MANY readers will understand an objective to expand tourism in Tasmania's protected areas.
After all, tourism now underpins our economic and employment figures. That tourism is driven in large part by the uniqueness, romance, beauty and solitude of protected wild places.
The work of conservationists, Aborigines, scientists and some politicians has achieved a protected areas network that, while not complete, is the envy of the world and an engine room for our economy.
With achieving any objective, there are strategies to pursue and choices to be made.
Government has again chosen to cultivate conflict, concern and division by choosing to push the tourism industry deep into longstanding, hard-won and cherished protected reserves like the World Heritage Area.
In doing so it will weaken the conservation protections of these reserves and attack the very things Tasmania is renowned for.
Wilderness is dismissed from the proposed new WHA Management Plan and helicopters, floatplanes and jetskis are permitted, shattering a millennia-long calm. Exclusive tourism accommodation is allowed everywhere and logging and mining is reintroduced!
A conflict has already emerged that will do Tasmania no favours. It will again divide us, escalate to the national and international stage and tangle proponents in a lose-lose outcome. .
Contrast that to a choice that involves community collaboration, consensus, forward progress and brand new opportunity.
If the stated objective is to expand tourism opportunities in protected areas, the more logical, cohesive and sensible strategic choice government and the tourism industry must make is for an expansion of the protected area estate.
Last year, the Liberal government reversed the newly achieved protection for 400,000 ha of spectacular forests and other landscapes. These areas now sit promised to a logging industry that doesn't want them, unallocated crown land without funding for their proper management.
These are iconic places of significant natural values, embedded in the very regional communities who need a new focus and a fresh, viable direction.
Imagine the kudos a Tarkine National Park and World Heritage Area would bring to Corinna, Waratah, Arthur River, Smithton and the North-West. Think of the signal we send to the world by creating the North East Highlands National Park, linking up and restoring spectacular forests like the Blue Tier, Mt Arthur and more. Picture the benefits for the East Coast and Tasman communities if a Wielangta National Park, linked to Maria Island via a marine reserve, broke up the journey on an improved tourist road between what are already 'must-do', but fragmented, tourism regions.
Government employs a 'trust us, we'll be sensible and sensitive' approach when it comes to tourism in fragile conservation areas. But actions speak louder than words and trust is lost.
This is the government that last year supported an attempt to delist the WHA and has reversed the protection of agreed forest reserves. It has abandoned land clearing laws and is pushing the decision to expand destructive 4WD tracks over the National Heritage Listed Aboriginal cultural landscape of the Tarkine coast. The government is now driving a 'behind closed doors' tourism development process with loose approval criteria, that pre-empts the new Management Plan for the WHA and treats public consultation with contempt.
If government is again determined to choose a journey of conflict and contestation then let's have the open debate. Public submissions to the WHA Management Plan are being accepted. Anyone who cherishes wilderness should make their views known.
- Vica Bayley, Wilderness Society spokesman