Queensland’s national parks are open for commercial operations after amendments to the state’s Nature Conservation Act were passed on Oct 29.
The Queensland State Government says the amendments were designed to increase commercial and recreational access to the state’s parks, bolstering the tourism industry.
“We are just enhancing the existing opportunities that are available now by creating ecotourism within our national parks,” said Minister for National Parks Steve Dickson.
The Queensland Opposition has criticised the changes and vowed to repeal the amendments if it returns to power. It claims the Act’s main purpose of environmental protection is being undermined to further commercial interests.
“We readily agree that educational, recreational, cultural and sometimes even commercial activities can be appropriate in national parks, but they must always be secondary activities that are entirely 100 per cent subordinate to the protection of nature,” Opposition spokesperson Bill Byrne said.
“This Government has used national parks as a plaything, something to be exploited for profit.”
Under the new reforms, the number of categories of protected areas, such as national parks, will be reduced from 14 to seven in an effort to cut red tape and streamline processes under the Act.
The State Government has also been given greater immunity against civil liability, making it harder for people to sue the state if they injure themselves in national parks.
Mr Dickson said that the changes would lead to more effective environmental management.
“These amendments mean our national parks and other natural areas can be managed more effectively, bringing the Act into the 21st Century to make it easier, faster and less costly to respond to change when it occurs,” he said.
He also noted that mining, logging, hunting and open slather grazing will remain prohibited in national parks.
Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act was enacted in 1992 to create and manage the state’s protected areas, including national parks