PLANS for more than 50 kilometres of mountain bike trails near Bendigo have attracted warnings from environmental groups about disrupting sensitive habitat, flora and fauna including phascogales.

But the City of Greater Bendigo and the Bendigo Mountain Bike Club, the two proponents of the project, say it is in its early stages with future rounds of consultation and approval required before any trails are built.

Members of the Bendigo and District Environment Council and the Bendigo Field Naturalists questioned City of Greater Bendigo councillors on Wednesday night over the future of a masterplan that maps out a network from Spring Gully to Mandurang South.

BDEC’s Wendy Radford said the group had known nothing about the plans until they saw tape marking the proposed trails.

That was when they started asking questions and discovered the mountain bike club had been planning the network for five years.

The masterplan, written by consultant World Trail, was submitted to council in late 2017.

Ms Radford said the group was not consulted “and we believe this has resulted in a one-sided report with inadequate discussion and research backup”.

The group had presented a submission when public comment was called.

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said there had been 170 submissions responding to the masterplan.

Cr O’Rourke had also hosted a roundtable meeting on April 24 this year to allow stakeholders to voice their concerns. The meeting was attended by concerned environmental groups, Parks Victoria and Bendigo Mountain Bike Club members including president Stuart MacGregor.

Mr MacGregor said the club believed the process of producing the masterplan for submission before broad consultation had been the most efficient way forward.

He said the club had always been committed to consulting all levels of government and community groups and there would be many future opportunities to talk about the project.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Parks Victoria are the landholders therefore any work would first require permits.

Mr MacGregor said there was also the process of ground-truthing during which local environmental conditions were assessed and the trail was designed accordingly.

This was another phase during which specialists in biodiversity would be consulted.

“The club is committed to good governance, we are not rushing to get things in place,” he said.

BDEC member Stuart Fraser asked Cr O’Rourke if the project would be referred for Commonwealth environmental approval given a previous assessment of part of the land on which proposed trails would traverse had identified it as having very high conservation significance.

Cr O’Rourke said the network would be referred to federal goverment protection authorities if that was what was required.

About the masterplan, she said: “We certainly intended on getting the information on what the opportunities are and what the risks are and it became really clear to me that we needed to have further discussion.

“We are some way off (even) if there is a decision that comes to council.

“(But) that is what those reports do, it is an opportunity for people to have their say.

“Ultimately it will be the DELWP and Parks Victoria that will be very involved in that process because it is crown land.”

– Sharon Kemp