The great Roman poet Virgil died in the year 19 BC. He’s famous for warning people about the Trojan horse. “Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts,” he said.
Move forward more than two thousand years, and now we are warned to beware of politicians bearing gifts.
We all know that, if they give you $10 in one hand, they will take $50 from the other hand. Unfortunately, they tend to give to some but take from others.
Egged on by vociferous green groups, the promise of ecotourism riches is the latest version of the Trojan horse. Namely, the lure of an economic revival from floods of visitors seeking out natural wonders in your neck of the woods.
Ecotourism seems to be the panacea for governments seeking to close or prohibit something. Shut the forestry industry, prevent the construction of a pulp mill, kick out the salmon farmers — all in the name of ecotourism.
When all the dust settles, though, it is not uncommon to find that very few jobs have been created; and the supposed new industry wouldn’t generate enough economic activity to keep the local corner store open.
Lots of people are not directly affected by these decisions and they can’t see what the fuss is all about. But if your job relies on those activities, then it can be devastating. Just anyone whose job five years ago depended on the forestry industry.
Very few places fulfil the ecotourism promise. Even some of our most famous and popular natural attractions require artificial visitor centres and displays to make sure the experience is top notch.
More scrutiny needs to be placed on the smokescreen that is ecotourism. It is a warm and fuzzy concept used to try to convince urban dwellers that they are protecting nature. In fact, much of the time, they are shutting industries, destroying jobs and harming local economies that have no hope to survive on a carload of backpacking tourists who may stop for a tank of petrol and a cup of coffee.
The latest Trojan horse being dragged into the town square is the turning the so-called Tarkine into a new national park. As beautiful as parts of the area are, is putting up a new name and stopping logging and mining that has been going on for generations in places the vast majority of people will never venture into really going to produce a tourism bonanza? I mean, the beautiful bits are already there, so what is stopping the flood of tourists now?
Tasmanians are hugely successful NIMBYists. More than half the state (54 per cent to be precise) is now locked into public parks, reserves and wilderness areas. There’s probably another 10 – 12 per cent in private conservation reserves. That doesn’t leave much space for economic activity.
Whilst there has been an increase in tourism numbers, surveys of visitors show these are mainly people coming for the food, the scenery and, increasingly, the golf. These visitors have not created a deluge of tourism-related jobs – and, in fact, in some regional areas unemployment remains higher than national averages.
At the same time, the urban green NIMBY class opposes any new economic development (like the proposed ecotourism resort on the east coast, or the Mt Wellington cable car) and continues to try to shut down some of the remaining industries (like salmon and the remaining private sector forestry industry). It’s not just Tasmanians, either – many of the people that push these lines are fly-in-fly-out professional activists.
Our apparent unwillingness to earn our keep has led to the accusations of Tasmania being a mendicant state. If the rest of Australia wants economic activity in Tasmania to be shut down to placate urban green groups, someone has to pay – and it should rightly be them too.
All the while, huge tracts of our state are unmanaged – no fire prevention, no weed control, no pest management, no fences. All the experts tell us that it will inevitably result in widespread natural disaster. The intensity of wildfires across the world over recent years tell us this is true.
So here we are facing increased risks from natural disasters and also the human disasters that follow from failed economic readjustments.
And we can’t say we haven’t been warned.