COMMUNITY hopes of improved access to Munibung Hill have been given a boost after Lake Macquarie council moved to potentially fast-track site upgrades.
In reaction to increased visitation to the area during the coronavirus lockdown, the council this week voted to conduct a site inspection and have the general manager report on the progress of existing plans to improve and preserve the scenic site.
Councillors Wendy Harrison and Barney Langford proposed a motion which called for staff to advise on barriers to implementation of the Glendale Contributions Plan, opportunities to address those barriers and programs to conceive and implement a community vision for Munibung Hill.
"Access is difficult and can be dangerous," Cr Harrison said.
"This limits many people from visiting what could be a major recreational area for the city.
"Because access is difficult, damage is occurring to the existing natural environment, including habit and endangered species and wildlife corridors.
"Implementing council's Glendale contribution plan, which would facilitate a network of pathways and walking trails, would help minimise this damage."
Cr Harrison said Munibung Hill had served generations of Awabakal people before European settlement, after which it had survived "being mined under, farmed on, quarried, contaminated by nearby industry and neglect, unfortunately".
READ MORE: Views to the future of Munibung Hill
She noted a "number of barriers" to implementing actions from the contributions plan, including "multiple land owners" and "a legacy of contamination".
"This notice of motion is seen as a step towards working through and addressing those barriers," she said.
Cr Langford said Munibung Hill had "the capacity to be another jewel in the crown".
"If we can further that through the various processes that are at work at the moment, then I believe we can provide the city with a really outstanding recreation and cultural area," he said.
Chief operating officer Tony Farrell advised a land parcel in the "northern part of the hill precinct" had recently been transferred from the former smelter's administrator to Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation, but would ultimately end up under the control of WAMSI - a division in the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
"Their control of the site means we have a much more willing agent to deal with on the future management of the land," he said.
"We're currently preparing a brief which we would hopefully get agreement from WAMSI and potentially other land owners to allow us to do proper and comprehensive investigation of the site, which could lead on to preparing some proposals."
Munibung Hill Conservation Society president Stuart Carter said recent development on part of the hill coupled with increased visitor numbers had heightened the need to formalise protection and accessibility of the site
"The fact that so many people have adopted Munibung Hill as their preferred open space makes the need for improving access all the more necessary," he said.
"It's one thing to be cut off from family, friends and society generally, but to think of being cut off from Mother Nature herself would be to deny us one of the most basic of human connections."