Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa
The Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa has opened. From all we see and hear it is indeed a very beautiful outcome of a very intense effort. Congratulations!
We support this development even though we follow a very different approach at Newnes Hotel Cabins. We hope we can coexist in this fragile environment.
Our main concern remains the Wolgan River. The large water demand of the resort will be met by some rain water harvesting and our beautiful Wolgan River. The original Concept Plan proposed a piped water supply from the Fish River water supply system, but this was regarded as ‘not viable’.
We notice how the water flow in the river changes with rainfall and sometimes the valley looks so green and well watered that you might think everything is fine. However, looking into the future and believing that climate change will reduce the future flow in the Wolgan, we are indeed concerned.
A resort that "sits lightly within it's environment" does not, in our opinion, adopt the lavish uses of water which are considered necessary to meet 6 star "luxury and opulence". Pools,bubbles and lawns do not belong in the Wolgan Valley - but then there is a ski slope in the desert of Dubai. We are concerned that a situation may develop where a resort with 40 luxury villas, each with a pool, and a larger pool at the spa complex are fed by a dying river. At this stage no one has even established an Environmnetal Flow for the Wolgan River.
Furthermore, the immense power requirements of the resort are going to be met by "green power" electricity from the grid. A $2.1 million powerline (poles all along the Wolgan Valley & underground inside the resort fence) has been constructed to bring power to the resort. We run everything on solar power at the Newnes Hotel and we believe that the cost of that powerline combined with govenment rebates on solar would have run the whole resort on solar electricity. However, this might have meant a less lavish use of energy and a few stars less. What a great opportunity was missed here.Is it environmentally responsible to avoid the "unsightly" solar panels inside the fence by an ugly powerline outside the fence?
We think that the glossy brochure of "Australia's most environmentally responsible development" is not telling us the truth.
The ecological footprint of this resort is immense and totally out of step with what the marketing is trying to make us believe.
The 'Land Grab' Concern
The Colong Foundation released a media release opposing a proposed land swap between the private property and National Parks. This swap is to resolve a problem created when land boundaries were drawn up without relevance to existing land formations. The proposal is for National Parks land situated at the bottom of the valley to be swapped with private land situated at the top of the escarpment. This way all of the top will become National Parks and all of the bottom will become private land. This arrangement will see 39ha of National Parks land go to private property and 114ha of private land go to National Parks. This sounds a good idea to us.
The hitch in this land swap is that there are Native Title land issues involved and settlement of these issues will take many years. To enable construction on the land before the legalities are settled Emirates negotiated an agreement with the Minister for the Environmnet where Emirates leases the National Parks land in question. This was a big stumbling block for the Colong Foundation and the Blue Mountains Conservation Society. Their view was that this will set a precident under which further erosion of National Parks lands might take place in the future.
Another issue is a planned feral fence which will block access to 450ha of Donkey Mountain and Mount Wolgan, part of the Gardens of Stone National Park. The fence will also close off access to the historic (1879) grave site of Christiana Williams. At the moment steps are provided to climb over the fence for access to Donkey Mountain.