The Tasmanian government says it would like the Aboriginal people to be more involved in decision-making and business opportunities when it comes to the state’s Wilderness World Heritage Area, but the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center is skeptical about whether the broader Aboriginal community will have a say.
- The Tasmanian government has released a tourism master plan for the state’s Wilderness World Heritage Area
- The plan says the Tasmanian Aboriginal history is “an acknowledged void in the visitor experience” of the area
- The Wilderness Society says the government must stop putting tourism before conservation
Parks Minister Jacquie Petrusma published the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) Tourism Master Plan on Tuesday, which she believes includes three “key priorities”:
- 1.Ensure that Tasmanian Aborigines are involved in decision-making about TWWHA and can participate in future business opportunities
- 2.An air access policy for the TWWHA
- 3.A master plan for Mount Field National Park
Ms. Petrusma said the state government wanted Tasmania to be the “eco-tourism capital of the world”.
“We understand that this needs to be achieved through culturally sensitive and environmentally sound visits to our national parks, reserves and Crown Lands,” she said.
The spectacle of the rotation of the fagus (Northofagus gunnii), Australia’s only native European beech, is a draw for visitors to Mount Field National Park. (
ABC News: Loretta Lohberger
“The [plan] achieves this important balance by providing diverse, high quality and environmentally sound visitor experiences while preserving and protecting the cultural and natural heritage and values that underpin the importance of the TWWHA. “
The 10-year plan, which is part of the overall master plan Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage, does not identify specific tourism projects as proposed in response to the state government’s request to develop national parks, but is instead a “plan”. Framework “for tourist developments.
The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area makes up almost a quarter of the state. Of these, said Ms. Petrusma, 82 percent are “forever wilderness” without development.
Luke Martin, CEO of the Tasmanian Tourism Industry Council, said there were around 100 to 120 commercial tourism companies operating within the TWWHA.
“We have a lot to do”
The plan said that Tasmanian Aboriginal history was “an acknowledged void in the TWWHA visitor experience,” and Mr. Martin said there were challenges to “bring Aboriginal tourism history to life.”
“This area has been declared a World Heritage Site three times for its cultural and natural heritage values, and we as a tourism industry cannot adequately present that … we have a lot to do,” he said.
According to the report, a potential opportunity for Aboriginal communities in Tasmania was to “establish commercial businesses that provide cultural tourism advice and accreditation to the tourism industry.”
These companies, with support from the state government, could be responsible for building capacity for Aboriginal businesses, developing interpretive materials, Aboriginal burning practices for bushfire management, and developing concepts for proposed cultural presentation centers.
Tasmanian Aboriginal Center executive director Heather Sculthorpe said the government had previously handpicked Aboriginal people to participate in TWWHA decisions, which bodes ill for future participation by the wider community.
Heather Sculthorpe, Chief Executive Officer of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, said the importance of the TWWHA to the Aboriginal people “cannot be overstated”.
ABC News: Scott Ross
“There is a huge difference between Aboriginal people on the payroll, paid counselors, and the Aboriginal people, whose land it is, who have been completely excluded from the decision-making process,” Ms. Sculthorpe said.
Ms. Sculthorpe said the importance of the TWWHA to the Aboriginal people “cannot be overstated”.
“It is the last remnant of largely untouched land that our people have used and inhabited for all these generations. Most of the rest of the state has been destroyed by tree cutting and land clearing, ”Ms. Sculthorpe said.
“[The government] will consider giving a couple of packages [of land] to individual Aboriginal groups to do business, but they will not consider returning it to the Aboriginal community in general to do what they want with it. That is, they will not recognize our past and continued possessions. “
Manage access by air
Access to Russell Falls in Mount Field National Park will be improved with the proposed new bus and car parking in the visitor center.
ABC News: David Hudspeth
Mr Martin said “a really clear strategic look at how we manage air access” is urgently needed for TWWHA.
“That doesn’t mean we are imposing a moratorium on access, it does not mean that we are allowing open slathering, it does mean that we are having a real conversation about the appropriate level of especially commercial tourism, helicopter access in key” [sites] about the TWWHA, “he said.
The report says the Air Access Directive sets out air access options in the TWWHA “while ensuring that levels are not compromised and the experience users want is not compromised”.
It would determine:
- 1.“Appropriate flight frequency, flight paths, flight routes, noise levels and heights”
- 2.All no-fly zones
- 3.Ongoing management options
“Air travel is a significant problem for park managers in many iconic and internationally significant locations around the world and, if not managed, can pose a significant risk to a location’s values and visitor experience,” the plan said.
“Community concern about air access, particularly via helicopters, was a major issue in the initial inclusion process.”
Plan “looks nice”, but is “separate from reality”
Tom Allen, campaign manager for the Wilderness Society in Tasmania, said the tourism master plan was “the lipstick on the park’s privatization pig.”
“The plan itself looks beautiful, it says some good sounding things, but it is completely disconnected from the realities of the scene and the state government’s drive to privatize parks,” said Allen.
“The government … must stop subordinating nature conservation to tourism.”
Secret report could jeopardize permits for existing wilderness tourism projects
Tasmania’s government is working on a report that could call into question the approval of some protected wilderness tourism projects.
He said a number of conservation and environmental groups boycotted the consultation process for the plan, “not least because the government did not pause tourism development in national parks and in the world heritage area, but rather privatized the parks while discussing their tourism master plan “.
Tasmanian Wilderness Guides Association President Ciara Smart said while the association welcomed the plan, it would have liked to see deadlines for developing and implementing policies like the Air Access Directive.
“We want to know whether tourism proposals are currently finding their way [assessment] Processes are subject to these new requirements or whether all of these delays in the release of the master plan mean they get a free pass, “Ms. Smart said.
The tourism master plan was first requested by UNESCO in 2015, announced in 2018 and is to be published in 2019.