According to the YRMTB, this project has been under development since 2006. DELWP, Parks Victoria, CEDA, The Shire of Yarra Ranges and the Bendigo Bank, were involved from early on. Please note 2006, this proposal was under development and the locals knew nothing. (The Page Link below was taken down in 2022. However, it had details of the formation of the club in order to pursue the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination Project, the help of DELWP who introduced them to members of Parks Victoria who helped them move this project along and the contacts with Shire of Yarra Ranges and CEDA.)
Seven years later, in 2013, a comprehensive Warburton Mountain Bike Feasibility Study (350 pages of text, tables, photos and maps detailing mountain bike trails, trail heads (car parks for mountain bikers) with plans for what facilities each trail head would have (toilets, signage, water fountains, etc) including market analysis, environmental impact study, photos, analysis of other mountain bike sites, etc., was published.Warburton Mountain Bike Feasibility Study 2013
A link to the Feasibility study was posted on the Yarra Ranges Council Website along with an introduction, a call for submissions and a small poll. Unfortunately, most people didn’t know the page was there and those that did find it, didn’t download the 350 page document, let alone read it completely or even read the introduction – pretty standard behaviour, the public generally doesn’t. Most who found the page did see the poll and voted on it. The poll said ‘Do you support a Mountain Bike Trail in Warburton‘. Please note: A mountain bike trail. Not the 97 kms of trails that was being proposed at the time (now over 170 kms of trails), but A mountain bike trail. Here is a screen shot (the page has since been removed).
The Yarra Ranges Mountain Bikers let their members know about the poll on the 20 July 2016. As they were part of the consultation process from the beginning and the locals weren’t it is not surprising that they swamped the results. There was also no way to prevent someone putting in multiple votes on the poll as no information was recorded on who had voted or how many votes they had. There were approximately 800 yes votes and few no votes. Some of our members voted yes not realising that they were supporting a Mountain Bike Destination let alone the Mountain Bike Capital of Victoria. The page has been subsequently taken down by council.Yarra Ranges Mountain Bikers Post
The first consultations with residents were in October and November 2015. The first consultation only had three residents turn up because of the lack of advertising. The second concultation was advertised in the local paper and so about 50 people turned up. Few knew that it was about a major mountain bike destination, many didn’t know it was about an official project at all.
An article in the Mountainviews Mail by Kath Gannaway, our local reporter, did not report the meeting was a consultation over the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination but presented it only as a conflict between residents and mountain bikers with the YRMTB working with DELWP for illegal trails to be made legal. The only local who was quoted in this article that had read the full Feasibility Study was Peter Silis while Derry Talvainn ignorant of the proposal never said the quote attributed to her.Uphill Task for all Users 30-11-2015
The article introduces the subject with:“THE popularity and growth of mountain bike riding in the State Forest around Warburton is proving a double-edged sword.
“A meeting called by DELWP (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) on Thursday 19 November, in Wesburn highlighted some of the conflicting views and impacts that the growth of the sport has had and how it can be managed into the future.”
There is one reference to a plan being put forward by DELWP with a later quote by the YRMTB President saying they were working with DELWP to legalise illegal trails.
Why wasn’t the newspaper article titled “Mountain Bike Destination proposed for Warburton” or in the language of the time “Mountain Bike Hub proposed for Warburton”. Why wasn’t there information in the newspaper article about the 90+kms of tracks proposed at that time? Is it any wonder few understood what was really going on?
Maybe this was a mistake? No, this is the way many new mountain bike trails are introduced into newspaper articles. There is an M.O: Two groups (one is mountain bikers) are in contention. DELWP is coming to save the day by negotiating between them – no proper information about mountain bike trails are put forward. Later it is claimed that everyone knew. These were the consultation sessions and anything after is just information sessions for a done deal.
So those of us who did not understand the enormity of this project until the newspaper articles in May and June, 2018 were oblivious of the Project and were locked out of any control over what was happening.
The five pop up information sessions held in June 2018 were just that: information sessions to inform us – not to ask us our opinion. No-one was being given the opportunity to object to the project in whole or any part.
A community questionnaire survey form was given out (also available online), but the only questions were about what sort of trails you would like to see more of (eg. flow, downhill or x-country, etc) and what types of facilities you would like (eg. toilets, signage, water fountains, etc).https://engage.vic.gov.au/yarra-valley-trails-destination
The Project was a fait d’accompli. And yet insultingly the article about the community consultation sessions in the Upper Yarra Mail was titled ‘Consultation is the Key‘. In the article residents were labelled by Matt Harrington, the Project Leader, as ‘having a very emotive response’ that ‘fuelled fear and uncertainty’. This dismisses objections to the project as just being emotive and fearful, but also shows that locals were not pleased. While Jim Child claimed that the response on the project is ‘very positive’, and dismisses the concerns raised by the Old Warburton Residents Association meeting at the Mechanics Hall the night before as ‘misinformation’. The 66 people who voted to slow down the project so there could be more community consultation were not mentioned by Jim Child – a not so positive response.
The Master plan maps have been impossible to read and multiple requests for clearer plans have been ignored until the EES process of 2021. The maps were photos of the bush with trails marked in bright colours over the top of the trees – no other trails or other features are marked on these maps to help residents orient their position.
Since the 2018 consultations the trails that went through the Old Warburton Cemetery and the trails up Merlino Avenue have been removed, and there have been other alterations. However, any concessions have been minor and the amount of trails have grown and grown and grown – so nothing has been about the major complaint of our community – it’s too big.
The Yarra Ranges Council Community Engagement Service Review
The Yarra Ranges Council Community engagement service review was attended by a group of residents who were disgruntled about either the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination or the Yarra Valley Trail. There were no sessions held in Warburton and the only Yarra Junction session held on the 28th August, 2018, was during the day (10:00 am to 12:00) making it impossible for workers and others engaged in daylight hours to attend. When residents objected to the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination the consultants dismissed us as ‘a few vocal residents’. We were also told that we were not to talk about specific projects – muzzled again.Community Engagement Service Review
Powelltown Community Consultation
The Council voted on funding for the Powelltown Sports Pavillion (the Powelltown Community Sporting Precinct Development Project) on their 13 November, 2018 meeting, however, it was not mentioned in either the Council agenda or minutes that this included funding for two Mountain Bike Trails connecting both Mt Tugwell and Big Pat’s Creek to Powelltown and also infrastructure at Powelltown’s Sports Ground for Mountain Bikes.
This meeting coincided with an information session at Powelltown making it impossible for residents to go to both meetings – the choice was to either find out what was going on or object to it at council, but not both. The residents that attended the meeting expressed a lot of concern about the proposal and were predominantly against it.
The Warburton Place Plan Workshops
• Workshop 1: Held on 20 February 2019, focusing on land use, environment andinfrastructure. • Workshop 2: Held on 28 February 2019, focusing on the local and regional economy. • Workshop 3: Held on Sunday, 28 April, from 2-4.30pm, focusing on society, culture and identity.
“The purpose for the workshops was to explore the essence of Warburton’s culture and identity and provide the background story of the Warburton Place Plan for the participants.”
Although the participants were not informed of it, these workshops were part of the consultation that was done for the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination. This email reply from Ride Yarra Ranges, who are the Project administrators, confirms this:
Residents were invited to write down how they wanted to see Warburton developed over the next ten years. However, people who attended were advised to not put in any mention of the WMBD into their notes. If anyone wrote any reference to the WMBD, they were advised it would be stripped out of the feedback. Nonetheless some of us wrote about our concerns and objections to the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination Project despite the warning. The copy of our feedback that was sent to participants after the first consultation had all mentions of the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination stripped out as promised. Participants were not sent feedback from the later consultations.
Many participants decided because we were not allowed to mention the WMBD to write more generally about their love of the bush/environment, their love of the peace and quiet, their love of the local community, about their worries about too much tourism, about the stress on our emergency services, loss of residential accommodation, etc. This was all code for We Don’t Want the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination to overwhelm us.
How can you put in a Town Plan for a Town which is planned to be the Mountain Bike Capital of Australia and not mention that?
Time and again we find that objectors were told they are the only person to object and are shocked to find so many others told the same. Isolate and disempower. Others were told that everyone is behind the project.
They are unable to say this anymore because objectors have found each other and we have grown too big and too many. Instead our views are dismissed with simple platitudes like “change is inevitable”, “you are just being fearful of change”, “your concerns won’t materialise” and “you are just negative”.
Speakers to Council Meetings are trussed up like turkeys – having to submit what they are going to say before hand, given five minutes to speak, after them a handpicked opposition speaker who is given a feel good talk that is superficial and misleading and then the council dismisses the objector with no right of reply given at that meeting and no coming back next fortnight to clarify. A total set up.
Dismiss our concerns as nonsense but in truth they are already materialising and once the real go ahead for Warburton Mountain Bike Destination happens then they will sky rocket.