Will commercialisation put our national parks in peril?

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Australian national parks changing character
This is what could be on the way to Flinders Chase National Park

Australia’s national parks could be about to change forever as pressure grows for more commercial activities to be allowed inside.

Across the country, private firms are seeking permission to build everything from zipwires and mountain bike trails to luxury cabins and helicopter pads. And, it seems cash-strapped parks authorities seeking extra revenue may view such potentially lucrative opportunities favourably.

Organisations such as the National Parks Association though say these ‘eco-activity’ proposals could be the thin end of the wedge. It says the recent granting of a works permit to construct cabins at Spicers Retreat in Main Range National Park is the first time approval has ever been given for private accommodation in a Queensland mainland national park.

Four other proposals for eco-tourism activities inside Queensland national parks are currently being considered. They could be offered on long leases of up to 60 years.

In Tasmania, a planning tribunal has just cleared the way for a luxury camp on remote Halls Island on Lake Malbena in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. The proposal would see four demountable huts built to be visited by up to 240 helicopter flights per year.

In South Australia, proposals for accommodation huts to be built within Kangaroo Island’s Flinders Chase National Park have sparked outrage among environmental groups.

Similarly, in New South Wales, a proposal to introduce hut-style accommodation at two beachside locations and reroute parts of the 30-kilometre Light to Light walk south of Eden has angered many.

The fear is that commercialising national parks in this way will ruin them, and squeeze out self-reliant existing users.

“Many of these proposals are high-end experiences for the well-heeled that offer real comfort and luxury and are unaffordable for many,” said National Parks Association councillor, Susanne Cooper. “It will also mean more people on the trails, and food and supplies like linen will have to be brought in by mechanised methods … it’s not what national parks should be about.”

The National Parks Association says the public has a high interest in publicly funded national parks and has called for greater transparency in the impact assessment process, as well as more consultation.

So, if the critics’ worst fears are realised and our national parks really are on the slippery slope of commercialisation what could the future hold? Well, in the US where chronic national park underfunding is even more of a problem, a Starbucks coffee shop recently opened in the iconic Yosemite national park … despite a 25,000-strong petition against it.

Now, a controversial advisory panel for the US Interior Department has just outlined a plan to privatise national park campgrounds.

It would like to see commercialised services such as Wi-Fi and food trucks in the parks, and it has called for ‘categorical permissions’ to sidestep environmental impact reviews for campground expansion and development.

Watch this space!

  • Do you think allowing commercial enterprises into national parks is a mistake that could ruin them, or a commonsense solution to funding issues? Comment below.
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3 Responses to Will commercialisation put our national parks in peril?

  1. This needs to Nipped in the Bud before it gets out of control.
    No Aussie National Park should be allowed to have Private or Commercial Enterprise running Roughshot over the use of a park. Especially when it’s more designed towards Upper Market Elite customers.
    National parks are there for all classes and the use by a certain class will and could raising of costs to other users.

  2. Do not allow at all.
    N.p are to be business free
    There for all to access

  3. Well, if the governments allow this, I want to be allowed to take my on lead dogs in when we stay at a park in our c.van or when I cyclocamp. If horses are allowed in National parks in the Snowys, where they can introduce weeds thru their manure, why can’t I bring my dog in. I miss this from living in the US for a time, and could take my dog in. You must remove all faeces over there, same for here.

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