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New program to offer unique national park experiences

New program to offer unique national park experiences
October 9, 2009

Western Australia is poised to become home to some of the world's most unique tourism experiences thanks to a new Western Australian Government program.

Western Australian Tourism Minister Liz Constable and Environment Minister Donna Faragher launched the Naturebank program this week releasing land for low impact accommodation, mostly within national parks and reserves.

Naturebank works by identifying potential visitor accommodation sites and undertaking due diligence required to make a site ready for release.

Dr Constable said the program would provide a boost for WA tourism and provide opportunities for indigenous investment, employment and capacity building while offering eco-friendly, sustainable accommodation and nature-based tourism experiences.

Dr Constable stated "Naturebank will pave the way for world-class accommodation facilities and activities in the heart of our national parks - some of the most stunning and diverse attractions in the world.

"The accommodation will be environmentally and culturally sensitive, similar to our Stateâs already successful nature-based facilities - like Broome's Eco Beach, the Eco Retreat in Karijini National Park, the safari camps in Purnululu National Park and Sal Salis at Ningaloo Reef.

"Naturebank's new developments will take employment and enterprise opportunities to remote parts of the State and give our tourism industry a significant boost."

Expressions of interest to develop the first site at Kurrajong (within the World Heritage listed Purnululu National Park) will be sought before the end of the year and a second site is expected to be released early in 2010.

Minister Faragher said Naturebank would create a nature-based experience to enable the enjoyment and improved understanding of Western Australia's unique environment, and that it is not just about development.

It is intended that Naturebank will be an ongoing program with new localities and sites added as they are identified. Sites would be released as performance-based leases and the period of lease set to help ensure a reasonable return on investment.

Minister Faragher said the Western Australian Government also announced wide-ranging reforms to the way nature-based tourism was managed in WA, saying "this review of nature-based tourism will allow future generations the opportunity to enjoy our natural environment.

"As part of the reforms, licence holders will be offered greater certainty and flexibility for their commercial tour operations while ensuring a greater commitment to a high level of environmental performance."

Restricted licence holders will be able to hold a licence for up to 15 years and there will be an increased emphasis on industry accreditation for unrestricted operators.

Minister Faragher added "WA's national parks and other conservation areas require careful management to ensure they retain their appeal, while providing the services our visitors have come to expect from our parks.

"The new recommendations will mean places like the Pinnacles, Purnululu and Ningaloo Reef can continue to be enjoyed by visitors each year while retaining their natural and cultural heritage for future generations."

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Image: Shark Bay.

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