The New South Wales government will spend $80m creating the state’s first “multi-day walks” including a five-day, 59-kilometre hike from Botany Bay to the Illawarra.
The NSW treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, said on Monday that next week’s state budget would include funding to create a series of walks to rival famed Australian hikes such as the Overland Track in Tasmania and Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk.
“From Border Ranges in the north, to Kosciuszko in the south, to Hat Head in the east and Mungo in the west, visitation across our extraordinary national parks estate has surged in the past 12 months,” Perrottet said in a statement.
“This $80m budget injection will enable us to add new iconic experiences to our tourism arsenal, drawing keen hikers from around Australia and, when borders reopen, the world to our spectacular regions, giving local small businesses and tourism operators a much-needed boost.”
The first of the walks – dubbed the Great Southern Walk – would stretch from Kamay Botany Bay national park in Sydney, through the Royal national park and link to the Illawarra Escarpment state conservation area.
Much of the trek would cover existing walkways but Perrottet said the funds would provide “a range of new accommodation options such as cabins and ‘glamping’ sites dotted along the track to welcome walkers at the end of each day’s trek”.
A network of mountain bike trails stretching more than 44 kilometres between Mount Keira and Mount Kembla will also be developed across the Illawarra Escarpment.
“Both this signature walk and biking network are major initiatives that will not only make our national parks more accessible to a broader audience but also bring new visitors to this spectacular region,” the state environment minister, Matt Kean, said.
The Great Southern Walk is expected to be completed by 2024. Details of a second multi-day trek would be announced in the coming months, the government said on Monday.
The rise of ecotourism walks has not been without controversy. In Tasmania, some have been critical of the impact on national parks of developments aimed at attracting an influx of tourists.
But Brian Everingham, the president of the southern Sydney section of the National Parks Association of NSW, said most of the mooted campsites along the government’s proposed Great Southern Walk route either already exist or have been proposed.
He did, however, suggest the state government could purchase the privately-held bushland between the Royal national park and the Illawarra. “It would create a continuity of not just recreation but of biodiversity,” he said.