News - 25 February 2022

South Coast Track developer moving ahead despite near-universal opposition to parks privatisation

Walker on the South Coast Track. Image: Jimmy Cordwell.

The Wilderness Society rejects any suggestion that it is engaged in consultation with any entity about the proposed South Coast Track proposal, or that it supports it.

Yesterday, The Mercury reported that proponent Experience Co has consulted with the Wilderness Society. This is incorrect. The article also reports a claim from Experience Co that implies its plans are supported by the “Tasmanian Aboriginal Community”.

“The Wilderness Society is concerned that the proposed development could impact wilderness values, and sounds the alarm about private meetings being misconstrued by the proponent, and our views wilfully misrepresented,” said Tom Allen for the Wilderness Society Tasmania.

“The recent Lake Malbena saga shows the importance of social licence for tourism developments. Pretending to have social licence when it has neither been properly sought, nor obtained, is misleading.

“Likewise sending mixed messages about intent to proceed with the development or not, is high risk, and only further compounds concerns about this project.”

“You can’t fake social licence. The Tasmanian community and stakeholders of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area deserve community rights—transparency, a say in decision making and the right to reject proposals—all the things that the tourism “expression of interest” process and the Gutwein Government’s parks privatisation policy eschews.

“Given the costly and bruising Lake Malbena experience, which saw huge public opposition to inappropriate development in wilderness areas, and deep concerns about genuine public consultation, and about the community’s views being genuinely heard, you would think that companies like Experience Co would have a more professional approach,” said Tom Allen.

The development involves the establishment of six luxury lodges along an ancient Aboriginal track.

"If it goes ahead, this proposal would require clearing of World Heritage forest for construction and would degrade wilderness values of one of the world’s most spectacular existing walking tracks within the world’s highest-rated World Heritage wilderness.

“Thanks to the expertise of one of Australia’s foremost wilderness experts, Martin Hawes, the impacts on natural values, wilderness and serenity are plain to see. (Refer to images below).

“As the near-universal opposition to development of Halls Island in Lake Malbena and the Gutwein Government’s parks privatisation policy shows—reinforced by a national poll by the National Parks Australia Council this week—most people are opposed to national parks and World Heritage wilderness being commercialised, privatised, degraded and existing users excluded.

The NPAC poll found that:

  • 89% of Australians agree that national parks are one of the best ways to protect nature in Australia

  • 91% agree that national parks and conservation areas are desirable to protect nature from resource extraction including logging, mining and fishing

  • 78% of Australians support not having development in parks and protected areas

“It remains the case that the Wilderness Society wants to see responsible tourism alongside properly protected and respected wild areas. That’s the win-win for Tassie but the opposite of the approach Experience Co appears to be taking,” said Mr Allen.

Contact: Tom Allen, 0434 614 323

A map of existing wilderness character in the south of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and a simulation showing the impact on wilderness character if Experience Co is allowed to construct its six luxury lodges along the ancient South Coast Track. (Copyright Martin Hawes.)