Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Jane Lennon, Jane Lennon and Associates Pty Ltd, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06752 3
Current condition of heritage places and objects and pressures affecting them (continued)
Tourism can have opposite effects: it may help conservation, or it may lead to overuse and declining condition. The impact of visitor use on heritage places has long been a perceived pressure on the conservation of heritage places (see Purdie et al. 1996). However, little reliable data relating to this issue appears to be consistently and systematically collected by any land management or heritage agency.
Paronella Park gardens, Mena Creek, near Innisfail, Qld.
These 1930s pleasure gardens have deteriorating concrete Spanish-style structures. The buildings have been damaged by flood, fire and concrete decay. Now being restored as pleasure gardens, success depends on the enthusiasm of the owner and the property's commercial viability.
Source: Mike Pearson (2000)
Heritage agencies can see that State or Territory and regional economies are increasingly dependent on tourism, and heritage places have a vital role to play in this industry. However, strategic links between heritage and tourism are not strong. Heritage Victoria, in its Victorian Heritage Strategy 2000, proposed strengthening these links, and the Mount Alexander Diggings project and the Barwon River Industrial Heritage Track are two new projects based around regional industrial heritage assets. The Queensland Heritage Trails Network is a $110 million project partnership between State and Commonwealth governments and local communities to celebrate the Centenary of Federation in 2001, by providing tourism pathways across regional Queensland linking 32 major capital works projects. Some of these projects revolve around conservation of heritage assets, such as the Blackall Woolscour and Chinatown at Atherton (http://www.heritagetrails.qld.gov.au ). By the next state of the environment report in 2006 there should be statistics available showing the impact of these initiatives on regional economies, measured by visitor numbers and time or dollars spent in the region.
Stock Exchange Building, Charters Towers, Qld
This was built in 1890, reflecting the mining wealth of Charters Towers. The original arcade of small offices has been adapted into commercial and community offices and shops, giving ongoing use. The building recently received Queensland Heritage Trails Network funding assistance.
Source: Mike Pearson (2000)
As most agencies managing public heritage places want to showcase their places for ecotourism, they are unlikely to report impairment or degradation of heritage values. The Queensland Environment Protection Authority (1999) attempted to quantify the range of pressures affecting recorded Indigenous places, and found that development, inadvertent visitor damage and vandalism affected approximately 2000 of the 7500 places. The judgement about what constitutes an acceptable action, in heritage terms, to either cater for tourist needs or to protect heritage places from tourist pressures is a matter of great debate. There has been considerable discussion during the review period, for example, about the location and construction of a new visitor centre and car park in the Port Arthur Historic Site. Does it have an adverse impact on the heritage significance of the site? Is it necessary? Were there better alternative approaches to achieve the same outcome? There is as yet no agreed answer to these issues, but the new facilities have been constructed.
In 1999 the Australian Heritage Commission and the Tourism Council of Australia released a discussion paper entitled Draft Heritage Tourism Guidelines: Best practice for people involved in tourism and heritage places. Throughout the guidelines reference was made to the tensions which exist between balancing the needs of visitors and the objectives of heritage site management, including Indigenous sites, and the draft guidelines attempted to build a bridge between current industry codes of practice and heritage conservation principles. Following reader input, a final guide was prepared with practical advice for those involved in both tourism and heritage site management (see http://www.ahc.gov.au/publications/tourism/pubs/guide.pdf for the final text).
Successful tourism at heritage places.
The construction of the Skyrail over the Wet Tropics rainforest and up the dramatic escarpment between Cairns and Kuranda in North Queensland was contentious, but it allows 3000 fee-paying passengers daily to have a unique experience of interacting with World Heritage values by floating like birds over this heritage without the massive on-ground facilities that would be required to move the same number of people through the forest. The Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area hosted an estimated 1 million visitors in 1999-2000 (Lennon 2000). The impact on heritage values is debatable, and may require longer monitoring to tease out the gains and losses. The impact of tourism on Indigenous communities and the involvement of Indigenous people in tourism is further discussed in the section Indigenous control of Indigenous heritage.
The fashion for boardwalk construction, often funded by Natural Heritage Trust or Jobskills programs, has resulted in the biodiversity values of many places being protected from excessive trampling by foot traffic. This is especially the case in coastal wetlands and wet gullies on walking tracks, often through listed heritage places that are parks or reserves. Fencing out rare and endangered habitats or reference areas and rerouting tracks away from such heritage places has ameliorated threats to their viability. It may be, however, that other heritage values, such as aesthetic significance, are reduced by such works. There is little evidence on which to assess whether all heritage values are considered at the time of planning such works, or if biodiversity values and interpretation are simply taken to have overriding priority.
Rationing access to protected areas is another method of conservation management. At Carnarvon Gorge National Park in Queensland, the number of camping sites has been halved since the early 1990s. Not disclosing the exact locations of rare and endangered plants is another method of protecting these sites from uncontrolled access, as in the case of the Wollemi Pine in New South Wales. A potential data source for assessing such works exists in the Natural Heritage Trust program, which has funded many boardwalks (see above) and other protection works. However, this information is not collated or reported, so it is not available for State of the Environment reporting purposes.
Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis).
A two-year old seedling of the rare Wollemi Pine growing at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. It was planted inside a cage to protect it from damage or theft. The discovery of this new species of tree in 1994 was a dramatic demonstration that parts of our biological heritage remain unknown.
Source: Ian Robertson (2001)
In 1998 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park presented one of the most comprehensive overviews of tourism yet undertaken by heritage place managers. The Reef was averaging 1.7 million visitor-days in 1997, but this level of visitation was concentrated in two areas, with 85% of the tourism occurring in just 5% of the Park area - off Cairns and the Whitsundays. With developments in the technology and capacity of tour boats, the range of day trips has gradually increased, from 35 km in 1985 to 130 km in 1998, and projected to be 185 km by 2001, and with wing-in-ground-effect craft being developed this may extend out to 295 km. This means that virtually the whole reef will be accessible by day-trippers.
The effects of tourism identified on the reef include:
- damage to coral through poor anchoring and reef walking,
- disturbance of nesting birds and vegetation on cays and sand dunes,
- interference with whales, dugongs and turtles,
- change in water quality through discharge of vessel sewage and bilge-water,
- social impacts through crowding and disturbance, and
- cultural impacts on traditional Indigenous values and historic values.
Tourist boats departing Port Douglas to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
Source: J. Jones/Great Barrier reef Marine Park Authority
The ecological impacts have been minimised or eliminated through a permit system which limits activities to areas where impacts will be small. Monitoring programs are in place to verify the effectiveness of the system.
World Heritage properties within Australia have been a drawcard for both domestic and international visitors. Table 19 gives visitor figures over the reporting period. However, the variety and range of data collecting systems vary from accurate fee-paying permits, to vehicle counters where they are maintained, to ranger's estimates, as noted. Notwithstanding this variation, it is clear that for most properties there have been continuing increases in visitor numbers, with consequent pressure on resources and demand for facilities.
|Australian Fossil Mammal Site (Naracoorte)A||42 000||39 600||67 000||78 500||-|
|Australian Fossil Mammal Site (Riversleigh)B||3 000||3 000||3 000||3 000||3 000|
|Central Eastern Rainforest Reserve (Australia) (NSW)C||807 000||805 874||791 450||742 600||773 956|
|Central Eastern Rainforest Reserve (Australia) (Qld)D||1 238 750||1 269 500||Figures unavailable for these years||1 331 000|
|Great Barrier Reef Marine ParkE||1 672 537||1 725 349||2 945 994||3 763 479||1 656 418(to June)|
|The Greater Blue Mountains AreaF||526 423||527 737||565 303||528 636||580 520|
|Fraser IslandG||272 139||278 889||291 404||297 621||314 051|
|Heard and McDonald IslandsH||15||5||5||6||28|
|KakaduI||219 287||205 795||199 387||211 491||200 752|
|Lord Howe IslandJ||9 059||9 731||10 688||14 671||6 565 (to June)|
|Shark BayL||83 672||93 178||102 081||103 076||88 948|
|Tasmanian WildernessM||453 023||449 005||474 155||500 645||483 497|
|Uluru-Kata TjutaN||337 018||337 735||339 605||371 939||387 065|
|Wet Tropics of QueenslandO||4 770 000 in 1993||No recent figures collected|
|WillandraP||30 546||33 078||16 038||35 118||36 400|
A Figures extracted from records of visitor fees.
B Figures estimated by site managers.
C Figures collated from vehicle and pedestrian counters, and ranger estimates.
D Figures based upon number of camping permits issued, vehicle counters and ranger estimates.
E Figures represent number of visitor days spent on commercial tour vessels within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The total number of visitors, including private vessels would be much higher.
F Figures collated from vehicle and pedestrian counters, ticket sales and ranger estimates.
G Figures based upon the number of visitor permits granted.
H Figures indicate number of permits for government and non-government visit to the Islands. Permits may cover more than one person.
I Figures based on vehicle and pedestrian counter calibrations.
J Figures represent the number of head tax receipts for the Island Service Levy, paid by all visitors to the island.
K Figures based on number of passenger landings from tour vessels.
L Figures represent number of people passing entry toll station.
M Figures collated from vehicle counters, booth counts, ticket sales, walker registrations and plane landing estimates.
N Figures represent park entry ticket sales.
O Figures have not been collected for the many parks that constitute the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area since a comprehensive survey in 1993. An ongoing monitoring system is in development.
P Figures collated from vehicle counter calibrations.
Source: compiled by Cate Turk, World Heritage Branch, Environment Australia.
The two large World Heritage properties adjacent to the major conurbations of Brisbane and Sydney will continue to receive increasing numbers of visitors, while intervening opportunities and nearby competing destinations may explain the slight decrease for both Kakadu and Shark Bay. The Queensland coastal destinations, serviced by two international airports, will continue to receive increasing numbers of international tourists as a result of intense marketing over the last few years, coupled with a low Australian dollar which makes Australia an increasingly attractive destination.
The level of tourism in remote areas such as the Australia's Antarctic territories is small but increasing, and its impact needs monitoring.
The appeal of the Antarctic wilderness attracts growing numbers of tourists.
Source: R Ledingham/ Australian Antarctic Division (15-3631D4)
- Apart from the startling Queensland data which shows that nearly one-third of recorded Indigenous places have suffered some damage from visitors, there is no statistical data currently available for assessing the impacts of tourism on the condition of heritage places, and no conclusive trends can be determined. However, there is evidence of impacts.
- Insufficient effort is made by land management and heritage authorities to gather and analyse information about tourism impacts (and benefits), and about the nature and impact of tourism-stimulated remediation and protective works and visitor facilities development.
- It is obvious from visitor figures that heritage places, and in particular World Heritage properties, will continue to attract large numbers of visitors. Monitoring of impacts is required to assess the condition of these iconic places. Surveys are also required to evaluate whether visitors are learning about the heritage values of these places.