Question

Legislative Council

QUESTION: Development in National Parks

May 30th, 2018

On the 30th of May, Mark asked the Minister for Tourism a question about developments in national parks.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Eighteen new nature-based tourism business opportunities were released by the department for environment and water back in October 2017. Expressions of interest for these opportunities closed on 31 January this year. Some of these opportunities involve the construction of new infrastructure, including tourist accommodation, roads, wastewater and other facilities inside national parks. The governing principles for these projects include the relevant local development plan, but also the approved management plan for each of these parks under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

For example, if we look at the expression of interest sought for tourist accommodation in the Lincoln National Park, the government's website suggests that areas of more than five hectares might be allocated and a minimum of 11 and a maximum of 50 tourist accommodation units might be built. Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, section 40 provides that operations must not be undertaken in any national park unless they are consistent with the adopted plan of management.

But when you look at the plan of management for Lincoln National Park, it says nothing about new tourist accommodation. In fact, the only reference to accommodation is an historic cottage that has been there for 100 years and is rented out to tourists. There is no mention of any new tourist accommodation.

My question is: can the minister assure the chamber that any new tourism infrastructure inside national parks or other conservation areas will be consistent with the approved management plans for those parks? I appreciate that this crosses three portfolios—the planning minister, the tourism minister and the environment minister—so if the minister isn't able to give that assurance, will he commit to consulting with his ministerial colleagues, the Minister for Environment and the Minister for Planning, to ensure that approved management plans for national parks will be followed before any new infrastructure is approved?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment): I thank the honourable member for his question.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I know the members opposite get a bit excited, but I would like them to listen in silence today. Nature-based tourism is, I think, an important initiative that enjoys bipartisan support—we have a former minister across the chamber—and probably broad support, if done properly, by all members in this chamber.

In fact, I was always reluctant to say this when the former minister was the minister, but I did actually walk on the walking trails on the tip of Kangaroo Island in the Flinders Chase National Park. I was always reluctant to say this prior to the election, but they are a very wonderful tourism asset in South Australia. I didn't have a particularly long time on it. At the time, I thought I was a little bit sceptical when the minister was answering the plethora of Dorothy Dixer questions he was receiving about his initiative in the Flinders Chase National Park, but I think that's a very good example of how you can have some modest development in a national park and showcase some of the wonderful natural beauty that South Australia has.

We grew up here. Those of us who have lived here all our lives tend to take the natural beauty that we have in South Australia for granted. When you start to talk to interstate, overseas and even intrastate tourists—ones who have perhaps not experienced that before—you begin to realise that we do have some wonderful assets.

Even this morning, at the South Australian Tourism Industry Council (SATIC) conference, the Minister for Environment and Water, the Hon. David Speirs, addressed that particular breakfast on the topic of nature-based tourism, and you could tell by the enthusiasm in the crowd that certainly the tourism sector sees this as an important initiative to expand our offering in the tourism industry, to create more jobs in regional South Australia and to grow these businesses.

In particular, when I had the good fortune to visit Innes National Park—I think it was about 15 months ago; I went on a particular visit to do a proper tour of the park—a lot of the park officials, the former minister's department, were saying, 'One of the things we miss down here in Innes is to have a critical mass of jobs so that there are some jobs for young people to do, for people in the hospitality sector, because our community is very seasonal and if we had more jobs here then we would actually have a chance to grow a more vibrant community.'

You can see that there are some wonderful opportunities around nature-based tourism. Another example that springs to mind was when the Hon. Joan Hall, a former minister in the Olsen government, announced a long time ago that we would build a whale watching centre at the Head of Bight. I think it was one of those projects that transcended the change of government. I think the Hon. Jane Lomax-Smith was the minister who opened the facility.

It was always intended to have some more development there and some accommodation, and to make that facility even more accessible. Sadly, in the last 16 years, that hasn't happened. That is another example from the very early stages. For those who have had the chance to go to the Head of Bight to see 100 or more whales in the bright blue ocean with their calves, it is a very spectacular sight.

I am getting back to the member's question now. I got distracted. I am so enthusiastic about nature-based tourism. I see that as another beautiful chapter in South Australia's rich tourism history. I will take that question on notice because it is a technical question. We are talking about management plans in parks, which the honourable member knows, and I would assume the honourable former minister would know, is a matter for the new minister's department to look at. There is a whole range of aspects, so I will take those details on notice. But I assure the member that this government has no intention of damaging our national parks. In fact, we will open them up to get more investment and grow jobs in regional South Australia.

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