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Tasmanian budget: Government to spend $8m upgrading national parks infrastructure

The Tasmanian Government has announced an additional $8 million for national parks and reserves in next week’s state budget.

The money will be spent on high-priority infrastructure maintenance.

The additional funding is against a backdrop of funding cuts to the Parks and Wildlife Service.

Unions claim about 30 jobs are set to go as the service tries to achieve a $2.5 million savings target set by the Government.

Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage Matthew Groom rejects that, and said about eight jobs would go.

Mr Groom said the money would allow tourism infrastructure in highly visited areas to be refreshed.

“This additional funding will provide for the redevelopment, refurbishment and replacement of high priority infrastructure in Tasmania’s parks and reserves including signage and interpretation, walking and multi-use tracks, roads, fire trails, amenities and car parking,” he said.

“Having the right infrastructure is vitally important for enhancing visitor experience, as well as facilitating good management outcomes such as improving visitor safety and providing additional protection to sensitive values.

Tom Lynch from the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), representing Parks and Wildlife workers, said the maintenance would have been done last year if the State Government had not cut the Parks budget.

“In last year’s budget he removed $12.5 million from Parks and Wildlife and now he’s putting some of that back,” he said.

“I would call on him to put it all back, our Parks service is desperately in need of additional funding, this is insufficient.

“Last year and the year before they had to cut their program of maintenance because of the budget cuts and now the minister says ‘well, I’ll give you some money to do maintenance’.

“The last couple of weeks I’ve received a whole range of photographs of infrastructure around the Parks service – failing bridges, culverts, roads collapsing, I’ve seen pictures of road barriers that are condemned that keep tourists away from very steep falls.

“And if you put the pressure on Parks because they simply don’t have the resources, they close the site.

“There’s a case at the moment down at Remarkable Cave, where the road barrier has been condemned it should have been removed and replaced.

“Instead its there doing an ineffectual job separating tourists from a plummet into the ocean.”

Tourism industry welcomes funds

Destination Southern Tasmania (DST), the peak tourism body for the state’s south, welcomed the announcement.

DST chief executive officer, Melinda Anderson, said the funding recognised that Tasmania’s natural environment was one of the state’s most significant tourism assets.

“Over 37 per cent of international and interstate travellers to Tasmania visited one of our national parks in 2014 and nearly 50 per cent participated in bushwalking and other walks,” she said.

“Accessible nature and wilderness is a key driver for visitors to Tasmania and we need to ensure the experiences we offer our world class.

“Roads, parking, signage, interpretation, tracks and other visitor amenities are all part of delivering a quality, natured-based experience and ensure sustainable management of our natural assets.”

The Tasmanian Government has set a goal of 1.5 million visitors to the state by 2020.

ABC – May 24.

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