The attempt by some in government and business to open up World Heritage and other protected areas to commercial development has seen a long running campaign by those who fear that individual developments could be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and open the door to much greater incursion.

Recently there has been substantial concern about plans to build a fly-in, fly-out luxury camp at Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) on the Central Plateau. It is a remote location, to the south east of the famed Walls of Jerusalem area. The plan includes a helipad, accommodation, kitchen and toilet facilities.

Now, leaked documents show that Tasmania’s national parks advisory body argued against the controversial development which has been supported by both the State and Federal Governments.

Declan Gooch, writing for the ABC, reports that:

The proposal, by tourism operators Daniel and Simone Hackett, would also allow for 120 helicopter flights each year to access a “standing camp” on Halls Island in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

It has been approved by state and federal authorities, and the final say will rest with the Central Highlands Council.

The Greens tabled a submission in State Parliament on Tuesday from the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council (NPWAC), the body that provides advice on TWWHA management to the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments.

The submission was made to the Federal Government in July, prior to it approving the project in September.

Concerns about island camp buildings ‘ignored’

Among the NPWAC’s concerns were the permanency of the proposed buildings, the impact of the helicopter flights and the ability of the ecosystem to recover from the use of the site.

“The proponent does not address the fundamental concern that the proposal is for a development with several buildings, not a ‘standing camp’,” the submission said.

“The proponent states that the standing camp will be ‘rested’ from June to September … This is not a time when natural vegetation recovery can occur.”

Under changes to the TWWHA management plan in 2016, the area around Lake Malbena was changed from a “wilderness zone” to a “self-reliant recreation zone”.

The NPWAC said the planned buildings were “incompatible for the self-reliant recreation zoning”.

Cassy O’Connor, the Leader of the Greens in TAS said:

The Premier tried to tell Parliament this morning that this project has been extensively consulted.  That is a lie.  The only opportunity for public consultation on this proposal was initiated via the Federal process three months ago, almost three years after it was approved to lease and license by the State Liberals.

The fix was further put in when the TWWHA Management Plan was changed – after the public consultation period – to carve out Lake Malbena from the ‘wilderness’ zone.  Tasmanians had no opportunity to comment on this proposal until a short time ago, and by then the deal had been effectively stitched up.

Mr Hodgman must explain why the advice of people with expertise in Parks management and protection has been ignored by two levels of government in order to allow the degradation of wilderness values at Lake Malbena in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

Check here for further reading on the proposal.