Experts, stakeholders have say on national parks

A PROPOSAL to open up Queensland national parks for eco-tourism development will take away from conservation priorities and ruin the natural experience for generations to come, park advocates have warned.

Opinions over the controversial plan to allow sustainable development in national parks were divided at State Parliament on Wednesday when industry experts and stakeholders were invited to have their say on the proposal.

National Parks Association of Queensland executive director Paul Donatiu warned the Health and Community Services Committee the legislation reform would have a long-term impact.

"This will lead to the detriment of the surrounding natural landscape..." he said.

"This level of infrastructure is not consistent with the role and value national parks play in our society."

Mr Donatiu argued allowing eco-tourism in national parks would be a blow to regional economies, which sit on the fringe of national parks and thrive on visiting tourists.

He said the parks should be protected for future generations and "our children".

Sunshine Coast and Hinterland Wildlife Preservation Society argued there was plenty of room for tourism facilities in close proximity to national parks.

"We maintain that any tourism facility in a national park will result in a significant change to the land's natural condition, by the very fact of the construction of the facility and the ongoing impact of its services on the surrounding areas," the group wrote in a submission.

The parliamentary committee is considering the Nature Conservation and other Legislation Amendment Bill, which will make changes to the state's national parks laws.

Professor Ralf Buckley from Griffith University's International Centre for Ecotourism Research argued the bill's aim to drive Queensland tourism would not be served through allowing private tourism development in public parks.

"To boost park-based tourism, the best approach is public investment in maintaining trails, lookouts, toilets and signage in national parks, and private investment in accommodation on adjacent private land," he wrote in a submission.

The committee has received 75 submissions so far from individuals and organisations, including the Eco Tourism Australia.

The group has urged the State Government to put in place provisions to allow for an unused eco-tourism facility to be re-used or removed and land rehabilitated in the future.

The Queensland Tourism Industry Council has thrown their support behind the law reform as it supports an action plan drawn up between Queensland tourism operators and the State Government last year.

The committee will deliver its report to parliament by February 7.

Topics:  eco-tourism national parks

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