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.
A Brief History of the Club – Yarra Ranges Mountain Bikers
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 tose that did didn’t download a 350 page document, let alone read it completely or even read the introduction. Most who found the page did read the one line intro to 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 180 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 made. When our group discovered it was still possible to vote despite the poll being “closed” so started adding their vote, the council took the page down.
Yarra Ranges Mountain Bikers Post
The first consultations with residents were in November 2014. Of the many people I know who attended, no-one 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.
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 no elaboration other than to say that it is being put forward to solve the problem, when really the mountain bike surge was caused by the development of the Mountain Bike Destination Project and not the other way around. The mountain bikers were only becoming a problem on trails from 2014 onwards – after the release of the feasibility study.
Is it any wonder few understood what was really going on?
So those of us who did not understand the enormity of this project until the newspaper articles in May and June, 2018 were left out in the cold.
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).
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 as a not so positive response.
The Master plan maps have been impossible to read and multiple requests for clearer plans have been ignored. The maps are photos of the bush with trails marked in bright colours over the top of the trees – no other trails are marked on these maps.
Since the consultations the trails that went through the Old Warburton Cemetery and the trails up Merlino Avenue have been removed, however the Old Warburton Residents still have trails stopping at their front gates and going past their windows and the 110kms of first stage trails are still going ahead without any more alteration than that.
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’.
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 also 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 the proposal.
The Warburton Place Plan Workshops
• Workshop 1: Held on 20 February 2019, focusing on land use, environment and
• 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, this was stripped out from the copy of our feedback that was sent to participants after consultation as we were advised it would be. There were many mentions of unhappiness with the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination and many others mentions of concerns that because we were not allowed to mention the WMBD spoke more generally about wishing to keep Warburton peaceful, worries about too much tourism, worries about stress on our services, loss of residential accommodation, etc. without mentioning the forbidden Warburton Mountain Bike Destination.