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Work with tourism industry to protect World Heritage areas.

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Thursday, 6 February 2003 03/013

Work with tourism industry to protect World Heritage areas

The tourism industry should be encouraged to invest in Australia's World Heritage areas for their long-term protection and maintenance, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources Warren Entsch said today.

Mr Entsch's call for greater cooperative links with the tourism industry came in response to calls today for the introduction of a $5 to $10 dollar departure tax to be introduced on international tourists to help pay for the upkeep of World Heritage areas in Australia.

"Such an approach, while well meaning, is little more than a short-term fix where what is require is a strategic, long-term and sustainable solution to the successful management and protection of our World Heritage areas," Mr Entsch said.

"It has long been recognised that tourism plays a critical role in providing new jobs and investment, particularly in regional and rural Australia.

"But what is not widely recognised is the tremendous capacity tourism has to play in the long-term protection and sustainable use of our World Heritage areas."

Mr Entsch said the way the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) works with tourism operators to provide quality ecotourism experiences in a sensitive World Heritage area was a great model to look at and learn from.

"The GBRMPA allows for the regulated establishment of physical infrastructure, such as permanent moorings and floating pontoons, to not only enhance the quality of visitor experiences but also importantly to protect the reef and surrounding marine area.

"By allowing the establishment of such facilities, they effectively charge tourism operators with the responsibility of taking care of a section of the reef itself. And they do a very good job, because they realise the environmental integrity of the reef also has a considerable tourism, and therefore economic value.

"I believe this principle must be recognised in a wider context and applied to the management of other World Heritage areas throughout Australia," Mr Entsch said.

"Our land-based World Heritage areas, such as the Daintree Wet Tropics Area and Kakadu National Park, have a unique and high environmental value. But it is because of this environmental value that these areas also have a high ecotourism value.

"Given the opportunity, I believe tourism operators in cooperation with government could begin to invest in our national parks and take an active and valuable stake in their long-term protection and management."

Mr Entsch said such an approach would lead to the development of new and profitable ecotourism products that would generate vital employment and economic returns for regional and rural communities, while at the same time enriching the experiences of visitors to our national parks.

"But importantly it would also contribute to far greater positive environmental outcomes for our protected areas," he said.

"Instead of continually restricting or adding to the cost of domestic and international tourists accessing our World Heritage areas, we should make the tourism industry a partner in their long-term protection and management."

Media contact: Greg Doolan - (02) 6277 4656 CMR03-014