The Age newspaper has recently reported that Visit Victoria’s new boss is keen to see some of Victoria’s National Parks opened up for further private investment, in the name of increasing visitor numbers (you can see story here). Peter Bingeman is reported as saying during an interview
“There’s no doubt that what we term ‘big nature’ is a core opportunity for us to drive visitation – not just Melburnians, but also international… We’ve got some amazing national parks and if we could offer some levels of accommodation that may entice other people to go, it just means more people will enjoy it”.
So Victoria’s iconic national parks are now the repository of ‘big nature’? Whilst hopefully ‘big nature’ isn’t to be equated with the likes of Coffs Harbour’s Big Banana and Goulburn’s Big Merino, this drive for visitation and the requisite ‘development’ for visitors yet again highlights some of the pressures national parks (and more generally public lands) are facing. In the context of national parks, development for recreation runs the real risk of subverting the parks system, and an individual park’s role, in re-creation – a place where visitors are able to reconnect with the natural world in a way that’s not mediated by commercial transactions and commercial ‘development’.
Yet again, we may see pressures for these kinds of development, and the subsequent response by those who have a different view of parks (as public lands, as conservers of biodiversity and cultural landscapes, as places for re-creation for example). It is hoped that Government commercial short-sightedness doesn’t mean communities and users who support re-creation have to once again try to fight for what should be a right of global humanity – a parks system where visitors are able to re-engage with the rest of the natural world in a way that is free of commercial exploitation.