Core views in 2018 EOI position
The objectives of the State’s adventure and nature-based ecotourism program are to better protect, present and maintain our national parks and to work with Traditional Owner groups, councils, community and industry to create local jobs.
It’s about conservation protecting biodiversity and offering tourism in an ecologically-sustainable manner.
The Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NC Act) provides for development of, low-impact, purpose-built ecotourism infrastructure on national parks.
The NC Act provisions ensure that all approved ecotourism facilities are in the public interest, environmentally sustainable and, preserve the land’s natural condition and protect its cultural heritage and natural values.
The process for attracting investment in ecotourism facilities will vary. The Government will invest more to enhance the current trails providing a better experience for the Queensland public.
The government will also call for experienced private-sector operators to put forward proposals for ecotourism ventures such as guided walks and low-impact accommodation.
This will occur through competitive-tendering with the first stage being the release of the Expression of Interest (EOI) for the three trails – on Hinchinbrook and Whitsunday Islands and the Cooloola Great Walk on the Sunshine Coast.
It is not a privatisation of our national parks – that will never occur.
The State wants to ensure it has proven tourism operators who have a proven track-record in operating sustainably in national parks.
The process the government is undertaking is common in jurisdictions like Tasmania and New Zealand. Queensland will reflect the best practice outcomes achieved in their national parks.
Queensland Ecotourism Trails
What is ecotourism?
In better protecting, presenting and maintaining our national parks ecotourism opportunities encompasses nature-based activities that increase visitor appreciation and understanding of natural values and cultural heritage. They are experiences that are managed to ensure they are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable, contributing to the wellbeing of the natural areas and local communities where they operate.
The World Tourism Organisation defines ecotourism as:
- All nature-based forms of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas.
- It contains educational and interpretation features.
- It is generally, but not exclusively organised by specialised tour operators for small groups. Service provider partners at the destinations tend to be small, locally owned businesses.
- It minimises negative impacts on the natural and socio-cultural environment.
- It supports the maintenance of natural areas which are used as ecotourism attractions by:
- generating economic benefits for host communities, organisations and authorities managing natural areas with conservation purposes;
- providing alternative employment and income opportunities for local communities; and
- increasing awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural assets, both among locals and tourists.
What are the key benefits of ecotourism in national parks?
Apart from providing additional income streams to better protect, present and maintain our national parks ecotourism plays a vital role in rural and remote communities, generating economic and social benefits, creating resilience through sustainable employment options and providing local jobs.
The care and sustainability of our natural and cultural assets strengthens our ecotourism industry.
Does the State allow ecotourism opportunities in national parks?
Yes. The Queensland Ecotourism Plan 2016-2020 provides the framework for building a thriving ecotourism industry and delivering new ecotourism experiences in Queensland’s spectacular national and marine parks and other natural areas. The Plan outlines the government’s commitment to foster ecotourism opportunities that support the sustainable growth of the ecotourism industry, provide a positive contribution back to Queensland’s natural environment, culture and community, and strengthen the economy. Queensland is home to some of the world’s most diverse nature-based experiences, which provides the State a valuable competitive advantage for the tourism industry—experiencing nature is a primary motivator for domestic and international visitors’ travel to Queensland.
The guiding principle is for Queensland’s treasured natural and cultural assets to be protected, conserved and presented for current and future generations to enjoy. This guiding principle acknowledges that Queensland’s natural heritage, including our national parks, is the foundation of our ecotourism industry and that a successful and sustainable ecotourism industry is dependent upon achieving conservation of natural values and cultural heritage.
Does the State’s call for Expressions of Interest contravene any World Heritage conventions?
No. In relation to protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage convention the duty of ensuring; identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of an area’s cultural and natural heritage belongs primarily with the State. The State will ensure ecotourism facilities are designed and managed to facilitate the presentation, appreciation and conservation of the land’s natural condition and cultural resources and values.
Do the EOI opportunities comply with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth)?
Yes. Where national matters of environmental significance are found the successful proponent will need to comply with Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). There are also other legislation, approvals, plans and policies they must be compliant with including, but not limited to:
- Best Practice Ecotourism Development Guidelines 2015;
- Implementation Framework: Ecotourism Facilities on National Parks;
- Planning Act 2016 (Qld);
- Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld);
- Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (Qld);
- Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995 (Qld);
- Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld);
- Wet Tropics Protection and Management Act 1993 (Qld);
- Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (Cth); and
- Relevant regional planning schemes.
Will developing ecotourism opportunities in our national parks lead to greater support for their conservation?
Yes. This is the experience in the jurisdictions like Tasmania and New Zealand where the protection and conservation of national parks and the State’s natural assets is a top priority in ecotourism planning. Any and all developments in national parks must meet the requirements of the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld) and must conform to the Department of Environment and Science’s Implementation Framework: Ecotourism Facilities on National Parks.
The State will continue to work with councils, community, private sector proponents and traditional owners to support and action conservation measures.
Will these ecotourism opportunities lead to more support in the upkeep of the parks?
Yes. A key goal of the ecotourism proposal is that ecotourism operations will be expected to make a fair and reasonable contribution back to the conservation and management of the national park and also to the local community.
Will there be more ecotourism opportunities offered to the market?
Perhaps. Queensland Ecotourism Trails was established to deliver adventure and ecotourism experiences at iconic Queensland destinations, including within or adjacent to national parks, as identified by the government. The government may initiate future opportunities.
Will accommodation facilities be approved for construction within the national parks?
Proponents may propose to establish eco-accommodation and commit to the regular renewal and maintenance of such facilities. Each approved facility will be designed and managed sensitively to ensure it is compatible with the nature and character of the site and complements the management of the national park in which it is located. The nature and scale of ecotourism facilities may vary from relatively small, simple structures— such as safari tents or walker’s huts—to larger campgrounds or low impact eco-accommodation. Acknowledging the differences of scale and location between proposals, the Department will apply a common assessment and approval process consistent with the legislative requirements.
Will full public access to our national parks be maintained?
Yes. Access to and use by the public of the parks, public toilets and public campsites will be maintained and unimpeded by any private commercial activity permitted in connection with these projects. All of this is underpinned by the guiding principle that: Queensland’s treasured natural and cultural assets will be protected and conserved for current and future generations to enjoy.
Thorsborne Trail (Hinchinbrook Island National Park)
Were ecotourism opportunities identified in the May 2017 Hinchinbrook Island National Park Management Plan release?
Yes. This information formed part of the strategies and management priorities for Hinchinbrook Island. Refer to page 17.
Is this an opportunity to open Thorsborne Trail to greater access numbers?
The State will consider proposals from proponents to modify the restriction on the number of overnight visitors where it can be shown that a better overall environmental outcome can be achieved as part of its development.
Does the EOI comply with the Hinchinbrook Island National Park Management Plan?
The EOI opportunity is consistent with the Hinchinbrook Island National Park Management Plan. The Plan allows proposals that maintain and enhance visitors’ experience of the Thorsborne Trail and nearby camping and visitor areas.
Will the Thorsborne name continue to be honoured?
Yes. Queensland and Australia owe much to the recently passed Margaret Thorsborne AO and her late husband Arthur, for their part in protecting Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and animals such as the southern cassowary, mahogany glider and dugong.
Their love affair with Hinchinbrook Island began when visiting in 1964 and in 1972 they shifted from the Gold Coast to settle at “Galmara” Meunga Creek, near Cardwell - facing Hinchinbrook Island across the Hinchinbrook Channel.
The Thorsbornes’ conservation works are recognised in the naming of the Thorsborne Trail.
The Expression of Interest opportunity and its marketing are about the State carefully and responsibly developing ecotourism experiences that allow a greater diversity of visitors to share the natural beauty Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne so cherished.
Is the redevelopment of the Cape Richards resort part of the EOI opportunity?
The resort is not part of the EOI process.
Will full public access to our national parks be maintained?
Yes. Public access to the parks will be maintained and all of this is underpinned by the guiding principle that: Queensland’s treasured natural and cultural assets will be protected and conserved for current and future generations to enjoy.