New walking track coming to iconic island
A NEW walking track on one of the region’s most iconic islands has taken a step closer to reality.
The Ngaro Walking Track, a 29km multi-day walk from Tongue Point to Chance Bay and Whitehaven Beach, received further council approvals this month.
The name of the track gives recognition to the island’s traditional owners, the Ngaro People.
The $2.78 million trail is part of a $12.3 million Whitsunday Islands Investment Package and is being delivered to provide new, alternative and upgraded facilities within the Whitsunday Islands National Park.
Development documents state the trail is designed to be a “wilderness/remote area experience” and will “take full advantage of the natural flow of the land (and) unique natural features”.
The trail is scheduled for completion by June 2021.
The trail will include several campsites and potentially a luxury accommodation spot for hikers.
The first campsite has been earmarked to be set up about a kilometre from the Hill Inlet lookout while another may be located at Torres Herald Bay.
Part of the trail includes a boardwalk and 15m creek crossing through mangrove habitat at Upper Hill Inlet and a small section situated near a wetland protection area at Chance Bay.
These sections of the trail were the latest areas to be approved by the council, which means planning can continue to progress.
The boardwalk and wetland crossing were subject to strict environmental protection regulations during planning and “have been designed to have the least impact on the surrounding environments and tidal areas while enhancing visitor experiences”, according to the application.
The recommended design of the boardwalk uses ‘envirowalk’ mini-mesh decking to allow for light seepage through to mangroves, which was also said to reduce environmental impact.
The application also noted disturbance to marine plants and fish habitats for the construction of the boardwalk and creek crossing would be minimal.
A Cultural Heritage Management Agreement was reached with the Ngaro people, the traditional owners of the island, which identifies strategies to protect cultural heritage values during the development of the trail.
The track alignment has been planned to avoid impacts to known cultural sites.
A Department of Environment and Science spokesman said the site would be continually monitored during construction to ensure minimal damage.
“(The department) has carried out extensive cultural and environmental studies and assessments with the assistance of environmental scientists, marine ecologists, hydrologists, geotechnical engineers, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers and project officers,” he said.
“These studies and assessments ensure the track’s alignment and construction method has mitigated to the greatest possible extent, any negative impacts upon the island’s cultural, environmental and World Heritage values.
“Throughout construction comprehensive monitoring will also ensure any potential unforeseen impacts are quickly identified and avoided.
“This thorough examination means DES is very well informed in making any decisions and can rapidly respond if required.”