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Parks – Tasmanian Walking Company Marketing

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 9 June 2022

Tags: Tasmanian Walking Company, Parks, Subsidies

Ms O'CONNOR - If we can walk onto the Tasmanian Walking Company, are you able to tell the committee how much Parks and Wildlife has paid to the Tasmanian Walking Company for marketing? I think we came to this question last year. I would also like to ask you about the Tasmanian Walking Company's grants of authority to helicopter water into their operations along the Overland Track. How many grants of authority permits did they receive last year?

Mrs PETRUSMA - Sorry, what was that last question?

Ms O'CONNOR - The first was about the Parks funding that is allocated towards the marketing budget for the Three Capes, and the second part of the question was about Tasmanian Walking company requesting multiple grants of authority to helicopter water into their operations along the Overland Track.

We are trying to work out how many grants of authority permits and any observations you want to make on pumping water from the environment to keep their huts provisioned.

Mrs PETRUSMA - As you know, the intent of the Three Capes Walk, when it was first put forward under the previous government, was that the walk was always designed to accommodate both public and commercial walking options as part of the experience. The TWC was appointed following a two-stage competitive EOI process that began back in 2013. This project has been a massive success, with the public walk attracting approximately 8500 people in 2021, and pre-COVID-19 there were 11 500 walkers choosing the public option. TWC hosted approximately 1200 guided walkers in 2019-20, and 1270 in 2020-21.

The Three Capes Walk also supports the direct employment of 35 FTEs across the PWS and its business partners TWC, Port Arthur Historic Site, and Pennicott Wilderness Journeys. I advise that the contract was signed in May 2016, the operation in marketing reimbursement, they have been paid $387 000 since 2018.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is $387 000 in taxpayers' money to market their own product.

Mrs PETRUSMA - Sorry, they received $361 000 in marketing reimbursement, but the PWS public walk generates a return of between $4-5 million annually, with the revenue for 2021-22 estimated to be around $4 million.

This marketing arrangement encourages visitors to visit the Tasman Peninsula as an iconic and premium tourism destination, as well as many other tourism opportunities that the state has to offer. This is beneficial, not only for employing people in the area, but it actually delivers increased visitation to the greater Tasman Peninsula area, as well as the broader Tasmanian tourism industry, because people who come to stay nights on this walk actually usually go and spend nights elsewhere.

The fact is that out of that money that we have paid the TWC we get the benefits of about a $4-5 million return, which then goes back into our Parks, and is a good return on investment.

Ms O'CONNOR - The second part of the question related to the grants of authority to helicopter water into their operations along the Overland Track. How many grants of authority permits were they permitted over the last year?

Mr JACOBI - The grant (inaudible) authority is delegated to the regional manager, in this case it would have been the regional manager of north-west. I am just trying to obtain the number of authorities that he may have issued for that purpose.

Ms O'CONNOR - Is it okay, minister, if I just put that on notice and then that takes the pressure off the question at the table?

Mrs PETRUSMA - I just want to read in for a question on notice please, chair?

CHAIR - Yes.

Mrs PETRUSMA - So, identified positions, Parks and Wildlife Division as of 9 June, 2022, band 1, there are two working on country Aboriginal trainee rangers; band 2, there are eight Aboriginal field officers and Aboriginal discovery rangers. Then band 3, there are nine, that includes Aboriginal ranger engagement, Aboriginal fire ranger, working on country trainee ranger, Aboriginal ranger, and a field officer at Arthur River. Band 4, there are three positions working on country trainee program coordinator, Aboriginal education program coordinator, and recreational engagement officer, and band 5, there is one position, Aboriginal burning project officer, making a total of 23.

Ms O'CONNOR - Is its possible, minister, to tell the committee how many helicopter flights have been authorised to evacuate walkers from the private operation run by the Tasmanian Walking Company on the Three Capes track, if they were unfit or unwell to complete the walk. How much money did Parks spend on helicopter flights servicing and maintaining the Cape Raoul and Three Capes tracks over the past year?

I am happy to put that on notice if that it is a fiddly bit of information.

Mr JACOBI - I can answer probably one of those. We do not have records of rescues from TWC clients, most of those are dealt with by Police Rescue. We can inquire as to the specifics of that, I do not believe that would be quick to obtain, so I do not know how long it would take to get that information.

Just so I am clear, the second question you asked is around how many operational flights, we had done out on the Tasman Peninsula to service the Three Capes track, is that correct?

Ms O'CONNOR - The first one how many flights authorised to evacuate walkers off the Three Capes track, but the second one was about costs. What is the cost to Parks of helicopter flights servicing and maintaining the tracks at the Three Capes track and Cape Raoul track?

Mr JACOBI - I do not have that information readily available, but we will take that question on notice.

Mrs PETRUSMA - Keeping in mind that is 10 000 public walkers that walk that track versus only 1200 Tasmanian Walking Company. It is something we do have to maintain for the public users of the track also.

Ms O'BYRNE - By interjection, how much would you spend normally across the state in helicopter retrievals?

Mrs PETRUSMA - On helicopter retrievals? For maintenance works?

Ms O'BYRNE - No, just for retrievals. For getting people out.

Mrs PETRUSMA - As the secretary has outlined retrieval work would be done through the Westpac helicopter, not through Parks.

Ms O'CONNOR - We both might be interested in this, but if Parks uses a helicopter to go into the TWWHA, apart from those cases where we know they have flown a developer in, but the developer possibly already been on a flight already going in, those flights would be for ecological science or management purposes would they?

Because I think Parks takes the chopper in to the TWWHA every now and again.

Mr JACOBI - We use helicopters to access the TWWHA for a wide variety of purposes and that is not just across the Parks and Wildlife Service. There is a program in Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania which is taking Aboriginal Elders and community onto country. In terms of the Parks and Wildlife Service helicopter use the greatest percentage would be for firefighting activity, a small percentage of the use would be for removal of toilet pods from remote tracks; the Western Arthurs, Mount Anne circuit, Overland Track, Walls of Jerusalem and so on.

A small percentage is also for ecological monitoring and scientific based work. Largely undertaken by the natural and cultural heritage division.