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Phragmites australis – grasses in the area’s wetlands - FAST project Hunter region NSW

Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track environment and heritage consultation

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RPS’ Newcastle ecologists provided environmental consulting services for the Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track, in the Hunter Region, NSW

Creating shared pathways

Lake Macquarie City Council (LMCC) saw an opportunity to invest in both the environment and the community by linking existing pathways and creating one, new and improved shared pedestrian and cycle track. Once completed, the Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track (FAST) will be a 3.6km shared pathway, filling in a missing link to create a continuous 27-kilometre active transport route from Murrays Beach in southern Lake Macquarie to Adamstown in Newcastle, New South Wales.

FAST project - Artist's impression of new viewing platform overlooking Belmont Lagoon
Artist's impression of new viewing platform overlooking Belmont Lagoon

The FAST project will highlight the area’s natural assets, including the environmentally significant and picturesque Belmont Wetlands. The track will include a viewing platform, wetlands boardwalk, a new bridge over Cold Tea Creek as well as the extended pedestrian and cycle pathway.

For the project to be realised, LMCC needed to undertake environmental and heritage surveys to consider the potential impacts of the proposed route and amenities.

Planting and protecting vegetation

In 2020, LMCC appointed RPS to undertake several reviews in preparation for the development of the FAST project.

As the track would sit among wetlands, rich biodiversity, and areas of First Nations historical significance, it was important to complete comprehensive assessments of the environment and consider the potential impact of the development.

Phragmites australis – grasses in the area’s wetlands - FAST project Hunter region NSW
Phragmites australis – grasses in the area’s wetlands

Our consultants prepared several reports including an environmental impact statement and a review of environmental factors. The reports covered many factors including biodiversity, First Nations heritage, air quality, soils and water, traffic, noise and vibration, and waste management.

RPS ecologists also prepared a vegetation management plan, which ensures the rehabilitation of native vegetation along the pathway edge and ongoing maintenance and care along the track and nearby bushland. The plan included the planting of around 380 trees to enhance the environment and protect the native fauna as well as guidance for the best species to plant to preserve the wetlands.

RPS’ work helped inform the most suitable and sustainable route for the Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track, which is due to be completed in 2023.

FAST project - southern section October 2022
Southern section of the Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track, October 2022

3.6   km

of shared pathway

$   7.4   million

in NSW Government funding

$   12   million

estimated total cost

200,000

current walkers and bike riders using the adjoining Fernleigh Track each year