Noosa’s leading conservation group says NO to commercial Cooloola Great walk 

With this statement by Noosa Parks Association’s president Darlene Gower, NPA this week called for a decisive end to further talk of a commercial walk and private overnight huts in the Cooloola National Park.

The local member for Noosa, Sandy Bolton MP, has been assured that the outcome of the Cooloola Great Walk will be in line with community expectations, and that government will work with the traditional owners, the Kabi Kabi people, and the local community. However, to date nothing has been offered.

In the lead up to the coming state election in October, Noosa Parks Association is calling on both Queensland’s Labor Party and Liberal National Party to withdraw support for a commercial Cooloola Great Walk. It is time for both sides of politics to face up to the fact that a Cooloola Great Walk with overnight accommodation owned and run by a private developer has failed to get past square one.   

Over the past 5 years the selected proponent has been unable to produce a detailed proposal for a commercial Cooloola Great Walk that is financially feasible—one that does not require both direct and indirect financial subsidy from the state government, and hence taxpayers.

It is time for both of Queensland’s major parties to rule out both direct and indirect subsidies for this project. It is time that both sides of politics listened to the clear message from the Noosa/Cooloola community and said ‘No’ to a Cooloola Great Walk with overnight accommodation that is privately owned and run.

Darlene Gower, NPA President

Why NPA says it’s time to shut the door on a commercial Cooloola walk.

Explained by Michael Gloster. NPA Vice President.

In May 2019, the state government proposed a commercial Cooloola Great Walk in Cooloola National Park, citing tangible benefits to Kabi Kabi peoples, the traditional owners of the National Park, as one of the justifications for it.

Rather than immediately rejecting the proposal outright, Noosa Parks Association instead sought in-depth and ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders, particularly Kabi Kabi peoples, to understand their values and aspirations more fully, and so they could better understand ours.

This listen-learn-low key advocacy approach outraged those who believed it was a betrayal of all NPA had stood for, and how it had operated, for the past 60 years. 

Treading  through this minefield was never going to be easy because few people outside NPA understood how over the past 30 years it has had to rethink its position on national park management.

For the first 30 years of its existence, NPA saw its role through a simple, clear lens – perpetual protection of nature, and enabling the recreational enjoyment of it providing nature was not disturbed. 

But 1992 was a watershed year in the way NPA understood history and land.

The High Court of Australia’s 1992 Mabo judgement and following Wik judgement, and the evolution of native title law, challenged NPA’s thirty year held beliefs to the core. 

As a national park builder, and as an advocate for responsible national park management by government, NPA came to realise in the decades ahead Kabi Kabi peoples and the state would rightfully come to share some form of ownership and management of all national parks within the Noosa Cooloola region. 

When in 2019 the Queensland Government announced it was proceeding with a Cooloola Great Walk with Kabi Kabi peoples as key beneficiaries, NPA realised it needed to immediately seek genuine dialogue and learning with Kabi Kabi peoples, the government and its agencies, and with CABN (the potential operators), before independently deciding its own position on whether or not the proposal should proceed or be abandoned.

This informal and ad hoc process has been ongoing since 2019. Each party now more fully understands and respects the positions of the others. Mutual respect continues regardless. 

Over the past six months Noosa Parks Association has been foreshadowing to each party that NPA would be advising the government that the commercial Cooloola Great Walk should be abandoned.  

Perhaps ironically, for NPA the ‘proposal breakers’ that political decision makers are most likely to listen to are not nuanced cultural heritage values (despite these being incredibly important to Kabi Kabi peoples and NPA), but the brutal reality that skyrocketing construction and ongoing operating costs of a commercial Cooloola Great Walk will require ongoing taxpayer subsidy and pilfering of already scant national park maintenance funds.

And NPA clearly understands there is almost universal Noosa-Cooloola community opposition to any commercial Cooloola Great Walk.

This month the NPA Management Committee voted to call on both Queensland’s Labor Party and Liberal National Party to withdraw support for a commercial Cooloola Great Walk based on lack of financial feasibility and almost total absence of Noosa-Cooloola community support.


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