The Australian government has unveiled plans to roll out a series of eco-accommodations in Queensland in a bid to boost the state’s tourism economy.
Premier Anna Bligh said the government would seek tenders from investors to establish eco-tourism lodgings in or near national parks.
Parks include Mission Beach, Whitsunday, D’Aguilar National Park, Fraser Island, Girringun, Lamington National Park and Moreton Island.
Accommodation may include semi-permanent structures, such as safari camp-style tent sites, huts or eco-lodges.
“These are some of our most beautiful locations but for those unwilling or unable to pitch their own tent, these locations have simply been off limits,” Ms Bligh told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Today’s announcement will open these unique destinations up, potentially to whole new markets to complement the existing camping facilities and offer new visitors greater choice.”
She said the plan would showcase Queensland’s best assets in the growing eco-tourism sector and the success of projects would be monitored before other sites were considered.
Ms Bligh said the accommodation would be built by private companies, but the land would remain government-owned, with returns going to national parks and conservation.
However, she said the income was a “very small consideration” for the government.
But environmental groups the WWF and National Parks Association of Queensland (NPAQ) were critical, saying allowing tourism infrastructure into national parks was crossing the line.
“If we break this conservation principle we’re potentially opening the door to large-scale development in national parks,” NPAQ spokesman Paul Donatiu told reporters. “They may tread lightly, but again I still believe that this is potentially the thin edge of the wedge ... parks are public places and not for commercial gain.”