In the Tasmanian Conservationist No.328, March 2013, we reported on concerns that parts of the Three Capes Track were being constructed and opened to the public without installation of the safety rails which were required by the Parks and Wildlife Service.
Recently we had reports from members of the public regarding excessive clearing of vegetation during track construction. On 21 June TCT Board Member Robyn McNicol, Nick Sawyer from the Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA) and I went to investigate.
Photographs show clearing of vegetation down to bare earth, 4m wide and extending as far as we could see (more than 50m). This appears to be excessive and inconsistent with the Three Capes Track Development Proposal and Environmental Management Plan, section 220.127.116.11, which states:
Vegetation clearance beyond the final track footprint will be limited to the minimum required to safely and efficiently construct the track and to ensure that the track meets the required standard. It is expected that the impacts on vegetation and soil within the 4m-wide buffer zone, outside of the final track footprint, will be minor as track construction activities will largely be limited to the final track footprint over the majority of its length.
The management plan also states that the final gravel track is to be up to a maximum of 1.2m wide unless justified, for example where groups might stand to look at a view, or at track intersections.
The instance mentioned is the worst we witnessed but not the only example of excessive clearing of vegetation. On many other complete and nearly completed sections of the Three Capes Track, clearing width was inconsistent. In many places the clearing exceeded 2m for no apparent reason, but in some similar places it was no wider than the finished track.
The TNPA has written to the Parks and Wildlife Service seeking responses to these concerns. We expect complaints regarding excessive clearing of vegetation in a national park to be treated very seriously by the PWS. In particular, we need to know whether the management plan prescriptions have been contravened and if this constitutes an offence.
These complaints must be investigated by the PWS and the results made public. After all, the public owns the land and is paying for the track construction through the $25 million funding from state and federal governments.
In this era of booming tourist numbers and government pushing to ‘unlock national parks’ to make Tasmania the ‘nature tourism capital of the world’, we need to be careful not to allow bad environmental practicesto damage the natural values of reserves and the reputation of the tourism industry. Failure to properly address concerns will hurt the industry even more.