Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Environment Group claims National Park Forums were Biased

“The credibility of National Parks and Wildlife review of its mountain bikes policy use has been severely damaged by the revelation that the facilitator for a series of forum held on this issue is closely aligned with the mountain bike lobby.  The Colong Foundation for Wilderness has today called for the results from these public meetings to be thrown out and for National Parks and Wildlife to explain why it granted such a sensitive task to a mountain bike advocate and who is also involved in building tracks.

“Mr Anthony Burton, the facilitator of the bike forums for National Parks and Wildlife appears to be a mountain bike advocate and consultant.  Mr Anthony Burton was President of the Canberra Off Road Cyclists when it co-hosted the $7.5 million dollar 2009 Mountain Bike World Championships at Mt Stromolo Forest Park in Canberra(1).  Mr Burton has very recently worked, and perhaps still works, for Making Trax as the Environmental Planning and Access expert.  This construction company develops mountain bike tracks including those at Mt Stromolo(2)”, said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“The appointment of an independent facilitator is fundamental to the conduct of a public meeting for the development of a national park policy.  Paying for a consultant who just happens to be closely associated with the mountain bike track construction firm to run a public meetingssuggests that some officers in National Parks and Wildlife were not diligent in awarding the contract for the meeting facilitator.  They need to explain themselves and how they are going to conduct public consultation in an independent manner in the future,” he said.

“The officers in National Parks and Wildlife who appointed Mr Burton have damaged the public’s perception of NPWS independence in undertaking its consultation processes,” said Mr Muir.  “The bushwalkers who risk their enjoyment being spoiled by bike riders who seek to ride on walking tracks or the conservationists concerned with track construction in national parks can no longer be confident that their concerns will be adequately considered and addressed by the forum process”, Mr Muir added.

“Mr Burton did not declare his conflict of interest at the beginning of the public forums he ran for National Parks and Wildlife.  He cannot be seen to be an independent facilitator or able to prepare an independent report on the public meetings convened throughout NSW.  The links between Mr Burton and the Mountain Bike lobby are too close for the independence of the public consultation process to be assured”, he said.

For more info. contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)