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National Parks Association 

of Queensland Inc

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Red flag for eco-tourism facilities in national parks

As the state government gives the green light for an eco-tourism development within Main Range National Park, NPAQ raises a red flag. This development is the first of several similar projects under consultation. 

 

Millionaire’s glamping plan for first major tourism project in national park

 

While NPAQ supports appropriate and sustainable eco-tourism projects to connect and showcase our unique landscapes and biodiversity to Queensland’s visitors and residents, we do not support development and infrastructure within our national parks for exclusive use by commercial operators. One of NPAQ's core missions is to preserve intact in their natural condition, to the greatest possible extent, the existing national parks of Queensland. While we understand that such developments will be subject to strict environmental conditions, the primary purpose of national parks is the conservation of nature. Allowing ecotourism facilities, such as resorts and infrastructure on national park land, erodes this purpose. 

 

NPAQ supports the use of private land adjacent to national parks for development of eco- tourism resorts and infrastructure.  Traditionally, many iconic parks have worked successfully with neighbouring resorts and properties to provide tourism gateways for visitor access. Our position is based on the management, environmental, social and economic implications of such proposals. 

 

Conservation and management:

Wherever tourist resorts have been established in national parks (such as those in South Africa and the USA), they dominate visitor use of the park and in many instances, determine priorities for park management at the expense of not addressing conservation concerns.  Furthermore, when resort facilities are located inside a national park, the natural condition of the landscape is unavoidably disturbed and altered. Access roads are corridors for weeds and other introduced species, modifiers of water movement and barriers to certain wildlife movements.  Fire issues are exacerbated because of the easy access, and fire management then has to concern itself primarily with protecting the facilities and its inhabitants.  This will inevitably be to the detriment of the surrounding natural landscape, and its attractiveness as a place that tourists want to visit. 

 

Social and economic implications:

Placement of commercial infrastructure in national parks changes the public understanding of the role of national parks. The vast majority of Queenslanders that have visited a national park do not expect to find or come across eco-resorts or similar facilities in parks.  This level of infrastructure is simply not consistent with their understanding of the role and value that national parks play in our society. Ecotourism leases confuse public access to public land with the exclusive use associated with private ecotourism facilities. This contradicts the State Government's policy of making national parks more accessible to the public. Boutique-style developments in national parks exclude lower income Queenslanders and budget travellers, who simply cannot afford such facilities. 

 

There is the further issue of the feasibility of eco-tourism facilities. In past years, a number of resorts adjacent to national parks have gone into receivership, including Peppers Palm Bay, Paradise Bay Eco-Resort, All Seasons Magnetic Island Resort, and Club Med on Lindeman Island.

 

Nature the Product - Nature ™, Nature © - or Consumptive Recreation

In 2013, Professor John Lemons wrote a stirring article titled 'Splendid No More' in which he clearly articulated the loss of the spirit of wilderness preservation in America's National Parks.

Lemons states that the vision of the 'National Park idea' in the US is 'fraught with ambiguity', the National Park Service is 'continually embroiled in contentious policy issues' despite having a primary duty to protect parks, and there is an ever-increasing clamour for increased visitation, access and development.

 

In the US, National Parks not only include some of the most beautiful places on earth, but also contain swathes of infrastructure (roads, sewerage, water, power) and thousands of buildings. Some parks, such as Yosemite and Grand Canyon, attract annual visitors exceeding four million,  and create massive daily traffic jams at entry points and car parks. Over 500 commercial concessions are granted, which gross $US1 billion annually. Additionally, the majority of the development has occurred in the most scenic and significant conservation areas of the parks. Lemons poignantly highlights that for all the infrastructure in place that allows visitor access to Yosemite Falls, many spend approximately five minutes at the Falls, taking photos.   

 

Lemons also expounds on the term 'industrial tourism', a phenomenon bemoaned by Abbey in 1968, when he witnessed the denigration of conservation values for the sake of development and unacceptable levels of tourists. Efforts to reduce access in high-use areas, has been met with angry outcries. Conservation is regarded as a threat to private interests and public access, rather than a protective measure for nature's beauty and diversity. However, as Lemons succinctly states, 'If national parks are to remain the pinnacle of a nation's beauty, natural resources and cultural heritage, then they simply cannot be viewed and treated as typical recreation areas'.

 

Until recent times, policy in Queensland had been somewhat, but rather steadily building upon the original concept of conservation - of our landscapes, ecosystems, fauna and flora - protecting them from site-changing exploitation, development and construction.

 

What lies around the corner for our treasured landscapes?

 

 

'Splendid No More", John Lemon, AEON Magazine, 14 May 2013) can be found here: http://www.aeonmagazine.com/nature-and-cosmos/john-lemons-national-parks-decline/