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Queensland’s National Parks are rare and tranquil landscapes where biodiversity and natural processes can flourish, virtually untouched by commercial development.
Disturbingly however, the Queensland Government is now putting National Parks at risk by offering private, long-term leases to commercial operators within National Parks. Now, no National Park is safe from development including North Queensland’s very own Hinchinbrook Island National Park. This kind of development leads to companies gaining a monopoly on accommodation and trails within National Parks, threatening the area's environmental values while reducing free access to National Parks for members of the public and other responsible tourism operators.
By ensuring privately owned accommodation and facilities are situated OUTSIDE National Park boundaries, the Queensland Government can support regional employment opportunities AND restore the appropriate level of protection for Queensland's National Parks.
In October 2018, the Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development (DITID) Kate Jones, in partnership with Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, released an Expressions of Interest (EOI) process on Hinchinbrook Island NP (Thorsborne Trail), Whitsunday Island NP (Whitsunday Island Trail) and Great Sandy NP (Cooloola Great Walk). The EOI gives proponents opportunity to develop and operate eco-accommodation and tour guidance within the boundaries of these three National Parks.
The Government is prepared to provide the successful proponent with state-owned land within these National Parks for accommodation, including exclusive ground leases for a term of up to 60 years, assistance during the approval process, a “one-government” approach to comply with other government requirements and a contribution of up to $5 million for eco-accommodation built along the Whitsunday Island Trail.
The Queensland Conservation movement is opposed to the current trend of opening up National Parks to commercial interests. This includes (but is not limited to) the EOI process. The Government is attempting a complete change of their business model and hope that the public won't realise the impact on the natural values of our state's most fragile places. When in opposition, both the ALP and the LNP have taken the position that leasing public land is as good as selling it off because Government control is lost over those properties.
We know how much Australians value National Parks, so we are ensuring that public awareness is high, while putting pressure on the relevant politicians to acknowledge the conservation value of national parks above commercial interests. To secure a safe future for our National Parks, tourism development needs to stay outside their boundaries.