Regarding Tony Palliser's comments, the permit situation apparently in
operation at Ashmore Reef is unfortunately not unique in Australia. The
dealings I have had with ANCA are in connection with permits for Kakadu and
Uluru National Parks, and I must admit that they seem to have a very
acceptable permit system, which is efficiently administered.
However, there are other examples I could detail of areas under the control
of other authorities that can be visited with virtually no restrictions or
charges by members of the public, school groups, fishermen etc., but where
commercial operators have to obtain expensive permits, often with limiting
restrictions attached - or are even banned from using the area altogether.
For example, Emu Tours cannot visit Comerong Island, Barren Grounds or Cecil
Hoskins Nature Reserves - all prime birding areas - because management plans
are currently being formulated by NPWS of NSW. These areas are open to the
general public for no charge, and with few restrictions. And in those areas
of NSW where permits can be obtained, the cost is at least $390/year for
each NPWS region, with a requirement for $10 million public liability
insurance - recently (and expensively) increased from $5 million without
consultation with tour operators.
We also find continuing problems with correspondence being ignored or
answered very tardily. One authority even failed to send us a permit
application form because they had run out of 'with compliments' slips!
It should be mentioned, however, that the authorities in Queensland and
Victoria have recently introduced systems - in consultation with commercial
operators - which are generally acceptable to the industry. So the situation
is patchy, and I believe there is a growing realisation that a cooperative
approach, rather than one which is arbitrarily imposed, is in everyone's
best interests - and that most ecotour-type operators actually have
something positive to offer to wildlife managers and conservation generally.
It is still true, however, that operators sometimes feel that we are
offering an educative and tightly-controlled experience to our clients, but
that we are being penalised because we have no choice but to comply if we
are to stay in business.
PO Box 4
Jamberoo, NSW 2533, Australia
phone +61 42 360542
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