A new visitors precinct and a possible name change are on the cards for Killalea as the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) releases its vision for the future management and protection of the beloved Shellharbour site.
Previous proposals around the handling and development of the regional park and surfing reserve have been plagued with controversy. Community backlash, rallies and protests against the direction of the site’s former governance resulted in the NPWS taking over management in June last year.
Now, a new draft plan of management is on exhibition, which aims to preserve the longevity of the site by honouring its Aboriginal significance, maintaining healthy ecosystems and creating sustainable facilities for the community and visitors.
“The draft plan of management explains how NPWS is intending to conserve the natural and cultural values of the park, while also fostering community enjoyment of the reserve,” an NPWS spokesperson said.
“Knowing how important the park is to the community we drafted this plan with a reference group who represent a range of interests including cultural heritage, conservation, surfing, tourism and education.”
Infrastructure upgrades proposed in the extensive document include a new visitors’ pavilion, which will have a combined use for environmental education, Aboriginal cultural activities and visitors’ services.
The building, which will sit on the footprint of the current kiosk, will be able to be used by different groups simultaneously and boasts wrap around verandahs and a central covered courtyard.
Seating and speakers in a new outdoor cultural area have also been flagged, along with refurbishment of picnic structures, a new lawn to connect picnic areas and parking improvements.
With around 30,000 visitors each year, current facilities have been deemed to no longer meet the needs of the community and are impacting on visitor safety, environmental values and visual amenity but, according to the plan, developments are not set to overpower the beauty of the current site and “any upgrade will be low-key in nature and will ensure the design and siting of buildings minimise impacts to the natural, cultural and scenic values of the park”.
Walking trails are also to be reassessed with the potential for existing tracks to be upgraded or new ones to be created subject to safety, environmental, heritage and sustainability assessments.
Protecting Aboriginal cultural values has also been identified as a priority.
The NWPS plans to support programs that involve Aboriginal people in caring for country and consult them regarding incorporating knowledge and practices, such as traditional burning practices, into the ongoing management of the park.
Documenting and preserving Aboriginal sites of significance is high on the agenda, while further in the future NWPS hopes to partner with the Aboriginal community to incorporate their language into the naming of places, park features and signage, with the potential to explore the renaming or dual naming of Killalea Regional Park.
The biodiversity and coastal landscape of the park is one of the most iconic and recognisable aspects of the site with 14 vegetation communities but over half of those are endangered and the significant impact of the park’s farming history is still evident.
Plans are still to be devised to for weed management and the restoration of natural vegetation, along with other threats like fire and feral animals.
Further scientific research and monitoring of Killalea Lagoon through educational organisations and programs will also be encouraged, with NPWS to engage experts and stakeholders, including quarry managers, other neighbouring land managers and relevant government authorities to better understand and mitigate the risks to the lagoon.
Killalea has become a meaningful and important asset to a vast portion of the community, which was particularly evident through their petitioning and passion for ensuring its preservation through NPWS.
As this plan will inform the future direction of the management, the public is being encouraged to have their say and offer feedback through mail, email or an online form.
“Killalea is a place of cultural importance for Aboriginal people, home to important biodiversity, coastal ecosystems and surfing culture,” the spokesperson said. “It is a much-loved and very popular reserve, so we are calling on the community to provide feedback as to how it should be managed into the future.”
The Killalea Regional Park draft plan of management and draft precinct plan will remain on exhibition until 29 January 2024 with submissions to be provided to the South Coast Regional Advisory Committee who may choose to provide advice to the NSW Minister for the Environment.
The Minister will then have the final say on any changes and decide whether to adopt the plan.
To read the plans in full and to make a submission visit the NSW Department of Planning and Environment website.
NPWS staff will also be at Killalea this Saturday 4 November to talk to visitors and encourage them to have their say.