PWS has recently announced that, from 15 November, adults will be required to purchase a $15 ticket to use the Cradle Mountain shuttle bus. This is additional to the requirement to have a current Parks Pass.
This has been strongly criticised in both social and traditional media because it represents a reversal of the undertaking that shuttle bus costs would be covered by park entry fees, made when the shuttle bus service was introduced.
The TNPA refrained from commenting to the media because we wanted to present a more considered view:
- It does renege on the previous undertaking that shuttle bus costs would be covered by park entry fees. PWS made no attempt to explain or justify this in their initial media release, which likely contributed to the media criticism, and the applicability of the new fee to holders of a current parks pass is not clearly explained. The TNPA sympathises with the visitor centre staff who will have to explain this about-face to visitors.
- The shuttle bus service is extremely expensive to run and since its inception has been cross subsidised by park entry fees from all around the state. From this perspective the change to a direct user pays model is welcome – it will release park entry fee funds for other purposes. This is not to say that the TNPA supports the user pays principle for the provision of services in parks, but that’s a debate for another time. However, further consideration as to how the fee to cover the costs of the shuttle bus is collected and/or incorporated into the park pass is warranted.
The TNPA takes this opportunity to clarify that strongly supports the provision of the shuttle bus service. There is no alternative which would allow anything like the current number of visitors to access Dove Lake without impacts which would destroy the character of Cradle Valley:
- Unrestricted access to Dove Lake by visitors in their own cars would require a two lane road all the way and supermarket size carpark at Dove Lake.
- The mooted cableway from the visitor centre to Dove Lake was initially proposed as a gimmick to attract more visitors, not as a serious transport option. The state government refuses to completely abandon the idea but it remains:
- Dove Lake is already overcrowded at peak periods – do we really want to provide for even more visitors?
- It would be a much greater intrusion into the natural landscape than the existing minor road.
- It will be hugely expensive, requiring private investment to construct, which will hand control over access to the park to a private operator. Tickets are likely to be several times more expensive than for the shuttle buses.