Developers are using the lure of ecotourism to build posh private lodges with exclusive access deep inside many iconic national parks, according to Ralf Buckley, a senior lecturer from Griffith University.
His article, published in The Conversation, followed a similar piece from The Guardian, both of which highlighted numerous public-private partnerships that are being developed in national parks around the country.
They include Ben Boyd National Park, on the far south coast of New South Wales, which will see camping facilities replaced by luxury accommodation. The Great Sandy National Park, north of Noosa, where a proposal is underway to build luxury cabins beside the ecologically unique Lake Poona. Other examples include Main Range National Park, in Queensland, Tasman National Park, in Tasmania, and Kangaroo Island.
The arguments against these developments are numerous. At the nuanced end is that they are targeted for the elites, with expensive price tags that restrict the average traveller.
But the most obvious argument is that national parks were created to remain in a natural state of environment, with the most basic of utilities to enable visitors, such as walkways and toilets, at a nominal cost of entry.
As Buckley puts it so succinctly, “If we let the tourism industry take greater control over park access for private profit, we risk turning famous natural places into exclusive havens for people with money.”
It’s no surprise that these initiatives are whole-heartedly supported by tourism bodies.
Eden Gillespie, writing in The Guardian, quoted the CEO of Ecotourism Australia who waxes about the “transformative impact” on travellers’ appreciation for nature and claimed that developing luxury accommodation inside national parks actually “brings attention to conservation issues”.
The government departments quoted in the stories said that all the projects are developed with extensive community consultation, which is contradicted by the formation of community led opposition groups.
A survey conducted this year should provide all the consultation those government bodies require. It found that the public wants signs, tracks, toilets and tent sites, run by park agencies and available to everyone. People almost universally opposed permanent accommodation in parks, whoever owns it, based on the belief that private lodges and camps should be on private land.