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Turning wilderness into theme parks: the great national parks debate

Anne Davies writes in The Guardian (19.12.18) about recent state and federal government moves to ‘open up’ national parks to tourist development. The author observes that, while governments hail nature-based tourism as win-win, conservationists say Australia’s wild places belong to everyone and shouldn’t be sold out.

‘The development planned for Cradle Mountain in Tasmania’s north-west is arguably the most high-profile example of the dilemma faced by governments dealing with the growing popularity of nature-based tourism in national parks.

‘Visited by more than 268,000 tourists in 2017, and with visits growing at 12% a year, the facilities at Cradle Mountain were stretched to the limit. So the Tasmanian government pledged $160m to build a new visitor centre and tourism village on the edge of the heritage area.

‘… The issue of whether national parks are primarily about protecting biodiversity and fragile ecosystems or whether other activities and tourism can coexist is a perennial debate.

‘Sometimes it’s possible to achieve both. But with growing tourism numbers and state governments in search of ways to boost their economies and make national parks earn a return, the conflicts are becoming more stark and frequent.’

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