COOLOOLA GREAT WALK
5 May 2022
The Cooloola Great Walk running from Noosa to Rainbow Beach was built in 2010 by QPWS for self-guided walkers. Ever since there has been mounting pressure for a commercially supported Cooloola Great Walk that could include expert guides and ‘glamping’ style accommodation.
It became apparent three years ago that the government intended to proceed with some form of commercial Cooloola Great Walk. The NPA Committee decided it should seek to influence the outcome of that process with the primary aim of minimising negative environmental impacts on the National Park.
To be clear, from the outset, NPA expressed its opposition to commercial accommodation on the Cooloola Great Walk. But after the Queensland Government’s decision to proceed, NPA has determined that it should continue working for the best possible environmental consequences. We have thus advised the Minister that:
- access to the walk must be available to anyone (as it is now) and not become exclusive to the commercial operator’s clients
- any accommodation should be for customers traversing the Cooloola Great Walk and must not become a string of de-facto ‘resorts’ for those doing short walks or sightseeing
- any accommodation must be kept outside of Lake Poona’s catchment
- facilities in the area of Double Island Point and Lake Poona should be restricted to six huts each (reduced from proposed 12), and therefore consistent with the proposed six huts at the three other sites further south.
The final details of a commercially supported Cooloola Great Walk remain under discussion by the State, Kabi Kabi and the proponent. NPA is not part of that decision-making process.
It has been suggested that the proposed deal with CABN will establish a problematic precedent for commercial use of the park, but in fact, private businesses have been operating inside Coooloola NP for many decades. Under a lease arrangement, commercially operated accommodation began in Cooloola National Park’s Elanda Point in 1985. That development now includes a restaurant and brewery. Furthermore, commercial tour operators have long been accessing the park by utilising the Noosa River, again under State approval.
Of course, commercially guided walks with catered accommodation are well established in National Parks in all Australian States and the Northern Territory, from Freycinet and Cradle Mountain in Tasmania to the recent Queensland Government approved glamping walk in the World Heritage listed Main Range National Park. None of this is an argument for the Cooloola Great Walk to be commercialised, however it does demonstrate that it would be far from unique.
NPA played a decisive role in the creation of the Cooloola section of The Great Sandy National Park, whilst also fighting off logging, mining and development interests as far back as the 1960s. Over 6 decades, Noosa Parks Association has achieved huge conservation gains through constructive engagement with every State Government as well as other relevant stakeholders, including Traditional Owners of the land.
Noosa Parks Association recognises that there are a wide range of reasonable views regarding the broad issue of commercial activity in national parks. From the organisation’s perspective, such activities should only occur where there are tangible environmental benefits. These could include: strategic management of access and activities, thus reducing damage and overuse; generation of funds that can be used for environmental purposes and park management; and improved education about ecological sensitivities of the area. NPA also believes that First Nation involvement in any such commercial operations can bring substantial benefits.
NPA is proud of its 60-year record of advocating for and achieving National Park protection of the Noosa-Cooloola environment, and we will continue to advocate at all levels. NPA does not, and has never, professed to speak on behalf of the Noosa community. NPA acts on behalf of its members.
We trust that our lobbying with regards to the Great Cooloola Walk proposal will improve possible outcomes. Importantly, NPA looks forward to increased participation by Kabi Kabi Traditional Owners in the management and custodianship of the park as well as greater employment opportunities for their people.