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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (16 August) . . Page.. 2227..

MS PORTER (continuing):

here is an opportunity for us to attract people to Canberra. Not only do we want to attract people to Canberra, we also want to attract new tourists. My experience at the conference led me to believe that we can attract new tourists to this area.

People who are attracted to ecotourism do not necessarily want to camp out in tents in all weathers. Up to this point in time, our impression has been that ecotourists walk around with backpacks on their back for 24 hours, lie down on the hard ground and then get up and walk for another 24 hours. Ecotourism is not about that. It is about people with disposable income. I was very impressed to see that these are high-class tourists wanting high-class accommodation and a unique experience, learning about their environment and how to care for their environment. Do we not want to encourage people to learn how to care about their environment? I would have thought those on the other side of the house would want to do that.

Also, we learned about partnerships. This is definitely something we have been trying to build on in the ACT. We have been having discussions with Namadgi Park people. We have the Namadgi management plan. We obviously are consulting with the various players, the various stakeholders. Everyone is going to have different opinions and it is going to be very difficult to come to some agreements. But what I was impressed about in Queensland was the way that all levels of government-federal, state and local government-came together on these issues. Conservation groups came together on these issues. The public were enthused and came together on these issues.

They all saw in this a positive move for their state economy, for bringing people into Queensland and for increasing tourism, as well as for protecting their environment and such valuable pieces of their environment as the Great Barrier Reef. We have wonderful things here in the ACT. We have our Namadgi Park. We have things to be proud of. Let us bring people here from interstate to see these things, but we have to be very careful in the way we do it. This is the lesson that I learned while I was there. The way you do it, the way you come together with all players is to negotiate. You negotiate with your players about the way forward to be able to make sure that you both increase tourism and protect your environment.

One might think that ecotourism is a contradiction in terms. The Guardian newspaper raised this issue recently and asked, "Is ecotourism a contradiction in terms? How can places of great natural beauty or wildlife be preserved once tourists start visiting in their thousands, bringing with them the need for services and development? Is it possible to have a guilt-free holiday? Can you visit a place without damaging it in some way?"It is difficult, but with planning and research and with goodwill on all sides, we can. This is why it is very important for us as a committee to be considering these sorts of things. That is why this opportunity to examine something was an eye-opener for me and, I think, for the other members of the committee.

We already have before us the suggestion of investigation into the biosphere reserve for the ACT. That is critical for us. This is another opportunity as well. I just add to Mr Gentleman's remarks and say that it was a very valuable conference. I am very glad we had the opportunity to go there. I took many lessons from it and I will continue to raise these matters in the committee.

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