The long-awaited Tourism Master Plan (TMP) for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) has now been released by the new Parks Minister for Tasmania, Jacquie Petrusma. Given the many attempts by the Tasmanian government to promote commercial tourism in Wilderness and World Heritage Areas, there is a lot resting on this plan.

The Minister says

‘The TMP achieves this important balance by providing diverse, high quality, environmentally sustainable visitor experiences at the same time as conserving and protecting the cultural and natural heritage and values that underpin the significance of the TWWHA’.

The Tasmanian National Parks Association responded by saying:

The drafting of the TMP responds to one of the key recommendations of the joint IUCN/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoirng Mission in 2015 that followed concerns regarding the then-draft TWWHA Management Plan expressed to the World Heritage Committee.

This is the final plan, not a draft for comment. We were expecting the worst (i.e. uncritical endorsement of the state government’s ‘unlock our parks’ policy) which is why we boycotted the consultation on the plan, but are pleasantly surprised by the final outcome. The TMP could certainly be stronger but arguably it puts more emphasis on protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the TWWHA than does the management plan itself and its recommendations on wilderness values assessment (see below) are substantially stronger than those in the TWWHA management plan.

Following are the recommendations on wilderness values assessment in the TMP quoted in full (pages 71-71):
Wilderness values assessments undertaken for both public and private tourism and presentation proposals in the TWWHA are to consider:

  • the protection of the integrity and the cultural and natural values of the TWWHA through the retention of large areas of wilderness;
  • recreational wilderness values;
  • all tangible and intangible wilderness values, e.g. remoteness, naturalness, diversity, systems, cultural landscapes and connections to the TWWHA; and
  • impact on Wilderness Value as derived from the current or a future wilderness assessment methodology.

To support the attainment of this policy outcome:

  • PWS will continue to require an assessment for all infrastructure and new or modified buildings, including tracks, toilets, huts and so forth, regardless of proponent;
  • The current wilderness assessment methodology will be reviewed and consider the following:
  •       viewfields;
  •       effects of over-flights, landings and expedition ship movements;
  •       quality of recreational experience;
  •       protection of wilderness as a contributing factor to the OUV of the TWWHA; and.
  •       availability and application of the model through improved data and computing technologies.
  •  PWS will undertake ongoing TWWHA-wide monitoring and reporting.

The downside is that the role of the TMP is only to provide context and guidance on how the Management Plan should be interpreted and applied by the PWS. It will never become a statutory (legally binding) document like the management plan so its contribution to any future repeat of the legal challenge to the approval of the Lake Malbena proposal will be limited.

The Tasmanian Wilderness Guides Association (TWGA) issued a statement saying ‘it is pleased to see the TWWHA Tourism Master Plan released today but question why it took the Tasmanian Government so long’.

They said:

While there is much to like about the Plan, the Association would like to have seen timeframes for when policies (such as the PWS Standing Camp Policy, the Aircraft Access Policy and the Fly Neighbourly Advice for the TWWHA), strategies (such as the Biosecurity Strategy for the TWWHA), protocols (such as the Cultural Heritage Decision Protocol) and new assessment guidelines will be developed and implemented.

Ciara Smart, from TWGA said “Without timeframes for implementation, the Master Plan is just empty words on a page. We want to know whether tourism development proposals currently making their way through the EOI and RAA processes will be subject to these new requirements or whether all this delaying on the release of the Master Plan means they’ll get a free pass. Plus, we need to know PWS is going to properly resourced (in terms of staff and budget) to carry out this Plan and rapidly develop the policies and work required for full activation”.

Their full statement is available here.

Tom Allen, Campaign Manager Wilderness Society lutruwitasaid:

Today, we have a tourism master plan that looks pretty, is full of warm and fluffy statements, and is completely divorced from reality. In reality, this tourism master plan is little more than lipstick on the parks privatisation pig.

This tourism master plan could have been an opportunity to really leverage the ecological integrity of brand Tasmania. It could have been far more serious about conservation, working with tourism; that’s how you create a rising tide that carries tourism and the rest of the state. But instead, increasingly it’s hard not to view this tourism master plan as an exercise in marketing, and little else. Brand Tasmania, such that it is, is increasingly becoming something that’s more about marketing than ecological integrity.