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Tasmanian tourism master plan for state's wilderness areas released

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a man standing on a rocky hill: The Wilderness Society says the Tasmania Government needs to stop putting tourism before conservation. (ABC Open contributor Jasmina Kevric)

The Wilderness Society says the Tasmania Government needs to stop putting tourism before conservation.

The Tasmanian Government says it wants Aboriginal people to be more involved in decisions and business opportunities when it comes to the state's Wilderness World Heritage Area, but the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre is sceptical about whether the wider Aboriginal community will get a say.

Parks Minister Jacquie Petrusma on Tuesday released the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) tourism master plan, which she said included three "key priorities":

  • Ensuring Tasmanian Aboriginal people are involved in decision-making about the TWWHA and can be involved in future business opportunities
  • An air access policy for the TWWHA
  • A master plan for Mount Field National Park

Ms. Petrusma said the state government wanted Tasmania to be the "eco-tourism capital of the world".

"We understand this must be achieved through culturally sensitive and environmentally sustainable visitation to our national parks, reserves, and Crown Lands," she said.

"The [plan] achieves this important balance by providing diverse, high-quality, environmentally sustainable visitor experiences at the same time as conserving and protecting the cultural and natural heritage and values that underpin the significance of the TWWHA."

The 10-year plan, which sits under the overall Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage master plan, does not identify specific tourism projects, such as those proposed in response to the state government's call for applications for development in national parks, but is instead a "planning framework" for tourism developments.

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area makes up almost one-quarter of the state. Of that, Ms. Petrusma said 82 percent was "forever wilderness" with no development allowed.

Tasmanian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Luke Martin said about 100 to 120 commercial tourism operators worked within the TWWHA.

'We've got a lot of work to do'

The plan said the Tasmanian Aboriginal story was "a recognised gap in the visitor experience of the TWWHA", and Mr. Martin said there were challenges in "bringing to life the Aboriginal tourism story".

"This area was declared World Heritage three times over for its cultural heritage values, as well as its natural heritage values, and we just as a tourism industry are not able to present that appropriately yet … we've got a lot of work to do," he said.

The report said a potential opportunity for Tasmanian Aboriginal communities was to "introduce commercial business enterprises that provide cultural tourism advice and accreditation to the tourism industry".

It said those enterprises, with support from the state government, could be responsible for capacity building for Aboriginal business enterprises, developing interpretation materials, Aboriginal burning practices for bushfire management, and developing concepts for proposed cultural presentation hubs.

Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre chief executive Heather Sculthorpe said the government had handpicked Aboriginal people involved in TWWHA decisions so far, which did not bode well for the broader community's future involvement.

"There's a big difference between Aboriginal people on the payroll, paid consultants, and Aboriginal community people whose land it is, who have been totally excluded from the decision-making process," Ms. Sculthorpe said.

Ms. Sculthorpe said the importance of the TWWHA to Aboriginal people "couldn't be overstated".

"It's the last vestige of largely untouched land that our people used and lived in for all those generations. Most of the rest of the state has been wrecked by tree felling, land clearing," Ms. Sculthorpe said.

"[The government] will consider giving some parcels [of land] to Aboriginal individual groups to conduct business on, but they won't consider returning it to the Aboriginal community, in general, to do with as they want. That is, they won't recognise our prior and continuing ownership."

Managing access by air

Mr. Martin said "a really clear strategic look at how we manage air access" was desperately needed for the TWWHA.

"It doesn't mean we put a moratorium on access, it doesn't mean we allow open slather, it means we have a genuine conversation about the appropriate level of particularly commercial tourism, helicopter access into key [sites] across the TWWHA," he said.

The report said the air access policy would specify air access opportunities in the TWWHA "while ensuring the values are not compromised and the experience sought by users is not impacted".

It would determine:

  • "Appropriate flight frequency, flight paths, flight routes, noise levels and heights"
  • Any no-fly areas
  • Ongoing management options

"Aircraft traffic is a significant issue for parks managers at many iconic and internationally significant sites across the world and, if left unmanaged, can pose a significant risk to a site's values and the visitor experience," the plan said.

"Community concern over air access, in particular helicopters, was a significant theme in the initial engagement process."

Plan 'looks beautiful' but is 'divorced from reality

Tom Allen, the campaign manager from The Wilderness Society, Tasmania, said the tourism master plan was "the lipstick on the parks privatisation pig".

"The plan itself looks beautiful, it says some nice-sounding things, but it's completely divorced from the reality on the ground and the state government's push to privatise parks," Mr. Allen said.

"The government … needs to stop subordinating conservation to tourism."

He said a number of conservation and environment groups boycotted the consultation process for the plan, "not least because instead of pausing tourist development in national parks and the World Heritage Area, the government proceeded with a parks privatisation push while consulting on their tourism master plan".

Tasmanian Wilderness Guides Association president Ciara Smart said while the association welcomed the plan, it would have liked to see deadlines for when policies, such as the air access policy, would be developed and implemented.

"We want to know whether tourism proposals currently making their way through [assessment] processes will be subject to these new requirements or whether all this delaying on releasing the master plan means they'll get a free pass," Ms. Smart said.

The tourism master plan was first requested by UNESCO in 2015, tendered in 2018 and scheduled to be released in 2019.

1 Comments

  • Suvir

    Suvir

    1:30 PM, 02-06-2021

    Glad they are listening to indigenous groups

    0 Reply
    • Ray Cooney

      10:07 PM, 06-06-2021

      Very important to recognise the original owners of Australia and how the things that we do with land can affect their heritage.

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