Yarrangobilly Conservation Plan Workshop

Community Interest In Future Of Caves

February 18, 2000 Tumut & Adelong Times

A wide range of community interests from Adaminaby, Cooma and Tumut were represented at a workshop held at Yarrangobilly Caves last week as part of developing an updated Conservation Management Plan for the caves.

About 35 people attended the workshop run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and consultants Jill Sheppard Heritage Consultants, which are preparing the draft Conservation Management Plan.

Among those attending were several Tumut residents whose association dates from the early days of tourism at the caves. The Hoad family, whose name is well-known in relation to the caves, was represented by Bruce Hoad and Colin Hoad.

Others attending with long-term associations included Clarrie Dunn, who lived at the caves as a teenager, and Phyllis Dowling, whose grandparents arc buried at the Glory Hole.

Others at the workshop included former Snowy Mountains Region Advisory Committee member Marjery Smith, a number of representatives from the local Aboriginal community, representatives from the Adaminaby and Talbingo progress associations, Tumut and Cooma tourism organisations and operators, speleological interests, the National Parks Association and NPWS staff.

NPWS caves manager, Jo Ingarfield, said a revised conservation management plan is being prepared to set the future direction for the caves area and the workshop was the first phase of community consultation.

"The previous plan is now eight years old and there have been a number of changes since then, including amendments to the Heritage Act as well as changing NPWS and community expectations," Ms Ingarfield said.

"In addition, over the past four years there have been significant achievement in infrastructure maintenance and improvements to the existing facilities at the caves, thanks to $200,000 of Heritage Assets Maintenance Program funding, as well as another $100,000 of NPWS funding."

Ms Ingarfield said she was really pleased with the number of people who showed such a keen interest at the workshop, particularly the local Aboriginal people, and their enthusiasm.

"This was a great help for the consultants to gain an understanding of the strong feelings about a range of issues at Yarrangobilly. "We recognise that some members of the community have strong historic ties with the caves, as well as extensive local knowledge and expertise and we wanted to be sure that the knowledge is incorporated in the development of the plan," said Ms Ingarfield.

"The strong representation from tourism interests in the Cooma and Adaminaby area showed there are a lot of opportunities to work together with the local tourism industry in developing and promoting Yarrangobilly Caves as a significant regional attraction."

Consultant Jill Sheppard explained that in developing the conservation management plan, it was important to identify factors such as Aboriginal and European heritage, the landscape and community values to establish the relative significance of the site.

We will then look at factors which affect the site, including legislation, financial viability, existing services, local association and tourism opportunities," Ms Sheppard said.

The workshop then looked at the important things about Yarrangobilly Caves, the challenges in its future development and opportunities.

Workshop participants acknowledge that the spectacular natural environment of the Yarrangobilly gorge and its unique caves and karst features, as well as its Aboriginal and European cultural landscapes, were the values which must be preserved.

Among the challenges identified were funding, the ability to balance conservation values with economic viability and a lack of information and promotion of the heritage and cultural values.

There were seen to be many opportunities for Yarrangobilly Caves, including provision of accommodation, local Aboriginal involvement in interpretation, links with regional tourism and use as an educational facility.

Following the workshop the consultants will prepare a draft Conservation Management Plan for NPWS input. There will be further opportunities for public input when the draft plan is placed on public exhibition in late March.