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The last resort -

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KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Australia's national parks are a magnet for tourists. The Great Barrier
Reef, Uluru and the Daintree all feature heavily in marketing campaigns.

But in Queensland there's no opportunity to stay inside these national parks unless they're
prepared to go camping. The State Government wants to change that and has asked the private sector
for expressions of interest in developing seven potential eco-tourism accommodation sites in or
next to the parks.

While the move has been welcomed by the tourism industry, no surprise there, the environment lobby
believe it's a step too far.

Peter McCutcheon reports.

(Rain Forest sounds and flute music)

PETER MCCUTCHEON, REPORTER: The morning after a massive downpour is the perfect time to experience
a subtropical rain forest in all its glory.

Attending today's guided walk is Shane O'Reilly, who runs an eco-tourism guest house on the edge of
Lamington National Park, south of Brisbane.

GUIDE: You can hear some brown thornbills calling there at the moment.

SHANE O'REILLY, O'REILLY'S RAINFOREST RETREAT: People want to learn, now. They want to be out in
the bush, they want to learn and they want to be immersed in it.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: Shane O'Reilly wants to take that idea a step further, by building accommodation
deep inside the national park.

SHANE O'REILLY: And I don't think it needs to be a five star experience. What you need to charge is
a five star price.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: This talk of accommodation inside national parks has been prompted by Queensland
Government push for private eco-tourism development.

PETER LAWLOR, QUEENSLAND TOURISM MINISTER: There's a real opportunity to add to the Queensland
economy and to the tourism industry.

GUIDE: Lava just oozing out...

PETER MCCUTCHEON: But environment groups remain sceptical.

DR MARTIN TAYLOR, WORLD WILDLIFE FUND: My concern is this whole attitude that somehow we have to
milk more profit out of the parks system, that somehow it is not delivering economically and that's
just nonsense.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: Tourism is Queensland's second largest export earner after coal. But in the
Sunshine State and indeed across Australia, the industry has been hit by the global financial
crisis and increased overseas competition.

So tourist operators are looking for a new edge.

Private accommodation in national parks is offered in countries around the world, with South Africa
considered to be one of the market leaders.

And this type of development is offered in parts of Australia, such as the huts in Tasmania's
Cradle mountain wilderness. But there is nothing like this on offer in Queensland.

DANIEL GSHWIND, QUEENSLAND TOURISM INDUSTRY COUNCIL: It would be an enormous benefit to be able to
get into a large national park, perhaps.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: So the Queensland Government will soon call for expressions of interest to
develop private ecotourism accommodation in or next to national parks.

PETER LAWLOR: And of course with the leasing of these sites there's then a revenue source to
properly maintain the national parks and even to add to the area of national parks in the state.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: This national park site on Moreton Island off Brisbane is one of seven identified
by the Queensland Government for possible private ecotourism development. Now, the details are
still to be worked out, but it's clear it will be considerably more luxurious than basic camping.

Brian Osborn is the director of Moreton Island's Tangalooma Resort and is keen to take up the

Is there a market for it?

BRIAN OSBORN: Oh, yeah, there's definitely a market - world-wide trend. There's people now want to
holiday in these types of locations rather than high rise buildings and on the Gold Coast type

Dr Martin Taylor: Well, in principle there's no problem. The problem is that our parks system is
too small and too fragmented to bear the impacts of these kinds of developments.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: Dr Martin Taylor from the World Wildlife Fund says Tasmanian-style private huts
wouldn't work in Queensland

DR MARTIN TAYLOR: Twenty-seven per cent of Tasmania is national park. Only less than 5 per cent of
Queensland is.

So we have a big gap - a long way to go before we can start talking about infrastructure in parks
for tourism.

DANIEL GSHWIND: Our national parks in Queensland -maybe we should have more of them - but
nevertheless, it's a bigger land mass than the entire state of Tasmania. In that huge area, we're
looking at some house-block-sized opportunities.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: Shane O'Reilly commends the Queensland Government for taking on the issue but
questions the public camping site it has selected for development in Lamington National Park.

SHANE O'REILLY: I don't think it's what the customer wants. I think these days tourism decisions
are built on experiences and people want to be staying in an area where they've got an experience
around them

I am just not sure this site is going to offer it.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: The managing director of O'Reilly's Retreat would like to go further into the
rain forest.

Would you be interested in, say, perhaps building a private hut in the national park?

SHANE O'REILLY: Um, well, at the risk of being shot down by a number of people, I would say you
would, if it was done in a controlled manner and, uh, it was done in an area that could provide an
experience, where people would want to use it.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: But Queensland's Tourism Minister, Peter Lawlor, says ecotourism developments may
not be limited to the seven sites so far identified.

If this is successful we could see more private ecotourism development?

PETER LAWLOR: That is quite possible, yes.

PETER MCCUTCHEON: With its white sand beaches, warm climate and world heritage rain forests,
Queensland will always attract the tourist dollar. But it's a competitive market and the industry
is keen to get more of the action.

SHANE O'REILLY: It's not easy in Australia and tourism is not a high-margin business - with our
wages, particularly - so we're on a constant march to try and ensure that we preserve what we've
got and-but we also display what we've got so that people can experience it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Peter McCutcheon reporting from Queensland.