There are calls for calm and understanding as landholders, locals and the Narrabri Shire Council try to figure out a safe and appropriate way for visitors to access and use the road to Dripping Rock, located near the beautiful town of Boggabri.
For years, Dripping Rock has been one of the Narrabri region’s most spectacular tourist destinations, described as ‘a waterfall significantly more impressive than its name suggests’.
However, the road to the site is currently closed and Dripping Rock has been removed from council’s online tourism marketing campaigns due to a misunderstanding about who owns the access road and who is responsible if something goes wrong, for example, if someone has an accident or hurts themselves on the track.
“The access track to Dripping Rock is located on private property and has been closed to the public until further notice,” states the NSC’s Explore Narrabri Region website.
Previously, many locals and visitors assumed it was a public access road being maintained by council, but it was recently revealed to be private property when a development application in the area was being considered.
“The last part of the road, approximately five kilometres passes through the different properties and is ‘private access only’ and the council, at this stage, don’t want to take ownership – so there is no public liability,” said Pete Brien, who is one of three landowners whose private property the road runs through.
“This wasn’t such a problem until recently as there were probably only five to ten cars over the weekends, but Facebook has highlighted the fantastic natural site and we have had up to 100 cars some weeks.
“I’m worried about the public liability – we have public liability for our property which covers our actions and our guests but not the general public in these numbers,” said Pete.
“It has also come to light that the road is not where it is gazetted to be.” The three landowners, for their own peace of mind, safety and the safety of others, have locked the gate until they can come to some sort of arrangement with council.
“This is not a council bashing exercise, we just need to get the ownership and insurances sorted,” said Pete.
We want this road open so that everyone can enjoy dripping rock, but we need it to be under council ownership … taking liability off the property owners.
As the photo featured below shows, the road also has some flood damage including washouts on the side of the track, which could be dangerous and validate Pete’s concerns about the possibility of an accident occurring if large numbers of visitors were travelling on the road.
Pete and his partner Donna Turner have always been strong advocates for the Narrabri region and the last thing either of them wants is for people to not have access to its wonderful attractions.
Supported by Narrabri Shire Council, Donna has been the Boggabri tourist information officer for the past 15 years.
She has the information sign out the front of her shop each day and hands out tourist information brochures, answers questions from visitors and advises what attractions are in the area, and has previously guided many people to Dripping Rock.
Over the past few years, Pete and Donna decided they would open part of their property as a bush camping area to complement the popular nearby tourist site – Dripping Rock.
The camping area has the potential to bring more people to the region and therefore boost the local economy without spoiling its natural splendour.
Pete and Donna worked with NSC and submitted a development application for the primitive bush camping area, which is how the road’s private status was recently discovered.
The application has been approved but their plans have been stumped because of the problem with the access road.
Pete and Donna have been subjected to a lot of negativity and negative comments on social media too, after the landholders were left with no choice but to close the road to the public.
They believe this is because people don’t know the circumstances and reason for closing the road, and are sharing their story in the hope people will take the time to understand the safety and public liability concerns involved.
On a more positive note, they have also had a suggestion to form a Friends of Dripping Rock group to help find a solution, so that people can once again enjoy the beauty of the area.
Both Donna and Pete said, “We want this road open so that everyone can enjoy Dripping Rock, but we need it to be under council ownership all the way up to the rock, taking liability off the property owners.
“We need public support not, abuse.” Pete and Donna will continue to negotiate with council.
They understand that there are many roads in the shire that need attention, and, in the meantime, they hope people will support them and understand the situation.
In a statement, NSC said it was one of many stakeholders involved in this complex issue.
“Council is providing assistance wherever practicable and has recently corresponded with NSW Crown Lands, as the landowner/responsible agency for the Dripping Rock Reserve and is endeavouring to explore available options to resolve access issues to the site,” read the statement.
“The established access to Dripping Rock, a dedicated Crown Reserve, is partially located on both public and private land.
“It appears that the landowner(s) have exercised their legal discretion to restrict access on that section of the access under their care and control.
“As the affected section of the road is private, the removal of access is at the landowner’s discretion.” NSC said it would continue to pursue the possibility of providing public road access, but it could be a long and costly process.
“Council will continue to investigate opportunities for grant funding to support such processes in consultation with the NSW government,” said a NSC statement.
“The acquisition/dedication of access arrangements can be a costly, complex and a lengthy process.
“The financial cost is definitely a contributing factor and as is with any asset under council’s care and control, and in line with council’s overarching legislative responsibilities, is an important matter that must be considered.” NSC said it was not its role to comment on negative commentary on social media, but it would ‘act fairly and within the interests of the various stakeholders in moving forward’To order photos from this page click here