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Private tourism development to be allowed in Victoria’s national parks
Some of Victoria's national parks will be opened up for private development under a new plan to boost tourism.
About two-thirds of Victoria's parks, including parts of Wilsons Promontory, the Otways, Point Nepean, Mt Buffalo and the high country will be freed up for private investment following the adoption of recommendations made by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission (VCEC).
Victorian Treasurer Kim Wells says the changes will encourage investment in accommodation for tourism areas like the Great Ocean Road, but will exclude areas deemed to be environmentally sensitive.
The announcement was made in response to last year's VCEC with Treasurer Wells stressing "any investment will be subject to rigorous environmental controls and will need approval from the Environment Minister before it can proceed.
"No investment will be considered in areas classified as wilderness parks, wilderness zones, reference areas and remote and natural areas under the National Parks Act of 1975."
Victorian Minister for Tourism, Louise Asher, says the changes will bring the state into line with the rest of Australia, stating "this is about getting particularly high-value international visitors to come to our national parks and instead of coming back to a hotel in Melbourne, to actually stay there.
"The Commonwealth Government clearly favours sensitive private investment in national parks and the states support it as well ... so it's not a massive change, given what's happening in Australia."
Victorian Environment Minister Ryan Smith will act as 'gatekeeper' to appropriate development with strict conditions to be appled to leases, with the Government to develop guidelines on an approval process and terms.
No development will be allowed in "high value" areas of national parks classified as wilderness zones, reference areas, remote and natural areas and wilderness parks - about a third of the state's national parks.
The Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) has welcomed the plans with Chief Executive John Lee stating that the "announcement will help to broaden the appeal of national parks, allowing a greater cross-section of the community to enjoy these areas, and attracting visitors from home and abroad."
Lee added "iconic nature-based tourism experiences like the Overland Track Guided Walk and Bay of Fires Lodge Walk in Tasmania, and the Sals Salis Wild Bush luxury safari camp in Western Australia are just a few examples of operations based in national parks which attract tourists from around the world.
"Now Victoria, too, will be able to offer similar experiences in its world-class national parks."
However, Victorian National Parks Association Executive Director Matt Ruchel branded the changes as "misguided and dangerous" that would expose national parks to "irreversible damage."
24th August 2011 - MOUNT BAW BAW ALPINE RESORT EXECUTIVE UNDER INVESTIGATION
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