The recent NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into local tourism could unintentionally destroy the major attraction of NSW national parks, warns a leading NSW environment organisation.
"What makes national parks unique from other areas is their healthy, protected wildlife and unspoilt environment," said Kevin Evans, CEO of the National Parks Association of NSW.
"Unfortunately, this Inquiry has recommended a number of high-impact tourism developments in national parks, including building commercial accommodation inside parks and promoting destructive activities like fossicking.
"Around half of all international visitors say that experiencing nature is a key reason for visiting Australia. By allowing tourism developments that degrade our national parks, we are killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
"Expanding commercial developments in national parks is a clear example of the greed of a few stealing from the public. Placing commercial developments in national parks undercuts tourism services in neighbouring towns, where tourists would otherwise stay and spend money. It also reduces access for the broader public who can't or won't pay commercial operators to use our national parks!
"Allowing fossicking in national parks is another short-sighted move that will degrade protected areas. Fossicking involves activities like metal detecting, digging holes and panning for gold, which is widely known to damage stream banks, silt up rivers and release pollutants into rivers.
"We believe that the best way to increase the long-term tourism value of national parks is by investing in maintenance and development of environmentally sensitive walking trails, educational facilities and programs, and most importantly the conservation of the natural values at the heart of our parks.
"Other areas are more appropriate for higher-impact recreation, and the inquiry makes some good recommendations for increasing outdoor recreation in areas more suited to multiple uses, such as rail trails and state forests.
"When the state government responds to the Inquiry's report, it must remember that protecting nature underlies all the other values of our national parks, and is vital to a healthy society and economy. Unfortunately, recent extraordinary comments by the Prime Minister to the forestry industry suggest that the federal government has completely lost touch with this vital fact.
The NSW government must therefore show leadership and long-term vision in developing nature-based tourism, and set an example to the rest of Australia," Mr Evans concluded.
The final report on Tourism in local communities can be found on www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/gpsc3
Media Spokesperson: Kevin Evans, 0457 797 977