Scrapped Extension of The Esplanade Walking Track Raises Concerns in Sydney’s South

Residents in Sydney’s south are expressing alarm over fears that the state government may cancel a promised extension of The Esplanade walking track around the Cronulla peninsula. The concerns were raised by marine rescue volunteers who cited safety issues. The $7 million plan aimed to extend the pedestrian route along the clifftops from Salmon Haul Reserve to Darook Park on Gunnamatta Bay. Opposition Leader Mark Speakman, who is the Cronulla MP, wrote to residents stating that the government was considering scrapping part of the project. This move has angered Speakman, locals, and the Sutherland Shire Council, prompting an extraordinary meeting to discuss the matter.

The proposed extension includes the state heritage-listed former fisheries research centre at Hungry Point Reserve, which is currently used by Marine Rescue NSW as its operational headquarters. The organization wishes to convert it into a $12 million training complex. Speakman explained that the government is contemplating removing the section of the boardwalk between Hungry Point and Darook Park, which has already been approved and funded. This has raised concerns about exclusive access to the site for Marine Rescue NSW.

Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce will present a mayoral minute objecting to any plans to curtail the extension or reduce funding for the project. Pesce emphasized that funds had already been allocated by the former government for the full boardwalk extension, which the council would build and maintain. He stressed the importance of having a continuous loop for the community’s benefit and tourism promotion.

Marine Rescue NSW has expressed concerns about the proposed boardwalk obstructing their access to the water and their ability to conduct water safety duties. Lands and Property Minister Steve Kamper stated that these concerns were being considered alongside the need for public access to the reserve outside operational areas for safety reasons. Crown Lands, along with Marine Rescue NSW, the council, and the Hungry Point Reserve Land Manager board, is reviewing the future management of the reserve.

The Hungry Point Reserve is of significant importance to the community due to its natural beauty, rich Aboriginal heritage, and past use for fisheries research and migrant hostel accommodation. The extension of the path to Darook Park is seen as a way to enhance a popular walking route and potentially be the first stage of a public walkway around Port Hacking.