It was with great concern that Gecko received the news this week that the regurgitated cable way proposal from Neranwood to World Heritage listed Springbrook National Park has been resurrected by the proponent of the old ‘Naturelink’, Ray Stevens, MP for Mermaid.
Mr Stevens and the Premier do not appear to think that there is any conflict of interest between Stevens’ role as a member of the Government which will assess the project, his personal investment and role as advisor to the project, and his role representing the views of his electorate.
The reason for the resurrection of this project, which was dismissed in 2001 following an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment (9 volumes), is that the LNP Government has made changes to the Nature Conservation Act encouraging commercial exploitation of protected areas, such as national parks.
No longer is the conservation of nature the primary purpose of national parks. In addition, the Vegetation Management Act has been altered so that our protected plant species are no longer protected from development regardless of whether they are in a national park or not.
The 20-year tourism plan is all about making our natural areas pay for themselves or preferably make a profit for private enterprise and the government. Nature no longer has any intrinsic value nor is it recognised for the essential life-giving eco-system and social benefits it provides to humanity.
The Skyride proposal of mass tourism transport appears, from the scanty information given, to follow the same route as the defunct Naturelink and starts at Neranwood, snakes its way through the National Park to arrive at what is known as The Settlement at the top of the Purlingbrook Falls. Like the Cairns cableway, there will be a station with a retail shop and café at the bottom and the top. Quite what is planned for the two stations along the way is unknown.
There is no town water or sewage on Springbrook Plateau so this would have to be trucked up and down that winding mountain road, no mean feat to service the predicted 800,000 people per year or 2000 people per day! Like a cruise liner, the objective of a cableway is to keep the money in-house rather than around the community.
If this proposal gains approval there would be dozens of massive towers on concrete pads built in the National Park forest which will require clearing of protected vegetation and disruption to the habitat of protected fauna. Some form of access by road is likely as well to maintain the towers and enable rescue in the event of an extreme weather event. Many of the soils along the route are unstable so some form of battering is likely. This national park is a bushfire area and has a history of some devastating bushfires which could pose a threat to patrons.
There were good reasons to abandon the previous cableway and those reasons have not changed. If the LNP Government was serious about helping Springbrook, it would develop an eco- tourism plan designed to educate and delight high-end patrons with the exceptional natural features of the National Park that led to it being listed as a World Heritage Area.