As Tasmania lures more tourists with its wilderness charms, there are fears the method of holding tour operators accountable for breaches in precious wilderness areas is not up to the task.
- Almost 300 tourism operators hold licences to run commercial activities in Tasmania’s parks and reserves
- The state’s Parks and Wildlife Service says most operators who breach their licence conditions receive verbal warnings — but it is not sure how many warnings been handed out
- The tourism industry says this shows most people are well behaved, but green groups say it is not good enough
The most recent data from the Parks and Wildlife Service shows visitation to the state’s most popular parks and reserves is on the increase.
But data released to the ABC under right to information laws shows the service does not have clear records of how many of the 275 tourism operators working in protected areas have breached their licence conditions.
This is because the Parks department’s compliance policy dictates the service takes an educative approach to fixing issues in the field — and most breaches are met with verbal warnings.
Records of the breaches are kept on paper and scattered throughout the state in Parks offices. They were not available to the department despite it first being questioned on this in July.
“In general, the majority of potential breaches detected are for matters such as not paying for and/or displaying valid Parks passes, exceeding permitted client to guide ratios, not holding the applicable Public Passenger Vehicle accreditation … and industry accreditation,” the department said when asked how many operators had breached their licence conditions since 2017.
Profit motive wins, Green senator says
Tasmanian Greens senator Nick McKim said this showed the Government was not taking its responsibility to protect wilderness areas seriously.
“We know that the majority of tourism operators do the right thing, but when they do the wrong thing the Government has to stand up and do its job to defend nature, to defend wilderness and to defend our national parks, and they’re clearly not doing that,” Senator McKim said.
“Ultimately, what these [right to information] documents show is the profit motive wins over protecting nature and protecting the World Heritage Area, and the Government’s got to do a lot better than this and it’s got to make sure the rules are enforced.”
But Luke Martin from Tourism Industry Council Tasmania said the current system was working and most operators were well behaved.
Only one formal breach notice was handed out last financial year. The operator involved, working in the Lake St Clair National Park, was later able to produce documents proving it was meeting the requirements of its agreement with the Parks service.
“We know [Parks has] got a really robust compliance team that are out and about, they are doing spot checks, they are doing blitzes of some of the key sites,” Mr Martin said.
“I think in a lot of cases operators may inadvertently be doing the wrong thing going into a place they’re not licensed to, or not providing adequate information on what they’re doing or where they’re going.
“If they’re giving them a chance to do the right thing with a verbal warning, I think that’s a positive first step.”
The state government formally opened national parks and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area to tourism opportunities in 2014.
Thirty operators are listed on the coordinator-general’s website as working through the controversial expressions of interest process.
The most high-profile of these is couple Daniel and Simone Hackett, who want to build a helicopter-accessed standing camp on Halls Island, which sits on Lake Malbena within the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
The area falls within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and the area was rezoned by the Tasmanian Government specifically to allow the luxury camp development proposal at Lake Malbena to proceed.
The development received state and federal approvals but was knocked back by the Central Highlands Council.
The Hacketts have challenged this in the Resource Management and Appeals Tribunal and a decision was due on Monday but has been pushed out to October 21.
Wilderness Society Tasmania has joined with the council to fend off the development.
Campaign manager Tom Allen said the new information released to the ABC showed the Tasmanian Government needed to place more attention on monitoring existing operators.
“It’s definitely not good enough that the Tasmanian Government doesn’t have a record of lease or licence breaches, because on the one hand you’re seeing the privatisation of our national parks with commercial operators being invited in, and then no-one’s doing the managing up of high standards,” Mr Allen said.
“If you’re a corporate vested interest that wants to exploit nature, you’ll love this regime because it has all the hallmarks of a soft touch regime.”
In a statement, a Parks and Wildlife Service spokesman said: “Fortunately most operators comply with their licence and or correct any identified issues immediately when brought to their attention.”
“This summer, PWS will be undertaking targeted compliance actions in parks and reserves.”
- You’ll never read Facebook’s new data policy, so we did it for you
- 13,000 NAB customers affected by data breach
- Equifax's Security Overhaul, a Year After Its Epic Breach
- UK data watchdog ‘considering' concerns about FaceApp
- FDA Statement on Efforts to Maintain Strong Oversight of Generic Drug Quality
- Biometrics: Govt plays down concerns over mass surveillance, private-sector access
- Trump admin blames shutdown for 'slow roll' on House oversight
- ESA's massive E3 privacy breach simply shouldn't go unpunished
- Creative England responds to concerns over cuts
- Amid security breaches, Nest urges customers to use stronger passwords
- The Fed Chair Says Facebook's Libra Raises 'Serious Concerns'
- Elizabeth Comerford: Raising awareness of cybercrime is crucial
Tasmanian tour operator oversight policy raises concerns about accountability for licence breaches have 1085 words, post on www.abc.net.au at September 29, 2019. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.