State Government amends unpopular Cooloola National Park development plan

Double Island Point site that is still in the plan for development.

Double Island Point site that is still in the plan for development.

Protect Our Parks convenor, Greg Wood, says the changes are welcome but are also proof of the proposal’s fundamental defects.

Two weeks ago the State Department of Environment (DES) released maps indicating changed locations for the publicly challenged Noosa River and Poona Lake sites. DES advice stated these changes remain subject to formal ‘Stakeholder’ agreement.

‘Stakeholders’ comprise the selected commercial operator CABN, the Kabi Kabi Native Title Applicant, and Noosa Parks Association. The public only gets a say by throwing bricks through the window.

Which is what we’ve had to do for eighteen months ahead of this welcome, but still inadequate, site variation falling suddenly out of the back of the Government’s covered wagon.

The original Poona Lake site lies beneath an intact stand of ancient, majestic blackbutt trees, and inside the fragile Lake catchment. Its development would incur severe damage to the trees, both onsite and along a new road alignment needed to service that remote site. The new location is on already disturbed vegetation, outside of the Lake catchment and beside an existing vehicle track.

The Noosa River site was wedged on a low, narrow sand ridge between the Upper Noosa River and highly significant wetlands (patterned fens). It required 500 metres of new roadway along this delicate landform, degrading an existing popular walking trail.

The new site is certainly less terrible, but it still sits beside the wetland and still needs service road development, albeit neither so long nor so destructive.

These changes are obviously an improvement. Not destroying an intact community of huge, centuries-old trees within a National Park to develop luxury overnight accommodation has to be a good thing! 

However some very important issues remain that cannot be ignored.

  • How and why were the original Poona Lake and Noosa River sites even chosen in the first place?
  • Why was so much time, effort and aggravation required for DES to acknowledge and respond to public concern about the severe and plainly evident site problems?
  • The highly problematic DI Point site remains unaddressed, as do the ridiculously large cabin footprints that so grotesquely and indulgently displace precious park habitat for just 2 persons to stay a single night.
  • Future expansion of development and operational type and scale remains a murky horizon beyond any useful public scrutiny and control.

All of this distinctly illuminates the two most fundamental issues within this whole affair:

  1. Commercial development concessions within National Parks will lead directly to decisions that provide commercial benefit at direct impact to and sacrifice of vital Park values, and,
  2. The public are completely shut out of the relevant decision-making and impact assessment processes.

The solution is obvious, simple and imperative: commercial development is NOT compatible with National Park values and should not be allowed within National Park boundaries. 

Achieving this outcome is also a technically simple matter:

  1. Stop the Cooloola development plan now.
  2. Restore the Nature Conservation Act to its pre-2013 form to remove ‘Eco-tourism’ as an inadequately defined and overly intrusive allowed use. (s.35(1)(a) &(c)

We would also like to see a functional public engagement upon genuinely sound opportunities for improving park quality, amenity and access.

Article submitted by Greg Wood, Convenor, Protect Our Parks –

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