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You can’t tie this Kangaroo down! THE TINY NEW SOUTH WALES town of Kangaroo Valley (population 340) is so hidden that unless you knew it existed you should never find it. Yet, somehow, each year around 200,000 visitors do. Located about two hours southwest of Sydney, Kangaroo Valley sits in a natural amphitheatre of high sandstone escarpments enclosing a lush river valley. Much of it falls within the boundaries of Morton National Park, and visitors come to enjoy a variety of mostly short-stay activities, such as rugged bush walks, cycling and riding trails, canoeing on the Kangaroo river scenic drives, romantic waterfalls and idyllic picnic spots. Australia’s National Trust has listed the landscape and many of the village buildings for their scenic beauty and cultural significance. It’s clearly a spot worth looking after. The Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association is committed to the preservation of this naturally beautiful place and encourages visitors to respect the environment, wildlife and residents alike. An example of this is the KVTA-based initiative that resulted in Kangaroo Valley being declared ‘Australia’s first mainland town to be plastic bag free’, in 2003. Perhaps it comes with being encircled with mountains with just one winding road in and out, but this community (add in a few hamlets and the population tops out at around

1,000) has always been a bit independent and ready to stand up for what it believes in: right now that’s the environment, their sense of place, and a responsible approach to tourism. In 2005 Kangaroo Valley fought off plans by the government to raise the Tallowa Dam wall which would have created significant environmental damage. In 2007 it tried to stop the road traffic authority cutting down an avenue of 95 mature trees. By 2008 almost a third of the Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association’s membership had pledged to go carbon neutral, as part

Fitzroy Falls

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID Kangaroo Valley is a great example of small but powerful messages creating real and lasting change in a destination. This small, not-for-profit local community organisation has achieved recognition from the County Council for building the wider community’s capacity to be more sustainable. The Association encourages visitors to engage with the local environment and minimise the impact of their visit – for example, by encouraging visitors to use the village water fountain and purchase re-useable water containers, and it is the first plastic-bag-free town in Australia.

of the Green Kangaroo campaign to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This year it successfully lobbied to have maintenance work on the historic wooden Hampden Bridge done during the evenings and not during the day. The KVTA has reduced litter, silenced loud music at night and clamped down on drunken behaviour at camping grounds. It’s lobbied to keep a rural bus service, implemented a historic walk, planted new trees and encouraged the local shops, galleries and cafes to promote locally-made products. Chris Warren, president of the KVTA, says: ‘People quite often feel helpless and of no consequence in larger population bases. Here everyone is a stakeholder. ‘We face challenges with landowners and developers who want to make changes which are not in keeping with our scale and landscape. Until Kangaroo Valley’s sense of place is respected we will always face such challenges.’ The association now wants to encourage tourists to stay longer and spend more, thus increasing the economic benefit to Kangaroo Valley but not the carbon footprint. ‘Above all,’ adds Chris, ‘we want tourism that enhances the quality of life for Kangaroo Valley.’

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r:travel, Responsible Tourism Awards magazine