Firey debate over who can claim the Bay.

8 10 2009

110827640_decd8fa19cOwnership of Tasmania’s Bay of Fires has been at the centre of hot debate. Tasmania’s State Government is endeavouring to declare the area as National Park. The local Australian Aboriginal population fears this could remove any claim they ever had on the land.

Melissa Castan, a Monash University lecturer and expert in Indigenous legal issues, has stated that the “state Government has a lot of power…land rights are granted by parliament” and that they can essentially “just take [the land] away”. She went on to explain the Aborigines’ apprehension, “when you make [land] a National Park you exclude all previous property owners”.

Castan suggested that the war over land is similar to land right issues in Queensland. Acknowledging that the fight has been hard for the Aboriginal people in Queensland, Castan has suggested that it may be just as hard in Tasmania.

The Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania (TICT) has expressed their concerns about the fate of The Bay of Fires. The TICT has said they would be interested in what the Aboriginal peoples propose will happen with the land, if they are to gain rights to it. Daniel Hanna, the Chief Executive of the TICT, has stated that their main concern is they “don’t want anything to block flow of people [into the area]”.3687910716_e7626f6ebd

When asked about the TICT’s response to the proposal to turn the land into a National Park, Hanna stated that “proposal came out of left field”. He said that no consultation had taken place between the tourism industry and the Government, as far as he could tell. He went on to say that if the land is to be converted into a National Park, “it [could] impede the capacity for future tourism, [and that Tasmania already has a] pretty heavy stock of land in National estate…[and there is] insufficient funds to upkeep them.”

Hanna is certain that there will be visitor access to the area if it were to become a National Park. This may be for a fee. He has stated that: “usually [there are] park fees park fees but [the TICT] is not against it if it park fees go directly back into the management of that park.”

The Bay of Fires has been named Lonely Planet’s hottest travel destination for 2009, with a rise in the number of tourists along Tasmania’s North East coast. The near by town of St Helens has seen a jump from 120 000 tourists to 170 000 in the last twelve months.

It is this number of tourists that has raised 3132620262_0f2e06bd0bconcern about maintaining the current state of the Bay of Fires. Both the Aboriginal people and State Government agree that the land needs to be protected, but are yet to agree on how this should be done. The debate is still raging, without resolution.

When asked if there were any other little known destinations in Tasmania that would be worth investigation, Hanna suggested Cradle Mountain, the Great Southern Forests and Port Arthur among others.

Just below is a map collaborating all the places mentioned in the above story, including some suggested travel destinations.
  

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