The Tasmanian National Parks Association has met with both the Greens and the ALP in the lead-up to the state election. We attempted to organise a meeting with the Liberals without success.
We have already released an Election Manifesto, an our assessment of the current position of the major parties is:
- The Liberals should be judged on their record.
- The ALP have committed (in their planning policy) to “review, commencing within six months of forming government, the performance of the planning system” including “the community’s right to comment upon, and rights of appeal in relation to, commercial developments in national parks”.
- The ALP has also committed to “30 new park rangers and field officers”.This commitment to increased staffing is welcome but it appears to be dependent on increased park entry fees for tourists in some circumstances.The TNPA’s position is that additional resources for PWS should also be provided by increasing the recurrent funding for PWS in the state budget, with no strings attached, to allow both existing and any new staff to do their jobs.
The Greens policies include:
- $40 million over four years to boost staffing and on ground maintenance.
- An immediate stop to the EOI process.
- Prohibit private accommodation and infrastructure inside protected areas.
- End the developer free-for-all through the introduction of strict laws controlling any development on public reserved land.
Since our initial assessment additional policies and related information have become available:
- The Greens have clarified their policy on commercial activities in national parks: “The Greens do not support private developments in NPs. We support private operations occurring on publicly-owned infrastructure (tracks, huts etc) if these operations are non-monopolistic and comply with TWWHA management plan conditions.”
- Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. Following approval by Kentish Council in mid-2017, the state government announced that the government funded construction of the new visitor centre was about to commence, but this has now changed. Construction of the new carpark and ancillary buildings will proceed as previously indicated but the main visitor centre building is on hold so that it can be developed with private capital. This information was presented by PWS to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in December 2017, but the TNPA has only recently become aware of it. The TNPA is seeking further information on the rationale for this change but it seems likely that its main purpose is to keep alive the option of the Visitor Centre to Dove Lake Cable Car.
The Liberals have saved several major policy announcements for the final days of the election campaign:
- Taking our National Parks to the next level. An additional $31 million for National Parks.
Where we stand: This is long overdue recognition of the chronic under-resourcing of the PWS but we would have preferred more emphasis on conservation and less on tourism.
- Tasmania’s Next Iconic Walk. This promises up to $20 million to deliver Tasmania’s next iconic multi-day, hut-based walk.
Where we stand: This is based on the assumptions that the Three Capes Track is a great success and that there is a demand for another iconic multi-day, hut-based walk. We question both:
– Nobody disputes that the Three Capes Track is heavily booked but is it really the success that it is claimed to be once the environmental and social impacts and the massive costs of construction, ongoing advertising, staffing and maintenance are considered? Could this money have been better spent on something else, such as the TNPA proposal for a series of day walks which would have encouraged visitors to stay in local accommodation?
– The Liberal policy includes feasibility studies into possible walk sites but it needs to go back to basics and consider all options. What experience do walkers actually want? What levels of crowding will they tolerate before the original experience is destroyed? The trend is towards shorter, easier walks; another demanding walk in a national park may not be the best option. How about a non-wilderness walk between small towns where walkers can stay in accommodation of their choice each night? The greatest omission from this policy is a commitment to ensure that all impacts including those on wilderness and the experience of other visitors are properly considered prior to any decision being made.
- Supporting Recreational Hunting. This provides opportunities for recreational deer hunting in national parks.
Where we stand: If deer are causing damage within our national parks, the solution requires careful consideration. The best option is likely to be a professional cull. The encroachment of deer into our national parks should not be used as an excuse to allow access by recreational hunters.
Authorised by Nicholas Sawyer. 43 Hillborough Road, South Hobart