Create-Atherton Drive Master Plan

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Consultation has concluded

The Atherton Drive precinct, Urunga is under the management of the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust, which is jointly administered by both the NSW Department of Industry - Lands (DI-Lands) and Bellingen Shire Council.

DI-Lands together with Bellingen Shire Council require a Master Plan to guide the future use, development and management of the Atherton Drive foreshore. The area currently consists of informal public recreational area with native vegetation and limited facilities, a number of boathouses, a scout hall and a sailing club.

The aim of the Master Plan is to increase public foreshore access and enhance public recreation opportunities. The main issues for consideration include improving public access to the foreshore, uncontrolled vehicle access along the foreshore impacting an endangered ecological community, future of the remaining boathouses and unauthorised campervan camping.

The Atherton Drive precinct, Urunga is under the management of the Bellinger Heads State Park Trust, which is jointly administered by both the NSW Department of Industry - Lands (DI-Lands) and Bellingen Shire Council.

DI-Lands together with Bellingen Shire Council require a Master Plan to guide the future use, development and management of the Atherton Drive foreshore. The area currently consists of informal public recreational area with native vegetation and limited facilities, a number of boathouses, a scout hall and a sailing club.

The aim of the Master Plan is to increase public foreshore access and enhance public recreation opportunities. The main issues for consideration include improving public access to the foreshore, uncontrolled vehicle access along the foreshore impacting an endangered ecological community, future of the remaining boathouses and unauthorised campervan camping.

Guest Book


This narrow stretch of land is not owned by the yatch club, nor the people in Urunga, it is held in trust by NSW Department of Industry- Lands for the people of NSW. As such it needs to be returned to the people, and also to enhance the conservation and passive recreational use of the parklands. As the population of Urunga and surrounding areas increase, and also with more visitors in the future, it will be even more important to create as much parklands as possible free of cars. there is not need to have this as a through road as the casual tourist drive does not have to go right around the river bank, and I have noticed that the majority of cars are large 4 wheel drive vehicles with only one passenger in it. In many towns and cities river banks and water fronts are being returned to the people to walk along, or picnic. With the introduction of the concrete pathway for walkers, prams, wheelchairs, elderly, young children alike and bicycles(which are to give way to the others), this will allow easy access for all to use the river bank, and to be created parklands without cars, noise and dust. Access to Urunga is via Bellingen Street, nicely asphalted and it does not flood. Views of the river can be obtained from many other vantage points in Urunga. Looking at this area of Atherton Drive the beach near the yatch club is a most beautiful area, and would best be enhanced by closing the road at the blue hut till the crochet club. The area in-between could be replanted with the endangered swamp oak trees, and a beautiful area created for passive reareation, as river banks are supposed to be. This is a very narrow strip of land which is not conducive to a road, some 7.5 metres wide to be able to create a 2 way road under RMS rules. This is a very precious opportunity to create passive recreation area over a roadway which will be another highly priced asset in Urunga over the coming years . One only has to see the people flocked to Morgo Street Park to see how well used parklands are.

susan5058 over 3 years ago

Hi All,
I was wondering if the boat launching facilities could be upgraded along Atherton Drive? Repton has a pontoon; Macksville has a pontoon and a segmented pontoon jetty; Nambucca has a segmented pontoon jetty. Both the boat ramps at Urunga are very ordinary. The southern ramp is short and has rocks on one side and a small beach on the other that has many oyster covered rocks here and there. The northern ramp has a concrete "wharf" that is very slippery and is submerged at high tide. The fish cleaning facilities are fantastic but the ramps are poor quality and it is very difficult for us older folk to get into and out of our boats.
I notice with envy that Macksville also has a really nice wharf adjacent to the parkland just west of the current bridge. What a wonderful asset for the town allowing residents and visitors to buy some food and eat it next to the water. I have seen many people (young and old) fishing from this safe structure.
Urunga has its iconic Lido Boadwalk. I envisage the construction of a jetty adjacent to the caravan park or towards the entrance of the lido. This would enable the caravanning boaties somewhere to more their boats and safely pick up passengers. Families could tie up and go get some supplies at the corner shops; or grab a bite to eat at the cafes or pub. It would also give kids a safe platform to fish from and encourage them to take up this wonderful hobby. I imagine it would be wheelchair friendly so that elderly residents and visitors can use this new tourist attraction.
Thankyou for "listening" to me. I hope that I have made sense to you all. Gary Lyne. URUNGA.

Gary almost 4 years ago

It is important that any development along Atherton Drive is fully accessible for less able bodied people!

Representatives of GHD & Bellinger Heads State Park Trust at Community Information Sessions have made comments that indicate they clearly do NOT understand the barriers to participation in society many people face. The options presented to date suggest that social inclusion is merely a 'box to tick off' and that it can be solved by hackneyed ideas like Special Parking Bays placed at far ends of the road.

Atherton Drive road must remain open! Physical ability is a spectrum and an issue we may all face some time in our lifetime. The elderly; people living will illness; and less abled people of all age are not all issued with "Disabled Stickers" and scooting around in wheelchairs. Everyone should have equal opportunity to access sport & recreation facilities and to participate in everyday activities like walking; swimming; boating to the best of their capacity. Amenities to be planned and designed to be accessible, inclusive, low risk, easy to navigate for all. Council Developments should be required to keep these considerations firmly in mind.

GGSav about 4 years ago

I think it stinks the next 'community consultation meeting' is being held over staggered hours 3-7pm on Tuesday 29 August. I think this is because the 3 blokes who were at last meeting, were overwhelmed by the community representation and they weren't prepared for what happened - disgruntlement. I still think that having only 3 options is rubbish, there's plenty of other options. I feel the company behind this, there preferred option is 2 or 3. Have they visited the site have they consulted intensively with the community, I doubt it after the July meeting. They need to come and talk with those that use, enjoy Atherton and look at Atherton Drive now, as it is, it's lovely and untouched and we love it as it. The important things that need to occur soon is the foreshore erosion issue, as with the huge tides the Bellinger River Sailing Club which is co-shared withe Urunga Titivators Dragonboat Club will end up in the water and no one wants that to happen. The road needs regular regrading every few months. Toilets need more regular upkeep - cleaning of toilet or leave a toilet brush?? That's my recommendation. So please, please, please, listen to the users of the place and the locals. Cheers

cheeky58 about 4 years ago

Who are all the stakeholders?

Steve Vial about 4 years ago


THE LITTLE MUTT about 4 years ago

Atherton Drive Users Group -

This is a community Facebook page concerned with getting the best for the community from any planned changes to this lovely and well used area. This is an important issue, please look at this page and join this group to keep informed.

Bruce Miller about 4 years ago

How does closing a road give more people access..
When hundreds more drive through daily than walk.

Fishing is biggest tourism for town .
Instead of taking all fish out put some back....

Peter armytage over 4 years ago

Dont lock the road.

Peter armytage over 4 years ago

Dont lock the the road ...
Fix the river banks like they should have been before they got this bad..
So many Unanswered letters to council.
Put a beach for boats in front of Pub.
Put a toilet at each end of Atherton Dr.
Plant lots of trees shade etc.
People just love the drive.
Paint houses nice colours.
Locals--tourists spend in town.
Master plans sometimes have other motives..
Dont anyone who went to first consultation
Not many people using news feed comments ..
Not many reading this...
Go fishing

Peter armytage over 4 years ago

The Atherton Drive precinct is an area for everyone to access at all times. It is a public space and should be managed as such, commercial opportunities exist elsewhere in the town. It's a very unique space, having grown up in Urunga, moved away, developed a career I feel very fortunate to be able to come back here to raise a family. Without doubt the area is very sensitive and has suffered over recent years with increased use. As a wish list it would be good to see:
- As a priority. Formal bank stabilisation, this will need to be done in conjunction with some of the below. However at the moment there is steady erosion occurring due to vehicle movements, people movement, degradation of riparian vegetation and large boat wakes.
- current boat ramps maintained and improved with sealing of the eastern boat ramp. The eastern boat ramp is used by larger boats as the ramp is longer and there is no drop off at low tide. The parking area accommodates longer vehicles and trailers.
-The speed limit on the Kalang River around the Atherton Drive is currently 8 knots, consideration should be given to making this a no wake zone to reduce boat wake impacts on the foreshore. Increased policing of the waterways during peak seasons would hep also as the tourists just ignore speed limits.
- A dedicated paddle craft launch area around the eastern side of Atherton Drive, the boat ramp areas are often busy and not all that friendly for launching/retrieving paddle craft particularly with children.
- Close Atherton Drive to vehicles and open it up to a cycle/walk path linking the existing path at the Golf Club to the steps at Anchor's Wharf, skate park and the old tourist info centre.
- Formal picnic areas along the precinct, tables/shelters BBQs etc.
- Carparks to stop vehicles from driving and parking where ever they like along the river bank. Currently this is a major contributing factor to erosion as the grass and riparian vegetation is being degraded.
- No camping or over night stays (payed or free). This is a public space for everyone to access. I was abused by a camper at Christmas time for parking next to "his camp". At Easter I couldn't even get to the river bank due to the campers that had set up a four day camp, some even running their sullage hoses into the Kalang River. This area has always been a no camping area, growing up in Urunga I vividly remember the council ranger moving campers on a regular basis. Over recent years this has been poorly policed and now there are a number of websites promoting the "free camping" on the Kalang river at Urunga. There are commercial caravan parks in Urunga, plus other commercial accomodation. If they want to stay the night then they can use those facilities, I'm sure those businesses would appreciate the income. Camping whilst it might be free to the user, it costs money to implement the infrastructure and to maintain the facilities and why should a camper or a motor home have exclusive use of this area.
- The cabins should go. I agree that there is some historical value in their history, but that can be told and remembered through interpretive signage about the precinct and through the Urunga museum. Remove them, remove hazards and open it up to public space for everyone to share.

IP over 4 years ago

Access along Atherton drive should be maintained as it provides easy and sheltered access for non-motorised craft, such as kayaks and sail boats away from the busy hardened boat ramps. It also provides access for fishing and swimming.
While it would be prudent to keep areas, subject to erosion safe, it would not be a good investment to spend large amounts of money on a a riverbank which is increasingly subject to strong river flows, storm surge, flooding and rising sea levels.

Kevin Taylor over 4 years ago

I'd never thought about it until I read it here but closing off Atherton Drive to regular traffic is a brilliant idea: people usually only drive on it because it's a pretty drive. The rest of us enjoy walking on it but it's dusty and dangerous at times with the rally drivers sharing the space. There are many bitumened roads into town: it's not required access for cars, and it this is proven by the fact that it's the longer way into town. Create a dedicated walking/cycling track that we can all use that ultimately connects up with the rest of the walking/cycling paths that have been created around the caravan park, and on the way out to Hungry Head. This way I can let my kids ride their bikes and the dog walk without fear of squashing. Most of us love the boathouses (what's left of them). I see the arguments about the infeasibility of keeping them but maybe with grants or local help or something? I think they're a real draw card and seeing as they're a tiny fraction of what was there originally I don't see them as being too in the way. Lastly, if environmental constructs allow then it would be lovely to turn some of the river bank areas into more swimming-friendly spots. At the moment they're shallow and mostly muddy. And double lastly... even though this is probably not in the brief... the Kalang River area adjacent to the lido is quickly silting up... getting narrower by the day. And the lido is doing the same: less room to do much more than paddle: it narrows continuously. Isn't there some way to address this issue that suits the community and the green tape? Because this isn't a natural phenomenon anyway... the course of the river has been changed and the mangroves weren't there either. And the Boardwalk needs replacing. C'mon... it does. Particularly the older parts. They're way too narrow now for the amount of foot traffic this popular destination attracts. Peace out...

Elektra Macdonald over 4 years ago

The riverfront adjacent to Atherton Drive is at least picturesque. People who wish to enjoy the scenery are not the many who drive round the "river road" at 50+kms [some have been travelling at an estimated 110 kms plus] in some sort of Off-road dirt-road exhibition of their limited prowess and coating the golf course and the boathouses and the walking public with dust. These boy and girl racers put the walkers and joggers and sometimes the golfers lives in jeopardy. Children and the elderly would do best to avoid the track especially in very dry or very wet conditions where the traffic is extremely dangerous. Many older couples walk slowly along the road looking at everything and are often joined by cyclists and mothers walking prams for exercise. Your local correspondent has forgotten the toilets on the golf course and adjacent to the Sailing Club which are very much within the 500 metres she mentions. I think that a discontinuation of the vehicular traffic would be and advantage and traffic moving to and from the village can use the tar road, which is a shorter distance. Access to the boat-ramps on the railway bridge end could be used but discontinued at the drainage channel after the main boat ramp. Similarly access to the Tennis courts/Croquet courts and Sailing club could be curtailed at the sailing club and speeds in the vehicular access areas limited to [say] 25 kmh. for reasons of safety and convenience of the users. Peter.

WALL bros. over 4 years ago

As a local resident who visits Urunga cbd several times per week my partner and I regularly use this area to enjoy the river, be it a quiet picnic by the river shore, a gentle walk along the grassy banks or just lying under a tree and enjoying the beautiful views. Sadly too often lately these activities are either curtailed or ruined by people who free camp in the area, their vans/tents/cars obstructing the views, their generators piercing the peace and filling the air with fumes and their garbage filling the space. We already have two caravan parks in the area with another couple within a ten minute drive - these free campers tend to be self sufficient and thus don't even contribute to the local economy in the form of purchasing meals etc yet they take the area away from other users - many of whom like us, pay exorbitant rates to live in the Bellingen Shire. I would like to see the area developed only to the extent of enhancing the recreational activities such as picnics, walking, BBQ, swimming etc. I support closing the dirt rd known as Atherton Drive - making it emergency vehicles only and putting the car parks at each end. This will stop the free campers but still allow other recreational activities by locals and tourists alike. The current signage regarding no camping is next to useless with a small sign as you enter just past the tennis courts on the left - it's currently leaning over and is easily missed by drivers who at this point are looking to the right at the river and vista. Improving the no camping signage would help but ultimately those who don't care will ignore it anyway. Just today there was a jayco van set up with annex, bbq, boat and two 4wd vehicle's - despite being reported by myself yesterday to the council and having a visit from the ranger they were still in place and had already accumulated quite a quantity of rubbish and were emptying their 'grey water' into the river. Given there's no toilets for a good 500metres one wonders if this doesn't end up in the river and bush too - not a pretty thought. We use this area several times a week and come across many other locals who do likewise - the number escalates noticeably in school holidays as locals attempt to escape the hordes of tourists along the board walk and surrounding area. Please let this area be protected from further camping - we don't need it to become like other coastal shires with locals unable to access their own recreational areas due to the prevalence of campers seeking cheap/free places to stay. These areas have had to implement strict parking limits and have rangers on hand 24/7 and as I was advised by council yesterday, we only have 2 rangers and a huge area to cover - let's keep their work productive and our recreational areas open to genuine users - picnicking, kayaking, family outings for the day, etc. There are many who already enjoy the precinct in this manner - closing the road will not stop them but will stop council rangers wasting time clearing off the illegal campers - unfortunately the revenue from fines goes to State Revenue so doesn't even help pay for the costs of the ranger's attending let alone the clean up costs after the campers leave. Thanks for the community consultation.

Wendy over 4 years ago

In holiday times the Lido area of Urunga is packed with visitors. A second 'beach' area could be made between the park stage and the Urunga C-ex. This area is being used more & more as the population and visitor numbers increase and is somewhat protected by the training wall and already has limited sand area. Extra sand is readily available from the build up in the river (subject to government bureaucracy). Bellingen Council uses the Beach Stone Curlew as an excuse to not clean up this area, when in fact the birds live on Urunga Island and are rarely seen on the main land. I also believe the Holiday Park Trust would want to keep the swimming area near the caravan park as the only designated swimming/beach area. As The Holiday Park Trust and Bellingen Council work together, there is little hope a second 'beach' area will be considered.

lazylobster over 4 years ago

People, both locals & visitors, are at Urunga mostly to view and/or use the water ways. The foreshore (including the walk way) has water access & views obstructed by invasive plants and trees, and introduced species. If people wish to look at trees they go to Dorrigo. Clean up Urunga foreshore without the over planting of trees.

lazylobster over 4 years ago