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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1136 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The committee's recommendation that the national park zone be incorporated into the Namadgi National Park seemed reasonable as it could have led to more emphasis being put into conservation management activities in the mountains around Tidbinbilla. I am therefore disappointed that the Government has quickly dismissed this suggestion.

Regarding entry fees to Tidbinbilla, the committee recommended that those people who only access the national park zone of Tidbinbilla should not have to pay entry fees. This recommendation is actually similar to the position taken by the Greens in the original debate over the entry fees. We were prepared to accept entry fees for the animal enclosure area as this area could be regarded as a type of zoo facility, but that entry to the rest of the reserve should be free in line with the free access to similar reserves in the rest of the ACT. The Government's argument that this approach is too difficult to administer is quite weak.

If there are to be entry fees then at least the money should go back into maintenance of the reserve. I note that the Government has said that it is its current policy that all money raised from entry fees will be reinvested in the reserve. However, there is no guarantee that this policy will continue into the future.

In fact, I am quite concerned about future funding levels for Tidbinbilla. We have the very unusual situation that the new visitors centre is being paid for by borrowed funds rather than through capital works money. Environment ACT has to pay back this money, and I am very concerned about its ability to raise sufficient revenue from visitors to the reserve. Revenue from entry fees has been below expectations, and I understand that participation in ranger-guided walks has also dropped since the introduction of charges.

Great emphasis is now being placed on raising revenue through sponsorships, and I have grave concerns that we may end up with something like the McDonald's kangaroo enclosure and the Coca-Cola koala park, which would be a great corruption of the nature conservation values of the reserve. I think the Government should be providing direct funding for management of the reserve and should not rely on other dubious forms of commercial funding.

The committee has recommended an increase in funding to the Parks and Conservation Service for its management of the reserve, which I would fully endorse. There is no point in preparing a management plan if the parks officers do not have the resources to implement it on the ground.

This issue highlights the need for the implementation of environmental accounting, as the Government has absolutely no idea of the environmental liabilities that might be accruing from the current resources being put into park management. Reports I have heard indicate that the level of resources generally does not match the demands placed on park managers for feral animal and weed control, maintenance of visitor facilities and patrolling of the parks. Resources are being stretched very thinly across park management tasks, and I have fears that the Parks Service may be falling behind in responding to these demands.

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