The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act references four principles that underpin the purpose of national parks.
The conservation of nature; the conservation of objects, places or features and landscapes of cultural value; fostering public appreciation, understanding and enjoyment; and the management of ecologically sustainable places for public recreation.
Following an enormous budget deficit for the project being revealed under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, concerns are continuing to emerge regarding the proposed development of accommodation complexes within Ben Boyd National Park, said to be going against these very principles.
Member for Bega Michael Holland, who secured the traditionally safe Liberal seat for Labor for the first time in its history last month, said he had concerns about the impact of the Light to Light proposal on Ben Boyd National Park.
Dr Holland said the NSW government had "removed hundreds of millions of dollars" from national parks over the last 10 years and had "cut experienced staff and forced them to generate their own income".
"These actions have led to increasing attempts at commercialisation within national parks, which undermines their primary purpose, conservation," Dr Holland said.
"National parks are one of our most precious public assets. I have had NPWS workers approach me in tears of despair concerning their and the national parks' future."
Dr Holland said he planned to speak with National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and stakeholders, and would "call for and pursue a review of the current proposal, including any environmental impact studies, and genuine consultation with the community".
A spokesperson from NPWS said at every stage of community consultation, "NPWS has made changes to the project based on feedback from the public and staff".
"Consultation on the draft Review of Environmental Factors is complete. All environmental and cultural heritage assessments for the entire multi-day walk are with planning authorities for consideration and determination," the spokesperson said.
President of Merimbula Eden Liberals Scott Kennedy said he felt national parks should be open for public use to the greatest extent possible, and it was important the local community was fully engaged on the matter.
Mr Kennedy said locations on the Light to Light Walk were an important attraction for visitors to Eden and the region, as well as local users.
"Locations such as Bittangabee Bay, Saltwater Creek and Pulpit Rock are drawcards for tourists, who in turn are critical for many small business and the local economy," Mr Kennedy said.
"That section of the park is used by divers, surfers, fishers, bushwalkers, boating and camping and any restriction of access for these users is a concern."
According to Mr Kennedy, the trails and infrastructure in national parks and forests should be properly maintained to enable access, with reasonable access fees in place.
"In fact rather than restricting access, there should be greater public access to local bush including reopening to more than just walkers to the Nadgee State Forest south of the Wonboyn River," he said.
"The proposal for development and access to the national park for glamping at a premium price point should not be discounted altogether, but subject to proper scrutiny," Mr Kennedy said.
The NPWS spokesperson said the project would provide local jobs and boost local tourism operators, transport, off-park accommodation and hospitality services.
"It will also allow a wider range of visitors to do the walk, increasing public appreciation of national parks and their conservation values," the NPWS spokesperson said.
Mark Norek is the managing director of Life's an Adventure, a multi-award winning national tourism company that focuses chiefly on "pack-free walking experiences", aimed at clients seeking upmarket accommodation and fine dining as part of their wilderness experience.
Life's an Adventure already offer tours at the luxury end of the scale on the Light to Light Walk, with the historic Seahorse Inn at Boydtown used for accommodation and meals.
"We have a sustainable walk which supports existing local businesses. My clients are largely in a 40-60 age range, who don't want to camp or stay in a hut, but want good service and great food," Mr Norek said.
"They enjoy outstanding boutique accommodation and beautiful meals and are taxied to and from the track each day."
Mr Norek said while everybody had a right to walk in a national park, "it would be a great shame if NPWS don't think through the different users fully".
"I feel for the people who camp and the fishers - they shouldn't be treated like second class citizens, parks have to be for everybody," Mr Norek said.
"I'm very passionate about this, parks can't just be a money making machine for the rich and famous."
While he agreed in principle the plan could be good for tourism, Mr Norek said he worried about "overcommercialisation".
"It's great to get more people out there, but if this development becomes bigger than Ben Hur, it would be bloody ridiculous," he said.
"I was initially led to believe the proposal was for a little hiker's hut. Why not use the existing resources and tourism providers already there?
"If they do outsource to an operator or try to get a commercial advantage and are the only ones allowed in the park, that's really wrong," Mr Norek said.
Life's An Adventure utilises the services of both local tourism operators Sapphire Coast Guiding Company and Light to Light Transfers in its tours, which Mr Norek saw as a win-win.
"I prefer using locals, they benefit and they know the track really well - it's the best way to get to know the area" he said.
"It might cost me a bit more, but I am getting a quality product from passionate locals and it makes sense to use the resources already there.
"If they bring in an operator and push other people out, I will be really upset. I don't believe commercial operators should be in a national park," Mr Norek said.
The NPWS spokesperson said construction would only commence when all approvals for the project had been finalised.
"NPWS will continue to provide information to the community about the project through the Stakeholder Reference Group."
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