Hinchinbrook MP, Andrew Cripps, says he is concerned about the future of eco-tourism under the Palaszczuk Labor Government, with new legislation being proposed and new guidelines being released that reverse reforms introduced by the former LNP Government.
Mr Cripps said the recent release of Labor’s draft Queensland Ecotourism Plan 2015-2020, outlines a more restricted, less flexible approach to ecotourism in Queensland’s National Parks, compared to the reforms put in place under the former LNP Government.
“The Queensland Ecotourism Plan put in place by the former LNP Government in 2013 talked about regulatory changes to provide greater access to National Parks for tourism operators, whereas the draft plan released by Labor wants to turn back the clock” said Mr Cripps.
“While both plans define ecotourism as needing to be ecologically sustainable and focused on experiencing nature, the LNP’s plan put more emphasis on making it easier for proponents to access National Parks and simplifying the planning requirements involved” he said.
Mr Cripps said while Labor had released a draft ecotourism plan for public consultation, the Palaszczuk Government has also introduced new legislation into the Queensland Parliament to overturn changes made by the LNP to the Nature Conservation Act (NCA).
“Labor’s bill proposes to reinstate the ‘conservation of nature’ as the sole objective of the NCA and exclude any other, such as the use and enjoyment of protected areas by the community, or their commercial use, consistent with the natural values of the area”.
“This is a big concern for communities and tourism operators in places like the Hinchinbrook electorate in North Queensland, where two-thirds of the landmass is covered by protected areas such as World Heritage, National Parks or State Forest, which limits their use”.
“In contrast, in 2013 under the former LNP Government, significant reforms to the planning and management processes for National Parks were put in place to reduce red tape and encourage investment in things like low impact tourism projects in protected areas”.
“Tourism has recently started to make a comeback in North Queensland after it suffered from the dual impacts of Cyclone Yasi and the high Australian dollar, so this is really the last thing we need to hold back any interest in investment in new ecotourism projects”.
Mr Cripps said with all of the new technology and breakthroughs in sustainable engineering, it was unfortunate that in the 21st Century, Labor’s plans were a step backwards for balanced and responsible ecotourism opportunities in Queensland.