We were disappointed to see your story characterising the community proposal regarding the Hoddle Mountain Trail as a “right to farm” issue (‘Right to farm no walk in the park’, December 19, 2017).
On the contrary, the local community and visitors have been using the trail for decades in coexistence with adjacent farming activities.
The walking trail pre-exists the current objecting landholders and the previous farmer-owners were supportive and had no issues with the trail, and, in fact, helped with weeds and general trail maintenance.
The trail links the Great Southern Rail Trail with the Hoddle Ranges Walking Trail, creating a 17km return journey from Fish Creek out through spectacular scenery overlooking Wilsons Promontory and Corner Inlet.
The Hoddle Mountain Trail is absolutely consistent with the South Gippsland Shire Council’s strategy to develop recreational paths and trails radiating out from the “spine” of the Great Southern Rail Trail, providing “viable, safe, interesting connections and networks between towns, points of interest and other destinations”.
Our group is simply seeking the council’s official recognition of the existing trail and support for improvement and management of the section it owns.
The claim that the opposing landholder should have priority of use of the trail is one we can’t accept. There are no grazing leases/licenses on the trail section adjacent to his farm, so farmers have no claim to priority use. A gating system that allows walkers and farmers to use the trail without conflict already exists as a means of managing stock crossing from one farming section to another, but it has been allowed to fall into disrepair.
On the whole of the Hoddle Mountain Trail, no farmland is crossed and no farm is traversed.
Your story’s claim that the council is considering spending hundreds of thousands of dollars “on the establishment” of the trail is spurious and mischievous. Council’s own documents prepared for last week’s meeting indicated a cost of $4000 to bring its section of the trail to a suitable condition for walking.
Other issues raised by the farmer, such as trespass and biosecurity, can be easily managed by appropriate gating and signage.
We were disappointed that you chose only to represent the farmer’s views on the matter and failed completely to seek a response from our group. We trust that any future coverage you give to the issue will take a fairer approach.
Richard Dargaville, president, Hoddle Mountain Trail Management Group.