In response to queries put forward to the office, a Question Without Notice was asked of the Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef regarding the ongoing environmental impacts on Cooloola Great Walk, please see the below transcript.
My question is to the Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef. Will the minister commit to ensuring that any outstanding environmental impact concerns regarding the Cooloola Great Walk, including the protection of Lake Poona in the Great Sandy National Park, are addressed as a matter of priority?
I thank the member for Noosa for the question. I know that she is particularly passionate about this area in her community. I can confirm that at this stage no approvals have been issued. The concept of ecotourism experiences is based on low-impact, well-managed and regulated long-distance walking tracks or trails. We are obviously committed to developing a series of these known as the Great Walks in Queensland. We have been able to do that in places across the state already by getting the balance right, making sure that we are communicating with the tourism sector, the conservation sector and traditional owners to make sure we deliver an experience that will benefit everyone.
The project proposes in this particular area the establishment of low-key, removable commercial ecotourism accommodation facilities and guided tours along the Cooloola Great Walk. An expression of interest process was run by the Queensland government in consultation with representatives of the Kabi Kabi First Nations people, the traditional owners and native title claimants of the project area, which has resulted in the awarding of a preferred proponent.
As I said, there is a whole range of economic benefits from having these sorts of experiences. We can create new funding sources for enhanced management of our Queensland national park estate. We provide employment and business opportunities for regional communities as well as for traditional owners for their aspirations to be front and foremost. We are developing genuine cultural tourism products that foster an appreciation and understanding of First Nations people’s connection to their country ultimately.
As I said, the project itself has not received an approval at this stage. Should the project be approved, it would need to satisfy a number of elements under the Nature Conservation Act. They would be making sure that it is ecologically sustainable, that it is in the public interest and that it provides to the greatest possible extent for the permanent preservation of the natural condition and protection of natural and cultural values in the area. That particular proposal needs to comply with those legislative requirements.
I understand that the Department of Environment and Science is at the moment overseeing the development of the project concept, consistent with the act. We are working closely with the proponent to refine some of the critical aspects. I know there have been a number of people who have raised concerns, particularly around Lake Poona. We are very much working in close contact with the proponent to try to address some of those concerns that have been raised and resolve those to allow the assessment of the site by both state and local governments.
We will continue to work in partnership with representatives of the Kabi Kabi First Nations people to make sure the project does not impact on cultural heritage and to identify tangible benefits for that particular community. We are currently negotiating an Indigenous land use agreement and a cultural heritage management agreement with the First Nations people, the registered native title claimants.
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