Written by Amy Cavanough
Tasmania has a large National Parks system which includes 19 parks, as well as the World Heritage listed Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and Macquarie Island World Heritage Area, and a number of marine and other reserves. In terms of land area, around 40 percent of Tasmania is protected. This dramatically impacts the heritage and tourism agendas in Tasmania.
Tasmania’s clean brand
Tasmania has built a brand around being ‘pure’, ‘untouched’, and ‘green’. This brand has directly influenced tourism campaigns for Tasmania. This has become especially apparent in the recent development of the Three Capes Track on the Tasman Peninsula. The Parks and Wildlife Service have stated,
"Experiences such as the Three Capes Track are the essence of Tasmania’s brand. Tasmania has some of the best in the business when it comes to ecotourism and this walk demonstrates how visitors can be exposed to wild natural beauty and truly challenging experiences." (www.parks.tas.gov.au)
Tensions are high, however, over the balance between tourism ventures and satisfying local needs. Though environmental sustainability is a relatively high concern in Tasmania and is therefore well considered in the short and long-term goals for this track, Parks and Wildlife must examine long-term economic and social sustainability.
The Three Capes Track is the result of a major redevelopment of pre-existing walks in the area and creation of new track, linking 46 km together into an accessible walking experience for a wide range of ages and abilities. The walk begins at Port Arthur with access to the historic site, and then a local adventure boat tour company will transport walkers on an exclusive boat to the start of the walk. The track ends at Fortescue Bay and walkers will be provided with a return shuttle bus to Port Arthur.
The track has been purpose-built with environmental sustainability in mind, aimed at producing the least environmental impact as possible and maintaining all heritage aspects of the site. However, for this experience to remain fully sustainable and advantageous, it is necessary to consider the impact and benefit to the local economy, as well as examine whether the experience itself will be available to Tasmanians and regular tourists or just the wealthy. There has been much angst and confusion over the development and accessibility of this track and there is much concern from locals and residents Tasmania wide over what will happen to what is perceived as their land. This land has long been considered a public asset, and public perception is that this development will turn the track into an exclusive area available only to a small minority.
Economic and social impact
Parks and Wildlife suggest that the walk will generate both jobs and revenue for the local community, ‘creating almost 280 jobs and generating more than $16 million in spending. On the Tasman Peninsula alone, the track will generate $1 million a year and create 44 jobs. This is in addition to the 40 jobs created throughout the track’s construction.’ At the same time, Parks and Wildlife have confirmed,
"The business model for the Three Capes Track is for full operational cost recovery. Operation of the track will include management of income from walker use and the commercial operation, asset maintenance, managing the booking system, marketing and promotion, providing a presence on the track through the employment of hut wardens and rangers and the provision of information and interpretation." (Parks and Wildlife Service. (2012))
This will indeed generate jobs and revenue, but it returns again to the concerns of the local community that it is private operators who are to benefit rather than the local community itself. Though the scoping studies have delivered positive results on each front, the community is not at ease because of a lack of communication and transparency. Thus the local community is feeling alienated from the economic benefits of this development, as well as feeling alienated from what was once considered a public asset and their land.
Mckercher suggests that ‘although both tourism and cultural stakeholders may have some divergent goals, they also share much in common. Both can benefit from building on this common ground.’ This is only possible if tourism agencies, heritage organisations, and the local community are considered as equal stakeholders. Currently, published estimations of the Track are positive in regards to sustainability, however there is still a discrepancy with the local community that needs further inquiry.
To guarantee a truly sustainable heritage and ecotourism outcome the community must be considered as a true stakeholder and a more transparent dialogue must be cultivated. This issue could have been a short-term problem that was easily fixed, however the project has been in development for five years and has gone through a number of stages, and there has been a deficiency in community consultation throughout. Thus this has become a long-term sustainability risk. McKercher states, “Conflict, or the potential for conflict, is more likely to emerge when many stakeholders are involved who hold diverse values or when the actions of one set of stakeholders interfere with the achievement of another group's goals.” While the potential is there for mutual benefit and a multi-stakeholder partnership, the community is not being considered as a valid stakeholder, but rather as a pawn within the larger goals of the tourism and heritage agendas.
About the Author - Amy Cavanough