Many thousands of people campaigned for years to see the best areas of wild Tasmania protected in national parks, World Heritage and other conservation reserves. However, the current state government continues its efforts to open up these areas to commercial development via tourism ventures.
While the plans for a ‘helicopter’ tourism venture at Lake Malbena on the Central Plateau has been generating a lot of community opposition, a range of other, lesser known projects are also being pursued by a number of developers.
Emily Baker, reporting for the ABC says that ‘documents obtained by the ABC show the Tasmanian government has received almost 60 proposals for tourism developments in wilderness areas, but only 30 have been disclosed to the public’.
The government makes public details of proposals received under its expressions of interest process only once they have been approved.
Among those yet to be made public are proposals for a campground and huts at Mount Field in the state’s south, and a cable car at Mt Owen on the west coast.
A government spokesman said: “Our Expression of Interest process for tourism opportunities in national parks, reserves and Crown land is a unique opportunity for private operators to develop sensitive and appropriate tourism experiences, and associated infrastructure, to broaden the range of unique experiences on offer in our parks and reserves”.
However, Fishers and Walkers Against Helicopter Access founder Brett Smith, accused the government of “trying to pull a swifty under our nose” by failing to disclose potential wilderness developments. The Wilderness Society (TWS) agrees, and is calling on both the ALP and the Liberals to rethink their approach to the expressions of interest process.
“The reason for this secrecy is that if these proposals go through the normal planning system, they wouldn’t get up,” TWS state campaign manager Tom Allen said.
Since 2015, UNESCO has repeatedly urged the state government to release a tourism master plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The document would help guide development in the internationally recognised wilderness. A draft version was released for public comment last year. The Tasmanian government had committed to releasing the final version by 2019.