PRISTINE POTENTIAL: Tourism and Events Queensland has started debate about whether National Parks such as Girraween should be opened up to investors and greater development.
PRISTINE POTENTIAL: Tourism and Events Queensland has started debate about whether National Parks such as Girraween should be opened up to investors and greater development. Department of Environment and He

Push to 'open up' our treasured parks

AS Tourism and Events Queensland reveals plans to "open up” the state's national parks for development, questions are being raised - are we being "greedy” and could pristine regions such as Girraween National Park cope?

The push, spearheaded by newly-appointed Tourism and Events Queensland chairman Brett Godfrey, could create massive tourism potential if investors were allowed to forge ahead with plans potentially allowing eco-resorts, accommodation and attractions.

Mr Godfrey, who was unavailable for comment, has said he will be appealing to Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch on the issue which has sparked calls for caution in the Southern Downs region.

Recently, Mr Godfrey said Queensland had some of the world's best national parks, but no way of taking advantage of them.

National Parks Association of Queensland has expressed its concern over possible developments in the state's natural areas, casting doubt over Mr Godfrey's claims that the parks could be "improved rather than destroyed”.

Recently, Mr Godfrey said Queensland had some of the world's best national parks, but no way of taking advantage of them.

On its website, NPAQ states in response to the tourism bid: "We're going totally wild or are we simply continuing to be totally greedy?”

Southern Downs Region Mayor Tracy Dobie said she believed a balance must be struck, and some locals believed it was crucial to query whether tourism development was needed in areas such as Girraween National Park which welcomed about 120,000 people annually.

OF these, about 40,000 people camp each year at Bald Rock Creek and Castle Rock camping areas.

Cr Dobie said any facilities built should be in keeping with the environment, be well managed and abide by state law.

"We do want to encourage visitation to our regions. More and more people want to get away from it all and bush camping has become popular.”

Cr Dobie said it was vital to consider whether a national park such as Girraween could facilitate more people without "imposing on the amenity of the national park itself”.

"Currently it is perfectly suitable for day-trippers, but is there a need for large accommodation facilities with restaurants?

"I strongly encourage people to come to the area, but while I'm usually very supportive of development and making the most of every opportunity, I would like to see more about what they'd like to do.”

Secretary of the Stanthorpe Rare Wildflower Consortium, Liz Bourne, said there was a range of accommodation within the Granite Belt, including next to Girraween National Park.

"I don't think there's a compelling reason to have additional tourist development in Girraween.

"People can camp at Girraween and thousands do every year, and if they want a better standard of accommodation they don't have to go very far to find it. There's impacts of trampling on vegetation at the most visited sites, and there's also the human aspect. If there's so many people on the track chatting then you can't enjoy the natural environment.

"And if you add to that pressure, then you are going to add to the environmental impact. A lot of extra feet are going to cause erosion. Of all the parks in Queensland, I don't think Girraween stands out as one that needs additional tourism,” Ms Bourne said.

"Certainly on the Granite Belt, tourism is very much nature-based so people are coming here for the natural attractions, but that doesn't mean they have to stay in the middle of it.”

A Department of Environment and Science spokesperson said this week that the State Government recognised the importance of the tourism industry to the economy.

The spokesperson said Queensland's world-class national parks, marine parks and World Heritage areas were central to ecotourism and already provided significant economic benefits to regional Queensland.

"We are committed to partnering with the tourism industry to foster ecotourism opportunities on national parks that provide unique, high quality eco-experiences.”

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