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Big Tree Tourism

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Tags: Tourism, Forests

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Mr Speaker, thanks to the other members for their contributions. I must say that it is very disappointing to hear the minister's contribution dismissing this motion outright. There is nothing controversial in this motion and in the proposition that we should be doing and can be doing more to highlight and promote big trees that occur across the Tasmanian landscape. This is a motion that builds on the work of community groups that have done the work on identifying these trees, on promoting these trees, on showcasing them to everybody, from punters here in Tasmania to the American ambassador who got to climb to the very top of one of these very impressive and giant trees.

Regarding tourism, the minister talked a lot about the current strategy of tourism. I want to pick up on that and highlight the very controversial, very secretive expressions of interest process. This is the Liberal Government's strategy to invite all takers to 'give us your idea of what you want to do and what you want to build inside our existing protected areas'. It has led to remarkable amounts of controversy and conflict across the Tasmanian community.

It has been a complete and utter failure when it comes to promoting and progressing tourism developments. A couple of developments have progressed through that expression of interest process, mainly they are the one that are non controversial. Some of them are walking tracks and walking expeditions.

The big ones that the Government is really focused on, developments such as Lake Malbena, helicopter access, huts in a remote area, the south coast tracks and the like, are completely opposed by the Tasmanian community, by the palawa community and they are stalled because they are inconsistent with the values of those areas.

Think about the economic benefits or at least non benefits of those developments versus something like this, the big tree tourism plan. In those cases, you have fly in, fly out tourists. When it comes to Lake Malbena it is literally fly in, fly out tourists - not a lot of economic activity. They might buy a few nice bottles of Tasmanian wines. There might be a chef who pre caters a few meals but largely the wealth distribution is limited to the one private operator who has been gifted private ongoing access to a World Heritage island in the longer term.

Contrast that to something such as the big tree tourism plan. Give people the opportunity to do things in Tasmania's forests for the day. Give them the tracks to walk on, the trees that are showcased and so forth and they will do that for the day. Where will they go after that? They will go to regional towns across Tasmania. They will go to Dover and stay in the pub, eat in the cafe and the like.

This is a strategy that the Greens support because this is one that delivers benefits more broadly across the Tasmanian community. I find it very cynical to criticise the Greens when it comes to tourism. The Greens have always supported tourism and tourism in our wild places. We need to understand that that should not come at the expense of those wild places. The expense of wilderness. The expense of Aboriginal heritage and the expense of other values that should be protected. We have long advocated protection for these areas. Some of the tracks in this report are tracks such as the Tolkien Track, the Carbon Circuit and others were put in many years ago as part of conservation campaigns to promote these areas, to build a constituency that wanted to visit them, to build a campaign and the political pressure to ultimately see them protected from logging. I will come to that in a minute.

For me, some of this is full circle to see tracks such as the Tolkien Track and the Carbon Circuit emerge in a report like this that is highlighting the tourism and financial benefits of these. These were the very tracks that I was working in 15 or 20 years ago, with my reel of pink tape, looking for big trees and flagging tracks into these areas. The Greens have always supported sustainable tourism in our natural environment and supported it as an alternative to more destructive activities.

To point to our opposition to destructive tourism developments, ones that would impact on wilderness values, ones that would negatively impact on the values of the area it is supposed to be protected, is incredibly cynical.

The member for Franklin highlighted two areas, the Derby mountain bike tracks and the Maydena mountain bike tracks. Those two tracks were not put in until the native forest logging in those areas was stopped. Derby is a good example where the council put money into those areas because it was no longer production forest. It was reserved and it has gone on to be really, very successful. It gone on to be transformative. The Maydena mountain bike tracks are now within the World Heritage area. It demonstrates how being a protected area adds to the tourism experience. People do not come here to visit your average conservation area or piece of future production forest land. They want to come to our national parks and World Heritage areas. They want to come because those are the areas that have the status. They are the areas that signal to the world that these are places that should be protected.

I need to correct the record. There is no doubt that the Greens supported the Transformer project, Mr Winter. They opposed it in the first place -

Mr Winter - But you are against it. Yes, that is my point.

Mr BAYLEY - and negotiated it, worked with community, worked with MONA, with DarkLab, got a very positive outcome and now that is -

Mr Winter - Where is it? When is Transformer? When will it come?

Mr BAYLEY - It will come when it comes. It is not up to us. It is now approved -

Mr Winter - It should be there now. It has been delayed by the Greens.

Mr BAYLEY - It is a better development because of the Greens. The Greens used the planning process to improve a project that was concerning the community and it now has broad acceptance.

Forestry is always going to be in Tasmania. There is plantation and there is native forestry. It is very clear that native forestry hobbles the tourism sector in many ways. It is clear that when you have giant logs such as the single rider that was photographed a few weeks ago driving right past the Tall Trees Walk at Mount Field National Park, driving right past the Styx Valley, this is a net negative when it comes to our tourism brand, our tourism potential and the message we send out to people.

On one hand, we spend millions of dollars every year showcasing wild places in Tasmania. We put the trees on their screens, the wilderness areas, the beaches and ask people to come here. On the other hand, we give them experiences where they drive behind a single rider like what happened on the Gordon River Road a few weeks ago. That is to be condemned.

The examples the member for Franklin cited, Derby and the Maydena, show exactly what can happen when you protect areas from native forest logging and invest sensibly in those areas. You can completely transform a region.

We commend this report and it is disappointing that this motion is not going to be supported by the major parties. In some ways it is not surprising in that they have let their prejudice and their fear around supporting native forests at the expense of anything else get in the way of supporting a motion such as this. As a piece of work delivered and developed by the community, published by the community and a desperate call from the community to do alternative things with these spectacular areas, we commend it. The Greens certainly support the 'big tree state' and we want to see these kind of areas promoted with very modest investment and showcasing very incredible assets that we should really have front and centre in our tourism strategy.