7 November 2018
Mackay Conservation Group has launched a campaign against a Queensland Government plan to allow private tourism development in three of the state’s iconic national parks.
Last month the Tourism Minister, Kate Jones, issued a statement calling for expressions of interest from private tourism operators to build accommodation and conduct private walking tours in Hinchinbrook, Whitsunday Islands and Great Sandy national parks.
In a document on a government website, private developers are being offered 30 year exclusive leases on current national park land plus a 30 year option. The government will also fast track the assessment process. In the case of Whitsunday Islands national park the government is also offering private developers a $5 million subsidy to assist with accommodation construction.
Mackay Conservation Group has launched a petition, which has collected over 700 signatures, calling on the state government to scrap its plans.
Mackay Conservation Group coordinator, Peter McCallum, said “national parks primary purpose is to protect the scientific and ecological values and beauty of the natural landscapes of Queensland.”
“National parks have not been set aside from development so that they can become the exclusive playground of a select few.”
In 2016 Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said that she would not be considering privatisation of public assets. Speaking to the Courier Mail she ruled out privatisation, saying she “spent three years building trust with the people of Queensland and I’m not going to breach that trust”.
Mr McCallum said “national parks are set aside from any other form of development, they are Queensland’s most valuable assets. The government is going back on its word by proposing private tourism projects in our national parks. It's also breaking a promise the it made when seeking re-election.”
During the 2017 election campaign the ALP promised (ALP Platform p.50) that it would ensure that intensive development occurred outside the boundaries of national parks and that they will be managed to protect ecological and cultural values and minimise human interference.
The Tourism Minister has said that the government is considering development in other national parks including on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.
"Big tourism operators are eyeing opportunities for commercialisation in all of our national parks. None of our national parks will be safe", Mr McCallum said.
“The developments that the government has in mind will diminish the value of our in national parks system.”
"Queensland already has the lowest proportion of land protected in national parks of any state in Australia. We should not be reducing that limited protection by introducing tourism developments."
"What the government should be doing is providing enough funding to the national parks system to ensure that they can be properly managed."
The petition can be found on the Mackay Conservation Group website at https://www.mackayconservationgroup.org.au/hands_off_our_national_parks_petition