A historic agreement between the NSW Government and Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council has secured Dungog’s future as a national mountain biking destination.
Dungog is a town of just over 2,000 people in a relatively remote part of the Hunter Valley, 76 km north of Newcastle and 215 km north of Sydney.
The historic town which dates back to the 1830’s has been hosting mountain biking events for at least 25 years, but has had major upgrades in recent years.
There is currently over 22 km of single track on Dungog Common, which borders the western edge of town and covers 650 acres (almost 300 hectares). There are also about 20 other trail and gravel rides in the area.
In a media release made on 19th May, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the Upper Hunter will become Australia’s next tourism hotspot thanks to this historic agreement, which will be accompanied by a $650,000 investment from the NSW Government to be spent on initiatives across Dungog Common, including new mountain bike tracks.
“The silver lining of COVID has been an increase in domestic tourism and riders come from all over the State to ride the Dungog tracks. As a result, business is booming, with eight new businesses, including two new bike shops, now open,” Mr Barilaro said.
“This investment will protect Aboriginal culture and heritage while allowing Ride Dungog to add more tracks, maintain and repair existing trails and provide training workshops for young people wanting to get involved in this great sport.”
This funding comes off the back of a strong local campaign, which saw more than $70,000 raised to put towards the Ride Dungog initiative.
NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said an investment will be made into the Common to provide employment for Aboriginal staff on the reserve, infrastructure upgrades, and to develop a broader tourism strategy.
“This agreement has only been made possible by the strong partnership between the NSW Government, the Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, and the Dungog community,” Mrs Pavey said.
NSW Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor said Ride Dungog has been working on a number of programs to help provide bikes to young people and encouraging young women and girls to join.
“This agreement is great news for the people of Dungog and in addition to the partnership I can announce a further $20,000 to support the community by delivering Mental Health First Aid workshops for up to 30 individuals working with not for profit organisation ‘Where There’s A Will’,” Mrs Taylor said.
“We’re building a safer, stronger regional NSW and this investment is more than just bike tracks. The community will benefit from biking events, activities and workshops including a youth bike library, and the ‘Girls Ride Into Tomorrow’ program.”
Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council Chairperson Michelle Perry said the agreement is delivering an opportunity for the Karuah community to both protect the culture and heritage of the area, and also be part of the exciting future of the Dungog Common.
“Our community is overjoyed with this outcome. The partnership returns the Crown land on which Dungog Common is located to our people while guaranteeing continued community use and access, delivering joint social, economic and tourism benefits for the region.”
Ride Dungog President Chloe Chick said the partnership with Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council will deliver the certainty needed to grow Dungog into an even more impressive drawcard for mountain biking enthusiasts.
“Working together we’ll be able to achieve community-driven social, economic and environmental outcomes for our region, especially for our young people, through mountain biking,” Ms Chick said.