NSW National Parks slated for development

Issue 

While the NSW government is wavering over a Shooters Party's proposal to allow hunting in national parks, less well known, but just as worrying, are plans for private commercial developments.

The government wants to change laws protecting national parks from development. New plans have been adopted for developer-friendly leasing arrangements in our parks, identification of "investor ready" sites and even the commercialisation of wilderness areas.

Park staff and resources are already being diverted to tourism. A consultant responsible for Kakadu National Park's tourism development plan, which covered part of the park's former wilderness zone, has been appointed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to guide its development strategy.

So far, five accommodation development proposals for coastal parks have emerged, including one for Arakoon National Park on the mid-north coast of NSW.

More are planned for our best-loved parks, including Ben Boyd and Mimosa Rock National Parks on the far south coast of the state.

The owner of Trial Bay Eco Tourist Park, Tony Mayne, told the June 7 Sun-Herald his eco-resort would be "cannibalised" by building resorts in the nearby Arakoon park.

For a cabin development to spoil part of a beautiful part of a coastal park and destroy a nearby resort owner's profits on private land is, as Nationals leader Andrew Stoner said, a "crazy" idea.

Yet the NPWS believes that national park development is essential to grow its revenue. Naturally the benefits from high-yield park tourism developments mainly flow to resort owners, as the cash flows away from local communities.

National Parks must not be ruined by political deals or fast-buck schemes. The NSW government, with already tarnished environmental credentials, would suffer further heavy losses in key marginal seats if it bows down to the gun lobby or encourages more national park developments.

Conservation groups have organised a series of public meetings to protest against the Shooters Party sponsored Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill and changes to National Park laws on the North Coast, southern Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Pymble.

This will culminate in a meeting at the parliament house theatrette on September 9, 5.30pm featuring Greens parliamentarian Ian Cohen, Dr Carol Booth of the Invasive Species Council and Professor Ralf Buckley, director of the International Centre for Ecotourism.

[Keith Muir is director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness. For information on the campaign, phone 02 9261 2400.]