10 May 2023

Loop road to provide new four-wheel drive track

| Matt Nicholls
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The controversial Bertiehaugh Road has only existed as a line on the map since the Irwins took over the property in 2006, renaming it Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve.

The original gazetted road that ran through the property was used by locals from Weipa, Mapoon and Napranum. The road was removed from the map and access was limited by the new owners.

However, as part of the property deal, a new road had to be created.

It was drawn on a map, which was signed off by Terri Irwin.

The Weipa community, with the backing of the Western Cape Chamber of Commerce, had been pushing for years for Cook Shire Council to put the track through.

However, any discussion of creating the road was met with fierce opposition from the Irwins and John Witherspoon, who leases part of the property for cattle grazing.

But a team of determined locals, who asked not to be named, got the GPS coordinates from Cook Shire and went to work themselves.

Using buggies and four-wheel drives, they created a 60km single-lane track that runs from Stones Crossing to Bramwell Junction.

The track will only be accessible for a handful of months per year because of the depth of Stones Crossing, which is also tidal.

“This is not a shortcut to the north, but it’s going to be a fun track for four-wheel drives that will offer a new experience for Cape York locals and visitors,” the chief organiser said.

“We respect the Irwin family and the research they do on the property and we want to make sure that all motorists do the right thing when they travel through.”

Western Cape Chamber of Commerce president Vance Wallin said he was rapt to see the track created after many years of lobbying.

“We don’t want to see the environment ruined and we don’t want people doing the wrong thing,” he said.

“This could be a great asset for tourism in the Western Cape and bring a lot more visitors to Weipa who have already been to the Cape and want to try something different.

“We know people want to come to Weipa but they don’t enjoy going back the same way and using the Batavia Road to rejoin the road north.

“This will create new economic opportunities for Weipa and hopefully Napranum and Mapoon.”

Traditional Owners have already discussed putting a camp ground near Stones Crossing on the Wenlock River.

Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has been a long-time supporter of the Bertiehaugh Road project and congratulated the locals for the perseverance and initiative for creating the track.

“We just need everyone to do the right thing now to ensure it stays open forever,” he said.

Locals are working on signs to be displayed at either end of the track with the following rules in place:

 Experienced 4WD’ers only

 No camping or fires

 No hunting/shooting

 No leaving the track

 No littering

 No spreading weeds

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