Mountain Journal has previously covered the release of a proposed Master Plan for the Cradle Valley section of the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park, which was developed by the Cradle Coast Authority. We highlighted some of the positive aspects of the proposal here.
However, a cornerstone of the proposal is a cable car, which would run from a new tourist centre to the north of the park boundary to Crater Lake. The Authority says ‘the Cable Car is the core element of the Cradle Mountain concept.’
A recent article by Nicholas Sawyer in The Mercury provides some thoughtful views about the proposal for a cable car and the broader issue of how tourism interacts with our national parks.
On the question of a cable car:
There is much to be said for alternatives, but this needs to occur as part of a considered planning process that includes consultation with stakeholders (such as preceded the introduction of the shuttle bus) rather than being presented as a fait accompli for which funding is sought.
For example, the use of bigger and/or more frequent shuttle buses would seem more cost-effective and to have less impact on the park’s values — this alternative and others should be examined before advocating a costly, controversial cable car.
The really alarming aspect of the Cradle cable car proposal is its underlying assumption that a substantial rise in the number of visitors to Dove Lake is appropriate.
And on how tourism should interact with our national parks:
No thought has been given to the possibility that Cradle Mountain, in peak periods, has reached, or even exceeded, its carrying capacity, the point where additional visitor numbers will degrade the experience for all concerned.
Tasmania’s unique attraction is the potential for visitors to experience wildness and naturalness and this is greatly diminished by the presence of too many others.
To maintain this, Tasmania needs a considered plan for natural area tourism as recommended by the recent Reactive Monitoring Mission that examined management of the TWWHA. This needs to be based on serious research of visitor expectations and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, not just the tourism industry.
In addition to exploring the carrying capacity of natural areas, it needs to address the contradictions inherent in the advocacy of nature-based tourism when this includes a wide range of activities from nature appreciation to adventure tourism to aerial sightseeing, which are not necessarily compatible.
This plan also needs to address the increasing proportion of our visitors (predominantly from Asia) with no personal experience or tradition of wilderness.
It is important we do not civilise our wilderness to meet their perceived needs. We need to educate them about wilderness and allow them to experience wildness in a non-threatening manner.
The problems at Cradle Mountain are symptomatic of those of all our national parks.
Tasmania needs an adequately resourced Parks and Wildlife Service and an end to the buck-passing on funding for major public tourism infrastructure, such as a decent visitor centre at Cradle Mountain.
Most of all, we need a considered approach to natural area tourism based on understanding of the qualities that make Tasmania attractive to visitors, not uncoordinated proposals to get ever more visitors into our national parks. As suggested by Richard Flanagan, the future of Tasmania’s tourism industry lies in focusing more on the quality of the visitor experience, and less on the actual number of visitors.
IMAGE: An artist’s impression of the cable car being proposed for the Cradle Mountain National Park. Picture: Cumulus Studio