Biodiversity Conservation and Ecotourism: an investigation of linkages, mutual benefits and future opportunities
Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 5
Noel Preece and Penny van Oosterzee, Ecoz-Ecology Australia and David James, Ecoservices Pty Ltd
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1995
3. Protection of natural areas and management of biodiversity
Biodiversity can be protected through a broad range of policies and specific measures. At the broadest level, ecosystems may be protected through the declaration of conservation reserves. Effective on-site management of reserves is essential to prevent or minimise potential adverse impacts of human or other activity. Codes of practice may be required for specific sectors, such as tourism.
Buffer zones and lands outside reserves are also used for conservation purposes. Land-use zoning, regulations, codes of management practice and other restrictions may all be used to reinforce conservation policies.
Funding mechanisms and other commercial incentives may be introduced to encourage research and improve conservation practices.
None of these approaches in isolation is likely to be fully successful, as each has its limitations. To achieve maximum success, it is important to adopt an integrated approach with careful coordination of a range of policies and protection measures.
A major element of the draft National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity is the use of bioregional planning to facilitate the integration of conservation and production-oriented management. The National Ecotourism Strategy and National Tourism Strategy recognised the use of an ecosystem/bioregional approach to managing, interpreting and promoting natural and cultural tourism resources as a crucial step in sustainable resource use (CDoT 1992; 1994a, p. 28).
Integrated regional planning, where environmental characteristics are a principal determinant of boundaries, is considered in the draft National Biodiversity Strategy (DEST 1994a) to be of major importance if biodiversity conservation is to succeed. Bioregional planning approaches are already being used in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Murray-Darling Basin. Planning at the regional level provides the appropriate scale to integrate reserve and off-reserve biodiversity conservation measures. A key first step in the whole process is to identify a national system of bioregional planning units that emphasise regional environmental characteristics, based on environmental parameters such as vegetation types, catchment areas and climatic factors, and taking into account productive uses and the identity and needs of human communities.
While some States and Territories are already applying bioregional planning approaches or its precursors, much work is still required to develop a national bioregional planning framework based on ecological, economic and social factors. A report has been commissioned by the Commonwealth Environment Department to investigate institutional factors and examine existing or precursors to bioregional planning approaches. To further facilitate the development of the national framework, the Department is also intending to hold a national conference in late 1995 (Glanznig 1995, pers. comm.).
At the national level, work is underway to develop an Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) (Thackway and Cresswell, 1995). While the regionalisation is restricted to biophysical parameters and consequently has not considered economic or social factors integral to a national bioregional planning framework, it will be a key input in the development of the framework.
The IBRA has been developed specifically as a framework for setting priorities in the National Reserves System Cooperative Program. It comprises 80 terrestrial biophysical regions and is the result of on-going collaborative efforts of Commonwealth, State and Territory nature conservation agencies. The regions are defined on a landscape-based approach to classification of the land surface, including attributes of climate, geomorphology, landform, lithology, and characteristic flora and fauna. IBRA was derived from the best available continental scale data, published reports, and biogeographic regionalisations for each State and Territory.
In terms of biodiversity the IBRA regions are at best a convenient approximation of the complexity observed in the real world. The assumption that IBRA is a predictor of overall biotic regionalisation and regional biodiversity has not been tested. Faunal distributional data, for instance, have made a relatively minor contribution.
IBRA is appropriate for use only at the continental landscape level. More detailed information is required to identify regional and local scale patterns, keeping in mind that the assessment of heterogeneity within regions will be biased by the level of information available. Well studied regions will appear more heterogeneous. Of direct relevance to tourism is the fact that IBRA does not take into account special values which may include outstanding natural features, cultural values and landscape values.
It is widely acknowledged that national assessments of the representativeness or nonrepresentativeness of ecosystems are known only at a very general level. It is equally well known that the system of protected areas does not comprise a representative sample of Australia's diverse environments and landscapes.
The Commonwealth is required to produce a marine regionalisation of Australia by Year 2000 under the Ocean Rescue 2000 Program. Work is underway on an Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia (IMCRA), being developed by the Australian Nature Conservation Agency and the Department of Environment Sport and Territories, and based on existing information from State, Territory and Federal sources. This will be developed by determining a mutually agreed set of attributes and providing a framework for identification of representative areas for protection, and will identify funding priorities for Commonwealth waters initially. A more rigorous and scientifically repeatable approach is being developed at the same time by the Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN) in conjunction with CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, and will include remotely sensed data, geological data from the Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO), and fisheries data, all of which will place the marine biogeographical regionalisation on a firm scientific basis (Neil Hamilton 1995, pers. comm.).
One of the best examples in Australia of planning to integrate biodiversity conservation with various uses at the bioregional level, especially tourism uses, is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Since the beginning of its declaration in 1975, and subsequent reservations, the park has undergone intensive planning by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), in conjunction with all users and management authorities, including the Queensland National Parks Service (Qld Department of Environment & Heritage). Several successional plans have been developed, resulting in the delineation of 4 sections and management zones for conservation, recreation and commercial utilisation (GBRMPA 1992). The compromises involved in determining these zones have resulted in better understanding of management issues by all users, and a satisfactory approach to the conservation of this vast ecosystem. In preparation of a strategic plan for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, more than 60 major interest groups were consulted and a 25 year vision for the area, and 5 year objectives were agreed to by the groups. This could be the first time such a large area involving multiple marine and terrestrial jurisdictions has been subjected to such an effective coordinated approach (Norse 1993, pp. 276).
One of the reasons this has been possible is that the whole of the reef, with some minor exclusions, is under one management authority, enabling competing uses, such as conservation, tourism and fishing to be satisfied while not compromising the high conservation values of the reef (Norse 1993, pp. 271-6).
Recommendation: that IBRA be used as a basic framework for the classification and assessment of ecosystems and biodiversity for Australia. IBRA, however, will provide only broad-brush information. The heterogeneity within each IBRA region should be considered at the regional level using more detailed environmental and biological data.
Recommendation: that the bioregional approach to planning be developed and adopted as a sound planning tool for tourism which considers the natural resources and integrates human constructs over the land.
The nature conservation estate of Australia is the result of around 100 years of largely independent and uncoordinated actions (Walton et al. 1992c). It occupies approximately 6.4 per cent of the total land surface of Australia. Park and reserve declaration has been largely ad hoc and based to a large extent on amenity or landscape and recreational values, rather than on intrinsic biodiversity values or identification of deficiencies in reservation of representative samples of ecosystems. Biodiversity values have received higher priority over the past decade or so, as show by significant reservations such as the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Kakadu National Park, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The parks and reserves estate includes areas owned and/or managed by the States, Territories, the Commonwealth, Aboriginal people and various combinations of these. National parks and other nature conservation areas in Australia are dedicated under 32 different pieces of legislation. National parks are supplemented by 44 other types of protected areas dedicated for nature conservation purposes (Walton et al. 1992b).
While the importance of the national parks and reserves should not be understated, some of these parks may be of significance only at the local or regional scale, and not for their representativeness of biodiversity values. At present, the system of national parks and protected areas in Australia is the principal means of conserving biodiversity. Yet reserved areas do not adequately conserve Australia's biological diversity, and a number of identified ecological communities are in critical need of protection. It should be recognised that conservation of biodiversity will always depend on conservation both inside and outside reserves, and that land owners and local people need to be involved in this conservation (HORSCERA 1993, p8).
The draft National Biodiversity Strategy recognises these deficiencies and includes an objective to 'establish and manage a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of protected areas covering Australia's biological diversity' (ANZECC Task Force on Biological Diversity 1993, p14, Objective 1.4). This deficiency was also recognised by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts (HORSCERA) enquiry into the adequacy of Australia's current system of terrestrial parks and reserves to sustain biodiversity. To address this shortcoming, the Committee recommended that $100 million be allocated by the Commonwealth and $50 million by the States and Territories over 6 years for the purpose of acquisition of identified areas of value to a nationwide system of ecologically representative core protected areas (HORSCERA 1993, pp. 38). The Committee also recommended the allocation of $50 million for the management costs of establishing the new reserves (HORSCERA 1993, p. 44). The Federal Government is expected to table a response to the HORSCERA report and recommendations in the near future. One of the tools being considered for identifying ecologically representative areas is the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia, discussed further in section 3.2.
Recommendation: that the allocation of $150 million for acquisition of representative reserves, recommended by the HORSCERA, and identified as an objective under the National Biodiversity Strategy, be revitalised for the conservation of Australia's biodiversity, on both intrinsic grounds, and on the basis of the reserve system being of crucial economic value to Australian tourism, Australia's biggest industry.
Identification and declaration of particular national parks and natural areas often behaves as a magnet for tourists, who are attracted by the very selection of those areas and the fact that the areas are made open to public access. The act of dedication thus creates its own demands. Purnululu, in northern Western Australia, for example, had very low visitor numbers before it became a national park, but once declared the numbers grew exponentially (CALM WA 1989).
Currently, NBE is almost totally dependent on Australia's protected area system, although there are no Australia-wide summaries of visitation available from the Department of Tourism, the Bureau of Tourism Research, nor from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (Jill Grant, Peter Wirne, Stan Fleetwood 1995 pers. comms.). Data on visitation to some parks is provided in section 4.11. The Australian Tourist Commission (ATC) in The Natural Holiday Guide for 1994 noted there are more than 3,000 national parks and reserves set aside "for the visitor's enjoyment".
In other parts of the world as well, NBE is dependent on protected area systems. Ecotourism in Central America is discussed by Boo (1991) only in the context of protected areas. The World Resources Institute, in recognising the importance of tourism to the protection of areas, notes that 'although some 7,000 protected areas exist throughout the world, comparatively few enjoy de facto protection, and most of those that do can attribute their survival to the revenue they earn from tourism' (Ziffer 1989).
Local communities may have mixed feelings about declaration of 'their' lands to national parks. Attitudes are often negative initially due to the assumption that the land will be 'locked up' from mining, hunting, grazing and logging, but later develop into a positive one through being associated with an important national park, which also generates significant regional economic benefits. Attitudes of the public and elected representatives can change to become supportive, at least in part or in principle (Victorian Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (1993).
It is recommended that creation of a representative system of protected areas be accelerated, being crucial to the protection of Australia's biodiversity. The process of establishing such a system is an essential component of ecologically sustainable development. A representative system is proposed in national policy documents such as Schedule 9 of the InterGovernmental Agreement on the Environment and is both practicable and achievable. It should be a high priority supported by the tourism industry.
It is further recommended that a national environmental planning program be developed using a landscape scale for the implementation of the national system for establishing, managing and monitoring protected areas.
Recommendation: That the Bureau of Tourism Research or Department of Tourism collate all available data on visitation to national parks and other protected areas on a park-by-park basis across Australia to quantify visitation and usage and the value of these areas to tourism.
The maintenance of biodiversity outside protected areas has received too little attention. According to Bridgewater et al. (1992):
In the face of significant and continuing reductions to our biological diversity, there is a pressing need to strengthen conservation activities across Australia. About 70 per cent of Australia's land area is under the control of private landholders and resource managers, including indigenous peoples; their cooperation is essential for the success of conservation activities. High priority must be placed on developing and implementing integrated approaches to conservation that both conserve biological diversity and meet other community objectives.
An objective of the Draft National Biodiversity Strategy is to strengthen off reserve conservation of biological diversity. The Draft Strategy recognises that, 'although many programs exist to encourage better management of biological diversity on such lands, greater effort is required to raise both the standards of management and protection and the levels of financial and technical assistance'. Actions which could help achieve the objective of off-reserve conservation of biodiversity involve financial incentives to property owners affected where areas of significance to biodiversity are protected. These include the negotiation of conservation covenants and heritage agreements between owners and managers and governments, which in turn provide resources.
There are many examples of private land holders conserving their lands and establishing an accommodation base for ecotourism operators, including such examples as Crystal Creek Rainforest Resort near Murwillumbah in NSW where a 100 ha derelict banana plantation with substantial intact rainforest was restored, and the Daintree Wilderness Lodge in Far North Queensland where owners have meticulously located a small lodge on their 8 ha property within the rainforest (Figgis 1994).
From a business perspective, a system of secure areas that will still be there after several decades encourages investment in land and promotion for tourism. In the past this has usually meant that investment follows only after the dedication of areas as national parks, since this offers a guarantee that the resource will be there indefinitely. Private landowners, however, who are prepared to enter into legally binding conservation management agreements with government authorities could also benefit from investment opportunities. This approach has the added benefit of making funds, available for the acquisition of biologically important parcels of lands, go further.
An example of this is already occurring in the Wet Tropics. The Commonwealth Government has allocated $23 million to a Daintree Rescue Package, which will be used, amongst other things, to buy back private land of outstanding conservation importance. Under the Daintree Rescue Program, the Wet Tropics Management Authority is developing a pilot program of cooperative management agreements with sympathetic private landowners, some of whom wish to be small scale ecotourism operators. Scores of landholders have already expressed interest in such an arrangement (Davie 1995 pers. comm.). The management agreements will obviate the need to purchase these blocks of land and release funds to buy back lands of outstanding conservation importance which do not presently have sympathetic managers.
That significant interest exists in conservation on private land is evidenced by the 'Land for Wildlife' voluntary conservation program pioneered by the Victorian Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Bird Observers Club of Australia in 1981. Currently, 2,700 properties, ranging from 20 ha to large dairy farms have joined the network. In return the landholders receive a quarterly 'Land for Wildlife' newsletter and the services of 15 extension officers from the Department who offer free advice on many aspects of land management. A large colourful sign promoting the project and the landholder's commitment to conservation is also placed at the entrance of each property (Nicholls, VDCNR 1995, pers. comm.). Tasmania and Queensland are currently initiating similar projects.
This approach could be strengthened by encouraging the development of NBE enterprises on land holding such covenants where a proportion of the revenue generated by such an enterprise would go back into the management of the private reserve. Alternatively, land-holders who wish to run an NBE enterprise could apply for a conservation covenant with its associated benefits, such as assistance with rehabilitation, establishment of native vegetation corridors, funding for restoration, technical support and rate rebates.
Information packages detailing requirements for management for conservation objectives could be developed for distribution to landholders. These packages would explain the NBE/off-reserve conservation option which would also include assistance in developing an NBE business, such as training, product development and marketing.
It is recommended that a national system of NBE/conservation covenants be investigated which involve legally binding Conservation Management Agreements for private lands with high conservation values and sympathetic managers/owners who wish to develop a tourism enterprise. Part of the revenue from such enterprises would go toward managing the private reserve. Lands covered by such Agreements should be given support for: the rehabilitation of lands, for example in the establishment of native vegetation corridors; funding for necessary restoration programs; technical support and the provision of appropriate seed stocks; development of a monitoring and reporting program to determine the effectiveness of rehabilitation; and the integration of data into national park and national monitoring databases. In addition, assistance should be given for the development of NBE enterprises. Such assistance would include business planning, training, product development and marketing.
As noted in Section 3.3, biodiversity conservation in Australia is carried out largely through the establishment and management of the system of protected areas. In the past the reservation of protected lands has been largely ad hoc and opportunistic, resulting in a reservation system which is not representative of Australia's biodiversity (Pressey 1994). The primary challenge for biodiversity conservation in Australia, therefore, is the development of a representative reserve system based on regional biodiversity (see also section 3.2). While few, if any, comprehensive regional ecological databases exist, systematic approaches for determining representative systems for regional biodiversity conservation are rapidly being developed (e.g. Forey et al. 1994; Pressey 1994; Pressey et al. 1993). In most regions there are many possible ways of combining numbers of sites into reserve (or off-reserve, see section 3.4) systems to accommodate changing land uses (Pressey et al. 1994).
Objective 4.1 of the Draft National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity is to 'provide the knowledge and understanding of Australia's biological diversity for its effective conservation and management.' The implementation of this objective involves the assessment of research needs and priorities through the coordination, collation and synthesis of available data and information from collections, survey results and geographic information systems (ANZECC Task Force on Biological Diversity 1993, p47). The networking of complementary environmental GIS's and databases is seen as being particularly important in the Draft Strategy. Recently, a number of computer programs for conservation planning that use GIS databases have been developed (Pressey and Ferrier, 1994). The introduction of a national system of NBE/private conservation covenants on private lands (outlined in section 3.4), with their mandatory databases, could also assist in database development.
The James Cook University Tourism Department has gone a step further and is developing a system which integrates databases of regional resources with databases on tourist desires, activities and impacts. The study area is the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Prior to this research there were no integrated tourism planning models addressing the pressing need for ecologically sustainable tourism (Birtles 1994, pers comm). Most existing planning approaches involving tourism pay limited attention to environmental issues. Part of the James Cook model involves the novel concept of developing the 'personality' of a region: a detailed profile of the experiences available in a region. The planning models can also be used to identify opportunities for development of new activities. This approach closely matches the goals of bioregional planning and we consider it to be one of the most effective means of integrating NBE with biodiversity conservation.
A spin-off of such a integrated planning models, which use extensive natural resource and tourism databases, could be the development of CD-ROMs for the NBE tourist.
One of the major bottlenecks for NBE is the retail travel agent, the front-line of the tourism industry. For reasons explained in section 7.2 Marketing, it is difficult if not impossible for the potential NBE tourists to discover the full range of tourism opportunities in a region. NBE product is largely not incorporated within the current central reservation systems which mainly focus on the high volume, easy to sell products with high margins. A system could be developed which is based on CD-ROM technology, and which uses a subset of the information assembled for each of the regional integrated tourism planning models. Using this technology the NBE tourist would be able to interactively investigate a region and all its opportunities (this ties in with bioregional planning and section 5.1). It may also provide the tourist with the ability to book specific opportunities.
Investigation of the impacts of tourism is beyond the scope of this report. The range of impacts and potential impacts includes such examples as direct damage to coral reefs, overfishing of estuaries and lakes, damage to shorelines from boats, water and soil pollution, disturbance to turtle and bird nesting sites, over-collecting of firewood (sometimes by park managers), spread of toilet paper in bush camp situations where there are no constructed toilets (the paper should be burned), water pollution from campers, faecal contamination of sites, litter accumulation, track erosion and damage, plant collection and flower picking, disturbance of animals in their habitats, trenching around tents, cutting of vegetation for shelter construction, littering, overhot fires, vehicle damage off formed or formalised tracks, touching of prehistoric art, collecting souvenirs of natural objects and artefacts, sign damage, barrier damage, infrastructure development including roads, power and water reticulation, buildings, and rubbish pits, and, of course, the management practices applied to correct the impacts.
Properly planned and managed tourism was recognised by the ESD Working Group on Tourism as important to minimise impact and lead to 'positive environmental benefits'. The Group observed that there are inadequacies in current tourism management practices, which have led to a depletion of natural resources and destruction of important representative habitats. The National Ecotourism Strategy identifies some of the practices needed to reduce impacts of ecotourism, including codes of conduct, education on ecological sustainability, management of operators by licensing and accreditation, research and monitoring of impacts, and a number of others (CDoT 1994a, pp23-48). These need to be translated into action, and the Department of Tourism has provided funding of around $10 million to address some of the deficiencies. We have already noted that a large proportion of the funding has been allocated to infrastructure development, often on National Parks, which does not always address the key issues identified in the Strategy.
Many of the environmental problems result from a lack of awareness and understanding in the tourism industry about how people affect the environment and what they can do to lessen their impact. Wellplanned information, education and marketing strategies can help increase knowledge and understanding and also influence environmental decisions, attitudes and behaviours (ESDWG 1991). To this end, the Department of Tourism has funded an Ecotourism Education consultancy to improve understanding of minimal impact practices in order to assist future management of ecotourism and to undertake a national needs analysis of the information requirements of key target groups, eg. consumers, travel agents, media, resource managers etc (Jill Grant 1995, pers. comm.).
The concepts inherent in ecotourism hold the promise of introducing a new ethic in tourism, one that is sensitive, responsible and conservation minded. While this ethic is evident in some NBE enterprises, it certainly does not apply to all within this segment of the industry. Nature tourism is not necessarily ecologically sound just because it uses nature as its primary resource, as numerous examples around the globe illustrate (Ziffer 1989). As noted in other sections of this report, NBE has frequently simply been a marketing tool for many businesses, and the negative impacts of tourism are as evident in nature based and ecotourism as in any other.
Misunderstandings about the limits of natural areas and resources to withstand environmental impact extend even to the Australian Tourist Commission, which states in its Natural Holiday Guide 1994:
Fortunately most of Australia's World Heritage sites are big enough to support a large number of tourists. As soon as an area starts to show signs of damage through overuse, the walking paths, roads, boating and other activities can be shifted to a different location.
It is prudent to heed the warning by Wood (1990) that, by making a false distinction between tourism and ecotourism, planners are 'distracted from the responsibility to protect resources from all forms of tourist development'. To improve the understanding of impacts and develop appropriate preventive measures, Wood advocates improving knowledge of impacts by initiating long term monitoring within and adjacent to areas used for tourism and to review past experience.
While the policy framework exists for recognising and dealing with environmental impact, the reality is that very little is known about the impact that tourism has on the environment. The Centre for Ecotourism Studies at Griffith University has compiled an extensive data bank summarising studies of the impacts of tourism. Less than one per cent relate to Australian conditions. The overseas studies deal mainly with the effects of trampling and are inconclusive as regards their application to Australia (Buckley 1994, pers. comm.).
Recommendation: that research on the environmental impacts of tourism receive high priority and that such research be integrated with national management and monitoring plans for natural areas and biodiversity. Funding for this research should be provided by the National Ecotourism Programs or other sources, and conducted by researchers disciplined in ecological and social impacts.
Recommendation: that funding be made available to develop those areas identified in the National Ecotourism Strategy, presently unfunded or underfunded but which are crucial priorities for the ecological sustainability of the industry and conservation of biological diversity, particularly codes of conduct, education on ecological sustainability, management of operators by licensing and accreditation, and research and monitoring of impacts. Funding could be provided by the Department of Tourism.
Management of biotic and abiotic resources is implicit in all aspects of an ecologically sustainable economy, including tourism. Management of the resources is not a simple concept, nor an easily achievable practice, but requires the development of broad national strategies and the implementation of those strategies (Walton et al. 1992), at State, Territory and Regional level.
The ESD Working Group on Tourism (ESDWG 1991) advocated a national approach by establishing a 'national representative system of protected areas together with nationally consistent management standards and practices.' The Draft National Biodiversity Strategy (ANZECC Task Force on Biological Diversity 1993, p32) recommended that governments and participants in the tourism and recreation industry can help conserve biological diversity by:
- 'Reviewing the impact of tourism and recreation management activities on biological diversity and seeking changes where appropriate;
- Developing and implementing for tourism operators using areas with significant biological diversity, codes of practice that acknowledge the need for any required changes to management practices; and
- Offering incentives for conservation activities, including rehabilitation programs.'
The draft Biodiversity Strategy recommended also that, where tourism is dependent on the natural environment, management strategies should be developed in association with broader land use plans, including provisions for:
- 'Tourism facilities and services to be provided in accordance with the biophysical limits of an area;
- The development of criteria and conditions under which commercial activities within or adjacent to protected areas may be appropriate; and
- Rehabilitation of existing tourism sites where appropriate.
We consider that establishing a representative system of reserves, as recommended by the ESDWG on Tourism, is essential to the industry and to conservation of biodiversity, but that of itself is not sufficient. As discussed previously, in sections 1.2, 3.3 and 3.4, the system of reserves is inadequate to conserve total biodiversity, and will always be so. Management of biodiversity must be implemented across the broader landscape. Both the National Ecotourism Strategy (1994, p28) and the National Rural Tourism Strategy (1994) recognise that ecotourism and nature-based tourism occur across the country, and, by inference, utilise the natural landscape and its component species and habitats. By extension, then, the management of the impacts of tourism on biodiversity conservation must extend beyond the boundaries of parks and reserves. On this note, it is interesting to observe that there was no conservation biologist or ecologist amongst the 16 members on the Rural Tourism Focus Group (CDoT 1994b, p45). In light of the numerous strategies relating to ecological sustainability and biodiversity conservation of recent years, this is a surprising and unfortunate omission and should be rectified for future strategy development and implementation.
We also agree with the draft National Biodiversity Strategy's recommendations, and encourage their adoption. We add that the tourism industry has a very proactive role, a duty and an economic incentive to communicate ecologically sustainable practices and management needs to the huge numbers of tourists they convey and to whom they interpret. After all, tour guides have a captive audience and an opportunity to teach more people about the Australian environment than all universities and most schools. Their role in conservation of biodiversity has been under-rated for a long time.
Translating these recommendations and goals into action requires considerable attention from industry and government. Observations indicate that the industry as an entity does not yet consider that management of the natural resource should be part of its responsibility. Apart from a few easily identified operators, some mentioned as examples in section 7.7, most consider that management is the sole responsibility of the 'management authority'. A caveat to this is that there are a good and increasing number of park management boards and advisory committees in which members of the tourism industry participate, but they consider themselves and are considered as advisers on tourism and conduits for information, rather than as active participants in management. By active participation we do not mean necessarily physical management works; but we do mean an active and legitimate role in planning and determining management practices.
For the goals to be translated into action, the industry must become involved in this process: through management boards, through direct consultation with managers, by learning about impacts, and through notification to relevant authorities of identified management problems. There will never be sufficient funds nor resources for management authorities to manage all impacts adequately without the involvement of the users of the resources.
For this to happen, a shift of attitude in the authorities is also required. Too often, managers consider themselves the prime authorities on park management. While we acknowledge that most are skilled and highly trained in management, there are cases where the tourism operators also see and can identify problems on site, sometimes problems which managers are not able to see, for instance, because people are more careful around park managers. Some environmental problems which operators can identify might include slow site deterioration which short-term managers may not identify, changes in the quality of a site, such as change in bird behaviour, change in health of vegetation, overcrowding, physical damage to or subtle physical impacts on prehistoric art and cave formations, flower picking, inappropriate practices such as use of detergents or soaps or even washing in streams and waterholes, and myriad others. This shift is progressively happening facilitated by the increasing levels of consultation with a wide cross section of the community which now occurs in protected area planning and management.
Some means of overcoming these management needs include workshops and training courses which are already conducted by park management authorities, and sometimes by industry bodies such as the Victorian Tour Operators Association. While recognising the value of these courses and workshops, they are often designed and conducted by the authorities and associations as 'training' and 'orientation' courses for operators and guides, rather than as means of facilitating two-way interaction, and mutual resolution of management and operational problems. There is a need for workshops to be conducted which address management of the resources for the benefit of both the natural environment and the industry. The workshops should be short and frequent, and focus on key issues, such as means of identifying management problems, and developing solutions to problems.
Recommendation: that the Department of Tourism through its National Ecotourism Programs and other means produce a set of guidelines for identification of management issues, possible solutions and means of addressing management problems. The guide should include exemplary case studies of actual impacts, such as those identified in section 3.7.
Recommendation: that preparation of guidelines or frameworks for workshops to specifically address issues related to resource management, biodiversity conservation and tourism, be arranged by the Departments of Tourism and Environment, in consultation with State and Territory management authorities.
Recommendation: that all working groups convened to prepare or implement strategies and land management plans which relate to nature-based and related tourism include at least one member who is expert in ecology, conservation biology or a related discipline, and that a reciprocal arrangement should occur for all land management strategies where tourism might be involved.