Witton Bluff Base Trail back on track following state decision

Published on 19 May 2023

A long-awaited shared-use path linking the foreshores of Port Noarlunga and Christies Beach is back on track, after the Deputy Premier, as delegate for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs granted authorisation under Section 23 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (SA) for the project.

Council has worked with the local community and all tiers of government to deliver the Witton Bluff Base Trail—part of the state government’s vision for a shared-use coastal path across Greater Adelaide—for many years.

In 2020 the state government matched council’s $2.65 million commitment to the trail, but the project stalled in 2021 when Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (AAR), the state government’s lead Aboriginal affairs agency advised Council to seek authorisation under Section 23 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988.

City of Onkaparinga Acting CEO Julia Grant welcomed  today’s decision by Deputy Premier Susan Close as the culmination of a long and rigorous journey to ensure any potential impacts from the trail on Aboriginal heritage and the environment are minimised.

“Ensuring the coastal environment thrives and respecting Aboriginal heritage have been non-negotiables throughout the planning processes for the Witton Bluff Base Trail,” she said.

“It’s pleasing the trail can now move forward, with the Section 23 approval coming amid ongoing discussions with the local Kaurna community about the project, and in the wake of a Coast Protection Board review in 2021, and broader community engagement in 2020.

“These state government approvals are important but have taken considerably longer than anticipated, delaying the project.  We will now work with the state government to discuss the significant increase in costs that have occurred over the past two years while council has been waiting for these decisions.”

“The project will help deliver four key outcomes:

  • Community amenity with shared access for people of all abilities
  • Partial support for cliff stability
  • Economic outcomes from increased visitation
  • Shared understanding of cultural heritage.

“Thanks to all the residents, community groups and businesses that have been calling for this trail for your patience.

“We would also like to acknowledge the advocacy of local state MPs, Hon Chris Picton, Hon Katrine Hildyard and federal MP, Hon Amanda Rishworth.

“We’ll can now continue to work with the local Kaurna community and the state government on the next steps to see it come to fruition, linking these two iconic beaches and ensuring it’s carried out in a culturally appropriate way."

About the Witton Bluff Base Trail

While there’s already a popular, informal path that runs around part of the base of Witton Bluff from Christies Beach, the Witton Bluff Base Trail will seal and improve disability access to the path. It will also extend it via a new elevated three-metre-wide boardwalk above the existing wave cut shelf, which will continue around the base of the bluff, through to Port Noarlunga.

The area attracts a high number of visitors, has enormous tourism potential, and is important to Kaurna people as part of the Tjilbruke songline, with Tjilbruke being the best known of all the Kaurna creation stories.

The trail will become part of the state government’s Coast Park vision, which aims to develop a 70-kilometre shared-use path from North Haven to Sellicks Beach with matching funding support provided by local government.

City of Onkaparinga’s 31-kilometre coastline makes up almost half of this vision, and council has been working in close partnership with the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure since 2003 to deliver it. To date, more than half (17.8km) of City of Onkaparinga’s 31 kilometres of Coast Park has been delivered.

The Coast Park project aims to improve access, facilities and reserves along the coastline, generating significant community benefit (e.g. through recreation and leisure activities), stimulating economic development and protecting the natural environment.