Swimming holes at The Promised Land. Photo by Janine Watson
Swimming holes at The Promised Land. Photo by Janine Watson

How to stop killing the golden goose ?

Bellingen Shire Council has issued a statement in response to concerns The Promised Land is being loved to death.

The dramatic landscape and crystal clear water holes have long been popular with locals and visitors, but this holiday season there's been what some say is an unprecedented influx of visitors.

In late December, Mayor Dominic King warned the town's facilities and natural resources cannot sustain such a large number of visitors.

"We just don't have the capacity to manage the numbers of visitors and it's all adding pressure on our fragile ecosystems - we don't want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg which is our natural environment," Cr King said.

RELATED: Boom causing 'real fear' in community

Photos of rubbish left behind have angered many locals who have questioned what Council is doing about the situation.

Bellingen is booming but there are concerns about the spread of COVID and the impact on the town's resources.
Bellingen is booming but there are concerns about the spread of COVID and the impact on the town's resources.

In recent days Council issued a statement attempting to address some of these concerns:

"This holiday season we have seen tourist numbers increase like never before," the statement reads.

Restrictions on both interstate and international travel combined with metropolitan residents keen to escape the city has contributed to the spike in numbers visiting the area.

Coffs Harbour has also experienced a tourism boom these holidays.

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The press release goes on to say that Bellingen Shire Council takes a very proactive approach with respect to tourism and the risks associated from increasing visitation.

"During the last five years, there has been a strong focus on tourism management rather than tourism marketing."

Swimming holes at The Promised Land.
Swimming holes at The Promised Land.

Management strategies implemented recently include:

- Bellingen Shire Branding Strategy to assist in positioning the Shire to market segments with similar ideals.

- Departure from the Coffs Coast Marketing Partnership - to reduce broad promotion of the Bellingen Shire giving more control over what attractions and areas are promoted.

- Increased focus on the aspirational traveller and inclusive tourism.

- Introduction of a new camping policy to reduce illegal camping across the Shire.

The statement made particular reference to The Promised Land and the Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan made in partnership with the community in 2016.

Actions from the master plan include a moratorium on all Council and industry promotion of The Promised Land, monitoring of visitor and vehicular numbers and increased ranger patrols during peak times.

"There is more work to be done under the Master Plan. Council is very aware of the pressure the area is under.

"This pressure comes from both tourists and residents (local and regional), continued promotion by individuals on social media, continued promotion by local accommodation properties and ad hoc promotion by bloggers, television programs and travel publications."

Council says management of the area is made more challenging because most visitation occurs within Tuckers Nob State Forest - which is outside Council's control.

People swimming at The Promised Land.
People swimming at The Promised Land.

State Forests allow a wide range of recreational activity.

There is also the concern that the introduction of new visitor infrastructure will attract even more visitors and detract from the natural ambience that visitors and residents treasure.

Both Gleniffer Rd and Promised Land Loop Rd are public roads limiting Council's capacity to reduce traffic numbers.

Council will continue to liaise with the Gleniffer Working Group on the implementation of the Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan and will aim to meet with key stakeholders, (including Forestry and the local Police) early in the new year, to discuss and develop strategies which may go some way to addressing increasing visitation to The Promised Land.