Call to develop parks with caution

PRIVATE development in national parks will raise much-needed funds to fulfil conservation obligations but a tourism professor says caution about what is deemed appropriate is vital.

The state government is looking for business proposals to expand tourism in national parks and wilderness World Heritage Areas, to include eco-resort style accommodation, mountain bike riding or luxury camping escapes.

Most favour the move but questions about what is considered "sensible and appropriate" development have been raised.

La Trobe University tourism associate professor Sue Beeton said national parks had costly legislative obligations for protection, yet dwindling public resources made fulfilment of these obligations difficult.

"Land needs to be managed and that costs money," Dr Beeton said.

"Tourism is certainly a tempting option for people to look at in terms of creating income, however, we have to be careful ... if there was a significant amount of development an argument that land be excised from public land areas may be made."

University of Tasmania environmental change biology professor David Bowman said any development must be of high quality, and be well planned.

He said "honey pot" developments could also work, where tourism of a natural asset is concentrated to a small area to minimise impact.

"I want people to love national parks as much as I love them and to broaden your constituency you need to allow people to have good experiences," Professor Bowman said.

University of Tasmania tourism lecturer Alison Dunn said national park accommodation would encourage visitors to spend more time in protected areas but also lead to extensive impacts.

"New developments with the potential to generate greater impacts will have to be managed more closely at a time when Parks and Wildlife Service resources are likely to be stretched," she said.

"Opening up Tasmania's protected areas for business therefore has the potential to create opportunities but also associated threats."

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