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Reflections vows to work with Maitland community on Walka development

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Reflections Holiday Parks CEO Nick Baker firmly believes “community is at the core of our decision making”. 

And, it’s why he’s looking forward to ongoing talks with Maitland residents regarding the proposed visitor accommodation precinct at the much-loved natural reserve Walka Water Works.

The certified social enterprise, which is headquartered in Newcastle, plans to establish eco-cabins and powered caravan sites, as well as a camp kitchen and barbecue facilities, at the Heritage-Listed site.

“Reflections is an NSW Crown Land Manager, a caretaker of public lands on behalf of the people of NSW,” he said.

“So, we reinvest all profits back into the maintenance and improvement of the areas we maintain.

“We care deeply about the land in our remit and know how attached communities are to this land, because our staff are a part of these communities.”

The multi-million-dollar project, announced late last year, has recently come under fire by the Save Walka Reserve Community Alliance Inc (SWRCA).

After collecting more than 2,000 signatures in a matter of weeks for a petition to stop the venture from going ahead, the group is planning to approach local state and federal MPs for support, too.

But, Mr Baker said the Walka Water Works development had the potential to polish what had long been a jewel in Maitland’s crown, without hindering the community’s access and use of the site.

“It’s important to acknowledge the Reflections holiday park [at Walka] is subject to a rigorous planning approval process via a DA (development application) and associated studies, including an EIS (environmental impact assessment), before it can proceed,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“It is equally important to note we have a strong reputation as a caretaker of precious public land in consultation with community.

“For example, Reflections is currently working with 60 volunteers who have worked tirelessly to protect and manage the historic headland that is Norah Head Lighthouse Reserve, which will transition into our management in September.

“At Walka Water Works, Maitland City Council (MCC) will continue to manage the broader 64-hectare reserve and ensure that it remains open for the community’s continued access and enjoyment.

“All that information is on MCC’s website.

“We also note that 30 April is the deadline set by council for interested parties to join the Community Liaison Group on the Walka Water Works project.

“So, we’re keen to maintain our discussions with community groups, which began in late 2022 when we met with local residents and the Hunter Bird Observers Club.”

Should the proposed development proceed, it will:  

  • Take shape on land that is already clear of vegetation on a parcel of land that represents less than 4% of the Walka footprint;
  • Have no impact on the existing walking trails enjoyed by the community;
  • Be undertaken according to the council’s Destination Management Plan, which has been open for public scrutiny for some time;
  • Bring enormous value to the community by stimulating the local tourist economy, benefiting local businesses in the area

Key points about Reflections include:

  • It manages about 9300 hectares of land in NSW: 36 holiday parks, and 43 nature reserves, 94% of land in its care is natural reserve, not holiday parks;
  • It reinvests every cent of its profits back into the sites it manages to protect them for future generations;
  • It is Australia’s only social enterprise holiday park group and measures its success on a quadruple bottom line: environmental, social, cultural and financial;
  • Its role is not just to run good accommodation, it’s to attract more visitors to regional communities. It partners with councils and tourism groups to diversify the region’s economy via tourism

Meanwhile, Maitland City Council will host a Facebook Live Community Q&A dedicated to the Walka Water Works project on Thursday 11 May at 5.30pm.

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