Lift for tourism

TASMANIA'S tourism industry has praised a Liberal plan to fast-track developments in national parks and World Heritage areas, describing it as a ``game-changer''.

However, environmental groups slammed the Liberals for encouraging ``highly destructive developments in the most sensitive areas''.

A Liberal government would call for proposals from private investors and tourism operators who want to run ecotourism experiences and build associated infrastructure in national parks and World Heritage areas.

Once assessed, the newly established Office of the Co-ordinator General would steer successful projects through the planning process before the planning minister makes the final decision.

Liberal leader Will Hodgman said the new system would not replace existing planning processes but would send a strong message to investors.

``We are serious about capitalising on one of our greatest competitive strengths,'' Mr Hodgman said.

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said it was critical that investors could pursue their ideas with government, confident that their intellectual property and commercial modelling would be protected.

Mr Martin said experiences such as Maria Island Walks, Cradle Hut and Gordon River Cruises showed what was possible within the state's reserve system.

``This policy reform is about providing the opportunity for more of these great experiences to emerge, and make the process a lot easier for future investors to turn their dreams into reality,'' Mr Martin said. 

Labor Environment Minister Brian Wightman said an additional expression of interest process was unnecessary when it was already possible to get approval for tourism experiences in national parks.

``The Liberals' policy would only create a sea of paperwork and red tape which will hold up existing projects,'' he said. 

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust warned commercial developments could get the go ahead without public consultation with no right of appeal.

``There will be the real possibility that our favourite camping areas, walking tracks and fishing spots will be taken from us without us even knowing,'' trust  director Peter McGlone said. 

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