News - 01 April 2018

Private commercial tourist structures in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area

The proposal

A company, Wild Drake Pty Ltd, is proposing to expand exclusive, private commercial tourist structures in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area, with the first such proposal in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park at Lake Malbena. (You can see its ‘referral’ on the Federal Department of environment EPBC notices website. The proposal is in the name of Wild Drake Pty Ltd, ref 2018/8177.)

The proposal is to build accommodation on Halls Island, aimed at what Wild Drake describes as “the very top-end of the market”. This includes a timber and steel hut, similar accommodation buildings, toilets, a boardwalk and a helipad. With this being a high value wilderness area, remote from road access, guests would be flown in by helicopter and then be taken by boat to Halls Island. One estimate is that there could be 300 helicopter flights a year.

The Management Plan

When the 2016 Management Plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was finalised, Lake Malbena was secretly downscaled and excised from the ‘wilderness zone’ and made into part of the ‘remote recreation zone’. Visitor accommodation is prohibited in the wilderness zone, with only ‘standing camps’ permitted in the remote recreation zone.

The World Heritage Committee

In 2015, the World Heritage Committee passed a decision that urged Australia to review the then-draft Management Plan, in particular the aspect of the ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ (OUV) of wilderness. It advised the government to “ensure that it provides adequate protection for its OUV” including through the “…establishment of strict criteria for new tourism development within the property, which would be in line with the primary goal of protecting the property’s OUV, including its wilderness character…”

Wilderness is defined as “an area that is of sufficient size remoteness and naturalness to enable the long term integrity of its natural systems, diversity and processes, the maintenance of cultural landscapes and the provision of a wilderness recreational experience”.

It is well-understood that built accommodation and commercial access via helicopter reduces remoteness, naturalness and impacts on the recreational experience, and thus, damages wilderness values.

This proposal has not been assessed at a state level.