In response to questions and concerns raised at a Cootharaba Community Association meeting earlier in the year, the Department of Environment (DES), has provided the following responses.
|Issue||CCA question/request||Proposed response|
|Approvals and timeframes||
||The Cooloola Great Walk Ecotourism Project (the Project) is currently in preliminary design stage. To be approved under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA), the proponent must submit a final application to the Department of Environment and Science (DES) for assessment.
CABN is yet to submit an application to DES for assessment under the NCA. No aspect of the Project proposal has been approved by DES, and formal assessment of the Project has not commenced. Until such time that formal assessment commences, DES cannot provide firm projections of approval timeframes.
Should an application be received, DES will assess the proposal against legislative criteria stated under section 35 of the NCA. Assessment of the project will be guided by two key policy documents, the Ecotourism Facilities on National Park Implementation Framework and Best Practice Ecotourism Development Guidelines. Copies of these documents can be found on DES’ Parks and Forests website (https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/)
In addition to approvals under the NCA, the proponent must also obtain all other necessary approvals under local and State legislation, in particular development approval under the Gympie Regional and Noosa Shire planning schemes. The Project proposal must also be approved by the traditional owners and native title claimants of the area, the Kabi Kabi First Nation Traditional Owners (Kabi Kabi).
The proponent’s final proposal must also work within the scope of approvals obtained by DES for the Project under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC). DES referred the Project to the Commonwealth Government for assessment under the EPBC in June 2021, which included a mandatory 20-day public consultation period. Throughout this period, DES undertook targeted consultation and held information sessions in the Noosa and Rainbow Beach communities to notify the public and key stakeholders of an opportunity to make a formal submission to the Commonwealth on the project EPBC referral. On 30 June 2021, the Commonwealth Government determined that the project is not a ‘controlled action’ under the EPBC, as it is unlikely to result in significant impacts on Matters of National Environmental Significance.
Local government development approval processes for the project are a matter for the Gympie Regional and Noosa Shire Councils. Any questions regarding development approvals, including statutory consultation requirements, should be directed to these authorities.
||The NCA allows for ecotourism development on national parks, providing that it is a) ecologically sustainable, b) in the public interest, and c) provides, to the greatest possible extent, for the permanent preservation of the natural condition and protection of natural and cultural values of the area.
DES, as the agency responsible for managing Queensland’s protected area estate, must ensure that all development and use of national park land, including ecotourism development, is undertaken in a manner which is consistent with the requirements of the NCA, in line with current environmental best practice, ensures the protection of key protected area values, and provides a benefit back to the protected area estate. DES is obligated to ensure that legislative requirements have been met prior to making a final decision on whether to approve the Cooloola Project.
DES’ assessment and approval of ecotourism development in protected areas is guided by the Ecotourism Facilities on National Park Implementation Framework and Best Practice Ecotourism Development Guidelines. These documents provide additional clarification and interpretation of the legislative requirements under which ecotourism proposals are assessed, and details of national and international best practice standards and criteria for ecotourism development.
||In 2019-20, the Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, now Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport (DTIS) led an Expression of Interest (EOI) process to select a preferred proponent for proposed ecotourism development within Great Sandy National Park. CABN was announced as the preferred proponent in February 2020. This EOI was under the umbrella of the Queensland Eco Trails (QET) program where DTIS and DES collaborated in support of ecotourism projects.
Selection of CABN as the preferred proponent has no bearing on, or relevance to, the requirement for the preferred proponent to obtain approvals for the project from DES under the NCA and other relevant local, State and Commonwealth authorities.
Final approval of the Project under the NCA is solely the responsibility of the Chief Executive of DES.
||The EOI process as described under Part 5, Division 2 of the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006 applies solely to commercial activity agreements under that legislation. These processes are not relevant to project approvals under the NCA, or to the EOI process which was undertaken to select a preferred proponent for the project.|
|Access to preliminary project information||
||All environmental surveys and impact assessment undertaken to date have been published on DES’ website (https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/management/ecotourism/trails-program/cooloola-great-walk-ecotourism-project-faqs).
Additional environmental studies may be published on the DES website as the project evolves and progresses towards final approvals.
||Site selection is an ongoing process, subject to consultation with key stakeholders, ongoing environmental impact assessment. Details of site selection considerations that have been made to date are available on DES’ website.
Site selection is subject to ongoing consultation with key stakeholders and further impact assessment, and will not be finalised until an application is received by DES.
DES sought public comment on proposed ecotourism sites during public and key stakeholder consultation on the Project undertaken in June 2021. DES has also sought feedback from conservation stakeholders on proposed site locations throughout 2021 and 2022.
Further, DES has an open invitation for submissions on the project (including comments on proposed site locations), which will be considered as part of the Chief Executive of DES’ decision making on the project should an application be submitted for assessment in future. Submissions on the proposal may be sent to email@example.com.
||Should the project be approved under the NCA all eco-accommodation infrastructure will be funded, constructed, and operated by the proponent.
All available project information received by DES to date, including details of proposed site locations and usage, and preliminary environmental surveys and impact assessments, have been published on the DES website and were provided as part of the EPBC referral on the Project which was approved in June 2021.
The proponent is yet to submit an application to DES for assessment under the NCA, and DES does not have any further information at this time on financial or operational aspects of the proposal. Further information on the Project may be made available should the Project proceed to approvals from local and State authorities.
DES has no information on the $2 million referred to in the question. See Sandy’s website update at https://www.sandybolton.com/cooloola-great-walk-update-2-march-2022/ as information regarding this funding was provided by the Department of Tourism in March 2022.
See answer to question 1 for consultation and information release.
||DES currently has no information on proposed departure locations for visitors to the project as it has not received an application from the proponent for assessment.
Should departures occur from within the protected area estate, approvals will be required under the NCA.
Should departures occur from outside of the protected area estate, DES would not be involved in the selection, approval and use of such a location.
||Helicopter use is not proposed|
||For the Project to be approved under the NCA, CABN must address a range of potential environmental risks and critical design, construction and operational considerations, including protecting ecological and cultural values, regulating power, water, waste and wastewater, and preserving ongoing public use and amenity of the surrounding area. CABN must address these matters in its final project design and environmental management plans which are submitted to DES for approval under the NCA.
DES has published minimum environmental protection measures and requirements that the proponent must address in documentation published on the DES website. Further environmental protection measures may be identified as the project evolves, based on ongoing environmental investigations and stakeholder and community feedback.
|Public consultation on Kabi Kabi ILUA||
||The government is currently in formal negotiations with Kabi Kabi to resolve native title matters and formalise ongoing partnership between the State, Kabi Kabi and CABN. The specific details of these negotiations, including the Indigenous Land Use Agreement, are private and confidential and cannot be publicly disclosed.
Engagement with Kabi Kabi is governed by relevant legislation and procedures relating to ecotourism development under the NCA, as well as the requirements of the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993 (NTA) and the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003. Kabi Kabi representatives must meet requirements under the NTA to authorise agreements on behalf of the Kabi Kabi People in relation to activities within the Kabi Kabi People Native Title Claim Area. DES’ ongoing engagement with Kabi Kabi is guided by these requirements.
|Proposed Noosa River Site||
||The current proposed Noosa River site was proposed due to its proximity to existing vehicle access, the disembarkation point at Campsite 3 and the Cooloola Great Walk, distance from Campsite 3 to avoid interference with public use, and position outside of critical wetland areas. However, DES is aware of significant site constraints associated with the Noosa River, adjacent wetland systems, public use, viable access and flood risk. Use of the site is contingent on the proponent’s final proposal satisfactorily addressing these site constraints.
Site selection, including for the proposed Noosa River site, is an ongoing process, subject to consultation with key stakeholders and further environmental impact assessment. Site locations are not finalised until DES receives an application for the proposal under the NCA.
||DES is currently developing the Cooloola Recreation Area Management Plan, which covers the Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park (including the intertidal zone), Double Island Point Conservation Park, Sheep Island Conservation Park, Cooloola (Noosa River) Resources Reserve, Great Sandy Resources Reserve and Womalah Resources Reserve. DES is developing the plan collaboratively with the Kabi Kabi First Nations Traditional Owner Native Title Claimant and Butchulla Native Title Corporation, who have native interests and traditional ownership over parts of the Cooloola Recreation Area.
The management plan is currently still under development, with public consultation on the management plan still to occur. A gazettal date for the final management plan has not yet been announced.
||In 2001, DES awarded a licence to Noosa Parks Association (NPA) for management of the heritage-listed Double Island Point Lighthouse precinct in Double Island Point Conservation Park, following an expression of interest process. The licence is intended to facilitate NPA’s management of the Double Island Point Lightstation precinct and associated historic values, and maintenance of visitor infrastructure on Double Island Point.
NPAs licence was most recently renewed in 2019 for an additional ten years.
||The proposed development has no relevance to the Governments protected area targets.
The Government is committed to conserving and expanding the State’s protected area system of over 14 million hectares, and demonstrating best practice management.
The release of Queensland’s Protected Area Strategy 2020-2030 (the Strategy) in October 2020 was an important step in establishing the state’s strategic direction for terrestrial protected areas. The initial years of implementation are focusing on foundational activities to leverage external partnerships and develop innovative approaches for the expansion and management of the state’s protected area system.
Two significant properties have already been acquired this year, demonstrating the progress that is being made under the Strategy.
– On 5 February 2022, the Honourable Meaghan Scanlon MP, Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs, announced the acquisition of The Lakes, a 35,300-hectare grazing property north of Hughenden, for future addition to the protected area estate.
– On 24 February 2022, the Minister and the Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk MP, Premier and Minister for the Olympics, announced the acquisition of a further 131,900 hectares through the purchase of Bramwell and Richardson Stations as part of the Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program.
Since the Strategy was released, an additional 17 new nature refuges have also been added to Queensland’s private protected area network, which is already the largest in Australia.
DES is reporting annually on progress in implementing the ten-year Strategy, with the first report released in February 2022. The 2021 Report Card, outlining what has been achieved during the first year of implementation, is available at https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/management/plans-strategies/protected-area-strategy/report-cards.
As outlined above, the Department will continue to take submissions on this project via firstname.lastname@example.org and the Minister can also be contacted via email@example.com.
Public submissions may be made to DES regarding any and all aspects of the Cooloola Project, associated State approvals, and lease conditions (including an appropriate lease term). Any submissions received will be considered as part of its assessment should an application for the Cooloola Project be made by the proponent, and as part of the Chief Executive’s decision-making process should the project progress to final approval. Submissions can be made to DES at any time via this email (firstname.lastname@example.org).