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Access issues vital

COMMUNITY access is a major factor in the push to exclude 2,000,000 hectares from the total 91 million hectares of pastoral land in Western Australia.

In the time since the Lands Act of 1933 was implemented the resources sector, conservation and indigenous interests and the tourism industry have all experienced significant growth.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said since pastoral leases were carved out more than 50 years ago, competing demands on the land have required a reorganisation of land allocation.

“We have a unique opportunity to make substantial improvements to the pastoral industry and the future of the rangelands, before all the current leases expire in 2015,” she said.

The State Government has identified the Ningaloo coast and a number of other key ecotourism sites as areas in need of both conservation protection and of significant tourism potential.

David Etherton, who is WA Tourism Commission director of industry development and a member of the Access to Pastoral Lands-Pastoral Industry Working Group, said the key reason behind the exclusion of the key tourism sites was to provide certainty of access and visitation.

He said key sites in the Kimberley and the Mid-West had been locked off from visitors due to a decision made by local communities or individual pastoralists.

“The last thing we want is for a well acknowledged tourism site to be locked by a pastoralist lease,” Mr Etherton said.

As a tourist destination, he said, WA had world class assets and the opening up of these sites in 2015 would bolster the State’s tourism marketing catch cry of ‘be touched by nature’.

According to Mr Etherton what needs to be determined is how the opening up of these sites to greater community access will fit into a framework that meets both community and visitor expectations.

The public liability risk is one of the key issues pastoralists have with tourists entering their stations.

Mr Etherton said the working group was aiming to resolve this issue and had recommended to the Government that the Crown bear all public liability risk. Tourists who enter a pastoral lease would be made aware that they were doing so at their own risk.

 

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