The Wilderness Society said a $30 million Federal Government handout to the Cradle Mountain gateway precinct raises questions about public funding of developments in protected areas, the funding of land management that actually protects natural and cultural heritage values, and the total absence of a ‘Tourism Master Plan’ for the Word Heritage Area (TWWHA).

Aspects of the Cradle Mountain gateway precinct have support from environmentalists, such as the relocation of the visitors centre, but the proposal for a cable car raises serious concerns about ownership and operation and the environmental and visual impact of a major infrastructure project in a secluded, alpine valley that currently has a much-loved walking track.

“While this project has been on the table for some time, people should see this commitment for what it is, pork barrelling in the lead up to an important federal by-election,” said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.

“This development pre-empts a World Heritage Area-wide Tourism Master Plan, requested by the World Heritage Committee in 2015 and promised by both the State and Federal Governments.

“This Master Plan has not been developed and stakeholders have not even been informed of the process, yet secretive private project approvals and taxpayer handouts, including for private commercial developments that degrade wilderness, continue apace.

“The Cradle cable car is total overkill and symptomatic of the Government and tourism sector’s approach to World Heritage, which they see simply as an asset to exploit for private commercial gain, irrespective of the costs or impacts.

“When the Premier and Prime Minister wax lyrical about sensitive and sensible development and protecting World Heritage values remember, these are the Governments that sought to delist over 70,000 ha of World Heritage forests and had to be slapped down by the international community.

“Premier and Parks Minister Will Hodgman currently proposes to log inside 400,000 ha of old growth rainforest reserves, reverse the reserve status of 356,000 hectares of high conservation value forests and build new 4wd tracks across an Aboriginal cultural landscape on the takayna coast.

“Wouldn’t it be great to see the Federal Government cough up this level of additional cash for land management activities that help protect natural and cultural heritage values from the impacts of climate change, fire, pests and public visitation?”