While SCEC is currently reviewing the Plan (view here), concerns remain regarding the potential impact on the conservation values of our few National Parks and commercialisation of public lands. There is an apparent disregard for community wishes with currently little to no opportunity for the community to examine or be consulted on proposals that come through via Expressions of Interest (closing 27 September) . The ‘process’ is more a state government/tourism industry vacuum. Follow the link to view SCEC's submission: Draft Queensland Ecotourism Plan-SCEC submission (2)
National Parks should be protected as assets for tourism, not tourism assets.
The Plan fails to even mention the cardinal principle of National Parks being;
The cardinal principle for managing national parks is to provide, to the greatest possible extent, for the permanent preservation of the area's natural condition and the protection of the area's cultural resources and values. Natural condition means protection from human interference- allowing natural processes to proceed[i].
The concept of ‘eco-tourism’ is not new although it is often overstated, misused and misunderstood. Sustainably managed nature-based activities which are sympathetic to environmental and cultural values and offer social and economic benefits to communities are certainly part of the tourism fabric. Pushing commercial tourism facilities ‘on park’ which may erode conservation and aesthetic values, intrude on the passive enjoyment of other park users and could be compatible in places ‘off park’ is another matter
The natural heritage of Queensland supports an array of biodiversity and irreplaceable ecological values. National Parks play a vital role as the basis of the conservation system as well as contributing to our personal health and well-being. However, the Protected Area Estate currently represents just 5% of the state with further acquisitions stalled or abandoned and de-gazettal’s mooted. Therefore , a greater proportion of land not necessarily contained within Protected Areas, could potentially support an experience which fosters an important appreciation for nature while operated and managed in an environmentally sensitive manner. There is little justification for risking the conservation values of our few national parks to largely undefined commercial development. National Parks and their intrinsic natural values are what attract 27 million visitors to passively enjoy our terrestrial National Parks and generate over one billion dollars in spending annually. Why risk detracting from this proven and valued experience? Profit over protection perhaps?
[i] http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/managing/principles/ viewed 31 May 2013