One of Neil Hewett’s first contributions to this blog was a picture of a buttressed tree trunk. He has since made valuable contributions to discussion on a range of topics from whaling to the practicalities of powering a home in remote Far North Queensland.
Neil’s passion is ecotourism and he gives us some insights into Cooper Creek Wilderness in the following contribution – the first under my suggestion (see comment following this post) that we find out more about some of the contributors to this blog.
When Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area was inscribed on the 9th December 1988, Senator Graham Richardson imposed Australia’s international management obligations onto the title-holders of almost two-hundred parcels of freehold and leasehold land.
I was working as an outdoor educator in the north Queensland timber community of Ravenshoe at the time Richardson was being pelted with rocks by infuriated members of this disenfranchised community. I remember being unimpressed with the Minister’s recommendation that those who made the change to rainforest-based tourism would reap economic benefits beyond timber and as it has turned out, the promise of a prosperous Ravenshoe tourism economy remains unfulfilled. I have read more recently, perhaps even on Jennifer’s blog, that those images on prime-time TV of angry timber-workers throwing rocks was the political pay-dirt that won the support of the multitudes.
I spent the following seven years working as an outdoor educator in remote aboriginal homelands before returning to the Daintree rainforest, to become a co-founding director of Cooper Creek Wilderness; a private-sector World Heritage land manager.
The greatest challenge for Cooper Creek Wilderness is sustaining a conservation economy against the complete subsidisation of the 98% majority publicly-owned portion of the WHA. Government disregarding conservation management as a business activity relieves it of any obligation to competitive neutrality. Tourism is subsidised recurrently to the tune of millions of dollars to patronise publicly-owned rather than privately-owned portions of WHA.
This leaves us in an interesting position to observe directly the impacts of government on conservation management and particularly off-reserve. About 70% of Australia’s landscape is held under private interests, including indigenous landholders. This vast majority of Australia outside its system of protected area estate and yet it contains outstanding universal values in terms of biological diversity and ecological integrity.
Australia’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development encourages protection of these values and challenges for nature conservation, both inside and outside protected areas.
Off-reserve conservation requires the cooperation of landholders. Financial incentives through ecotourism have enormous potential to renumerate the care and presentation of natural and cultural assets by the most rightful and intimately knowledgeable beneficiaries.
Cooper Creek Wilderness has pursued such an objective since its inception. Its model of off-reserve conservation through ecotourism regulates access, enabling visitors to enjoy wilderness values under the informative supervision of an inhabitant. This perspective value-adds to the destination’s nature-based appeal. Visitors are amazed by the natural values but are also very interested in the interaction between human inhabitants and their natural environment and how they go about stewardship.
“User-pays” fully-finances the conservation management of the land without any cost to the taxpayer. The visitor is an active and willing participant in the achievement of Australia’s international obligations and as a consequence, the environment is protected for the livelihoods it provides its stewards, to perpetuity.
This post will be filed under a new category titled “people”.
As a reader and/or commentator at this blog you may like to tell us something about yourself? Contributions encouraged and you may use a ‘nom de plume’ …please email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, I’m putting some notes together on ‘Boxer’ – the character from Orwell’s classic Animal Farm and also the Boxer who contributes to this blog site. Could someone who can draw possibly send me a caricature of ‘Boxer’ – something kind please?