Community & Business

27 February, 2024

Bid to buy land to save iconic track

AN internationally renowned walking track at Yungaburra may have been saved after Tablelands Regional Council made the decision to offer to buy a section of privately-owned land that is currently cutting off public access to the track.

Bid to buy land to save iconic track - feature photo

Issues with access to the Peterson’s Creek track came to a head after TRC approved a subdivision in the area which would have meant a 100m section of the track would no longer be accessible by the public and tour operators.

A petition of more than 2500 signatures was presented to TRC late last year calling for council to take action to secure that section of the track for public use – either as an easement or purchase the land from property owner Malcolm Macleod.

In October, Mr Macleod agreed that council purchasing the land was the best option and stressed he recognised the importance of the walking track to both tourists and the local community. Since then, council and the landowner have had discussions but no outcome was achieved.

At last week’s meeting, another deputation from Yungaburra pleaded with the council to act, but Cr David Clifton had already put forward a notice of motion that would allow the council to ahead with the purchase of the land.

Before the council discussed the matter, two tour operators enlightened the meeting with how important the track was.

Paul Harris from On the Wallaby Lodge and Tours said Yungaburra was “the tree kangaroo and platypus capital of Australia”, saying there was 90% “hit rate” on seeing platypus there all the time.

“Some people book our tours just to see a platypus – they don’t mind the waterfalls and rainforest, but they just want to find this beautiful creature and we’ve been lucky enough to take them along Peterson’s Creek.”

Describing the creek track as the “most vital component” of their tours, Mr Harris said visitation generated just by his company contributed approximately $300,000 into the Tablelands economy every year.

James Boettcher from FNQ Tours spoke passionately about how important the track was in developing what he described as “wildlife tourism”.

“Wildlife tourism on the Tablelands was in its infancy,” he said.

After seven years of operation, the business is bringing multi-day tours to the region, and Peterson’s Creek was a “focal point” of the tour.

“It’s going to make it incredibly challenging, if not impossible (if the track remains inaccessible).

“Over the past few years, Peterson’s Creek has become so valuable, we’ve now built our brand around how much is available along that 100m section – it’s actually mind boggling how many mammals and birds that are there.”

After the presentation, Cr Clifton moved that council offer to purchase the 2000sq m of land along the creek from Mr Macleod for $150,000.

Cr Clifton said he had struck the amount on the basis that Mr Macleod had to pay $146,900 in fees for the development application to subdivide his block and had previously asked council to waive these fees in exchange for the land.

But Cr Clifton said doing this would have set a dangerous precedent that other developers may have tried to use to avoid charges in the future.

“We know from various deputations we have received from the community that they have a clear picture in their mind that that part of the track should be in public hands.

“That creates a continuous line along Peterson’s Creek all the way down to the old railway cutting and it’s in public hands, as the rest of it is already, for perpetuity.

“There is no real alternative if we’re going to meet community expectations.”

Council voted unanimously to offer to purchase the land which prompted loud applause from the large gallery.

After the meeting, Yungaburra Association president Ken Jack said the community was very thankful to the council.

"This is not just for the ‘now' but (means the track) will be available for future generations if the sale goes through,” he said.  

“I want to thank all in our community who supported the deputation to council, especially Landcare, Yungaburra Beautification and Yungaburra Association volunteers.  

“Many, many, people in our community have supported the cause to make our community a better place to live, work, or visit.  

“We found out from the tour operators who addressed council that the Peterson’s Creek Walking Track is THE premier place to see platypus along with tree kangaroos and other beautiful fauna and flora.  It must be saved!”


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