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Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area - Commercial Exploitation

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Tags: Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Parks EOIs

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, Tasmania's World Heritage estate is one of the world's great treasures. It is the only World Heritage area with the word 'wilderness' in its name. People the world over have had their lives changed from their immersive explorations of this island's wild places. Wilderness walks like the South Coast Track and the Port Davey Track, bushwalkers will tell you they are hard yakka but the rewards for the adventurous come with every step, every stumble, every sunrise and all the deep breaths of our wild clean air.

These life-affirming foot journeys are hard-earned and entirely unique in the world. To sanitise them, to control and manage them would be a crime against Nature and a wound to the heart for all those adventurers who know the power of the place. That is why so many have stood in defense of Lake Malbena over the past seven years and why we are resolute that we will never, never give up on the defense of wild lutruwita Tasmania.

Part of that defense has seen 2673 Tasmanians sign on to a petition organised by the Tasmanian Wilderness Guides Association demanding a stop to the commercial exploitation of national parks, reserves and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. They passed a petition to Dr Woodruff and me this morning on Parliament Lawns and I had the great honour of tabling it in parliament earlier today. Signatories are calling for a halt to the divisive and ineffective 'Unlock the Parks' policy; the expressions of interest process and a complete rethink of the flawed, secretive reserve activity assessment process for developments in publicly-protected places and of course most of these RAAs are written by developers. We are commercialising and turning our parks into Disneyland.

Processes that include the most bizarre methodologies to assess wilderness quality where the existence of a public toilet in a public campground can be used by wannabe developers to justify the construction, and this is the case, by the way, have been used and are being used to justify the construction of two-storey luxury lodges with helicopter pads, hot showers, jetties and boat sheds that will flatten half a hectare of wilderness and jeopardise priceless Aboriginal heritage. They may as well propose to build a shopping centre. The wilderness value will not change just so long as there is a toilet. These processes are a mess and the policy is a failure. It is also deeply, deeply unpopular.

The passionate, dedicated guides who organised this petition take great care of adventurous tourists all over Tasmania. They are highly skilled and committed nature educators and custodians and they understand much of the history of this island - its flora, its fauna, geology and some of its ancient culture. They impart this knowledge to thousands of visitors every year.

Reading reviews from their guests is enlightening. The guests, of course, rave about the landscape they are guided through but the warmest words are reserved for their hosts - the wonderful guides. Wilderness guides are responsible for cooking, cleaning and entertaining their guests. They are trained in remote area first aid. They work long hours, carry heavy loads and most importantly, they are teachers educating clients on all aspects of a natural landscape and its history. They do this hugely important work that the Tasmanian Government should be doing - imbuing an absolute love for our island's stunningly wild and beautiful wilderness.

The ERI Policy the guides want to have scrapped is one of the biggest threats to Tasmania's wilderness. In fact, IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has listed two major threats to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The first is climate change, of course, and the second is inappropriate tourism.

What does that mean? On this island it is industrial tourism - an extractive industry. It means building luxury lodges in remote wilderness whose construction will require thousands of hours of helicopter flights, burning millions of litres of jet fuel, their farting turbines shattering the peace and degrading wilderness. It means luxury lodges made of glass and steel that will degrade wilderness values through their very presence. These lodges require constant provisioning with everything from fresh food and wine to fluffy towels and crisp sheets - all delivered by noisy, polluting helicopters. These things are anathema to wilderness.

Furthermore, the clientele of these luxury lodges will not appreciate rough, muddy bush tracks on their daily walks. They will demand constructed footpaths that will keep their feet dry and nature at arm's length - inappropriate.

There are currently dozens of stalled projects under the expression of interest process going nowhere due to its secretive processes and sustained pushback from Tasmanians who will protect their wild places no matter what.

The helicopter tourism proposal into Lake Malbena and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park has been in the pipeline for seven years. It has been rejected at every level of assessment, and yet the Government continues to back the developer, Mr Hackett, continues to ignore thousands of Tasmanian bushwalkers and back country anglers, and refuses to concede it is a dud project proposed under a dud policy. The proposal for six luxury lodges along the South Coast Track is an affront to Tasmania's brand, an absolute misunderstanding of what that rugged, unspoiled country is all about; adventurous, wilderness exploration, and just for people like me who are not that fit and adventurous necessarily, just to know it is there.

This country holds the creation story of palawa/pakana people, and it is a heartland for the Tasmanian bushwalking community. When a company called Wild Bush Luxury comes along with a view to taming that wild place, we have a problem, and that problem is the Liberals policy. I predict the South Coast Track project will not get up, Tasmanians care about it too much. No Aboriginal Tasmanian I have spoken to or heard from supports it.

The Rockliff Government needs to scrap their EOI policy and admit it is a failure, and save themselves the future political pain. Tourism in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and other protected lands needs to be done with the greatest sensitivity and respect. The guides know that, bushwalkers know that, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community know that, and so do plenty of Tasmanians from every walk of life. It is time the Rockliff Government started listening.