In 2021, given dramatically rising visitation and long-standing concerns regarding environmental impacts, PWS introduced a voluntary walker registration system to several backcountry overnight walking destinations in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). The TNPA has long advocated for a system to limit walker numbers visiting sensitive areas and so was supportive of the intent. The current system is now into its third walking season.
The TNPA recently received a briefing from PWS officers on how the registration system has been performing over the last walking season (2022-23). We received a similar briefing last year.
During the 2022-23 season, record numbers of walkers again visited the Western and Eastern Arthurs (1300 and 600 respectively) and Mt Anne area (2100). Lake Rhona (1100) and the Walls of Jerusalem (7600) also had high use.
PWS surveyed more than 1000 walkers who walked various areas during the 2022-23 summer season and reported that “the majority … agreed that a registration system is needed in the area that they walked ‘to help manage numbers at campsites’ (86%) and ‘to help reduce long-term damage of the environment’ (86%)”. This is certainly encouraging, however, “there were mixed responses about how effective the current registration system was”.
We concur that the current system should be improved, to remove the ease of making multiple bookings and lack of consequences for not cancelling, for example, and that more promotion and education regarding its purpose is desirable to build respect for compliance.
The TNPA has previously argued that the most crucial data on the effectiveness of the walker registration system are the proportion of walkers who actually registered and the number of nights on which particular campsites were significantly over capacity, neither of which has previously been available. We understand that data on occupancy of some campsites has been collected for the 2022-23 season but not yet analysed. And we acknowledge that uncertainties in the actual number of walkers registering (due to limitations of the current Eventbrite-based system such as multiple bookings, failure to cancel unused bookings, etc.) limits capacity to determine a usefully accurate estimate of the proportion of walkers to a particular area who have registered. Nevertheless, the proportion of actual walkers who are registering is obvious and necessary information to inform effectiveness so the registration system needs to be able to generate this data if it is to maintain and increase respect.
The TNPA strongly supports the intent of the current walker registration system (to constrain use to sustainable levels in some of the most trampling-sensitive and iconic walking destinations in the TWWHA) and encourages PWS to make available the resources required to capture the essential data so that refinements to the current system can be based on the best possible information.