanists and Ecologist.
  • GHD Pty Ltd was engaged to undertake groundwater hydrological studies of Site P.
  • The Traditional Owners have also been instrumental in Project input and guidance.
  • An archaeologist has also been involved in assessing and steering the proposal with historic cultural heritage and an Indigenous cultural heritage lens.
  1. Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi Consultation
  • The Queensland Government has been engaging with the Traditional Owners and Native Title Claimants for the area, the Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi People, in relation to the Project since its inception in 2018.
  • The Queensland Government has undergone significant investigations with the Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi People in relation to the Aboriginal cultural heritage values of the proposed eco-camp sites along the Cooloola Great Walk.
  • The Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi People have affirmed their support for the Project and the assessment process undertaken to date.
  • The Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi People continue to play an active role in planning the ecotourism project including assisting to select eco-camp sites, undertaking cultural monitoring and shaping the visitor experience.
  • Ongoing Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi involvement and management of cultural heritage will be prescribed in an Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Cultural Heritage Management Plan, which is being negotiated between the Queensland Government and Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi People.
  1. Gympie Regional Council Consultation
  • CABN and DES have met with local government authorities in Gympie Regional Council and Noosa Shire numerous times since 2019, to provide updates on the status of the Project and seek advice on requirements for respective development assessment processes.
  • DES and CABN have met with representatives of Gympie Regional Council at on at least five occasions regarding the Project, the most recent being a meeting with council staff on 7 June 2021 as part of its community and stakeholder consultation process.
  • CABN is currently preparing applications for development approvals with both local government authorities.

If you have any other specific queries regarding the points above, please do not hesitate to contact our office either via noosa@parliament.qld.gov.au or by calling 5319 3100 and we can seek further clarification from the Department.