Painted Cliffs, Maria Island National Park. Photo: Grant Dixon

Maria Island Management Plan review

The review of the Maria Island National Park management plan has finally commenced with the publication of six discussion papers on the PWS website . Comment is invited and closes on 7 June.

Comment of these discussion papers and feedback obtained from a series of public meetings will inform preparation of a draft management plan, which will be subject to further public comment.

Visitor numbers have been rising rapidly since the introduction of the new ferry and further increases are anticipated, but no consideration is given to limiting visitor numbers. The discussion paper on Managing Visitor Experiences and Impacts raises the possibility of a range of new commercial tourism offerings including a proposal submitted under the Expressions of Interest process to rebuild the 1880s ‘Adkins House’ which was destroyed by fire in 2001 as commercial overnight tourist accommodation. If visitor numbers continue to increase unchecked and even a few of the new offerings are approved, the simple, undeveloped character of Maria Island, beloved of generations of Tasmanians, will change forever.

Other major concerns include fire and wildlife management:

  • Fire: to state the obvious, Maria Island is protected from the spread of wildfire from mainland Tasmania by several kilometres of saltwater but this has resulted in the build-up of massive fuel loads in the dry forest ecosystems on the island. Increasing numbers of visitors, many of whom are ignorant of the risk posed by campfires, is a major concern.
  • Wildlife management: Maria Island probably has more issues related to active management of wildlife than any other national park in Tasmania. Wallabies are regularly culled to prevent the population reaching unsustainable levels and the discussion paper suggests than the wombat population may need similar management. Maria is also the location of an introduced ‘insurance’ population of Tasmanian Devils (free of the facial tumour disease). Devils were not previously present on the island and this introduction may have had major impacts on other species.

Comment of these discussion papers and feedback obtained from a series of public meetings will inform preparation of a draft management plan, which will be subject to further public comment.

The current management plan was completed in 1998. In 2010, the Darlington Probation Station was listed as a World Heritage Site, one of eleven outstanding convict sites across Australia. Darlington is considered the most intact example of a probation station in Australia and with the other convict sites, records the worldwide forced migration of convicts.

The public meetings have been held in Launceston, Hobart (attended by TNPA) and Triabunna.  Participants said that they wanted a “national park, not a zoo”, that Maria Island should be staffed by more rangers and that limiting additional developments and vehicles would maintain the Island’s sense of solitude and isolation. Concerns about protecting the marine reserve, the geological and natural values and the island’s phytophthora free status were voiced.

TNPA has already expressed a view that limiting excessive visitation and inappropriate development will safeguard Maria Island’s environmental and heritage values and ensure that visitors continue to have a positive experience while visiting the park. TNPA remains opposed to further privatisation of Tasmania’s national parks (see here).

It is noteworthy that this is the first time that a review of a statutory management plan has been outsourced to consultants.

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