Plans to build a multi-million dollar boardwalk on the shores of Cunninghame Arm celebrating indigenous heritage in the region have received overwhelming public support during the consultation period, according to local MP Darren Chester.
Mr Chester said the consultation had demonstrated the majority of Lakes Entrance and district residents believed the project would deliver significant cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits to the community.
Named Krauatungalung Walk, the 4.5 kilometre circuit is planned to link existing infrastructure and create new boardwalks and pathways to take users along a safe, flat, all-abilities accessible circuit across some of the Gippsland Lakes’ most attractive coastal scenery.
Lakes Entrance Action and Development Association has received $50,000 from the Federal Government to undertake the preliminary design work and seek community feedback.
“Due to COVID restrictions, it wasn’t possible to host public meetings so the consultation has occurred remotely over many months and relied on people providing feedback directly or via social media,” Mr Chester said.
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with more than 90% of people expressing a level of support for the concept plans. It’s an exciting project that was first identified in East Gippsland Shire Council plans in 2012 but hasn’t progressed until now.
“Obviously not everyone agrees with any project and there have been some concerns raised by adjoining landowners. The plans for the boardwalk providing the missing link to Eastern Beach were amended in an attempt to accommodate those issues and provide a safe pedestrian pathway away from the Princes Highway.”
Mr Chester said the next stages of the project were to finalise an environmental study, develop indigenous artwork concepts, seek council approval for the project, and secure capital funding for the work, which may be completed in stages.
“Now a new council has been elected, it will be provided with an update on the work so far and a full briefing on the design, consultation process and opportunities to secure funding from state and federal governments,” Mr Chester said.
“My view during the entire process is we should be seeking funding from other levels of government, possibly through bushfire recovery funding, to deliver a project of such regional significance.”
Mr Chester said the health and economic benefits of an all-abilities accessible circuit would be obvious and the project could also deliver a practical example of reconciliation.
“The Krauatungalung Walk will use local artists to tell the story of the Lakes Entrance Aboriginal community and the Traditional Owners of this special place, creating an opportunity to deepen the understanding and respect of indigenous culture in a way that hasn’t been done before in such a high profile location in East Gippsland,” Mr Chester said.
“The construction of the circuit will fill in missing sections of path along both sides of the water, while preserving access to Cunninghame Arm for swimmers, kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats and others.
“Raised boardwalks will protect environmentally sensitive areas impacted by uncontrolled foot traffic and assist its regeneration, while elsewhere the boardwalk structure will be co-designed to limit the impact of erosion on private and public assets.
“The circuit will inspire people of all abilities to be more active: locals will be encouraged to use the trail as part of their regular exercise routine, while visitors will be enticed to extend their visit and explore more of Lakes Entrance’s attractions.
“With government funding support, Krauatungalung Walk will create jobs and play an important role in fostering greater indigenous understanding. This project will also boost the resilience of the visitor economy, enhance the liveability of Lakes Entrance and protect the natural environment for all to enjoy.”