I was disturbed to hear on ABC radio this morning, as reported by the Alice Springs News Online last Saturday, a story about Territory Parks and Wildlife demanding that hikers on the Larapinta Trail cease lighting camp fires and carry gas cookers.
My immediate thoughts: here we go again, the same arrogant uncaring ownership taking attitudes that we have seen institutionalised at the Rock where visitors are considered the bad guys by an arrogant elite National Parks who do their best to lock out and constrain visitors, treating them as intruders in their own land with devastating consequences for the Territory’s tourist Industry.
If anyone were looking for a reason for the downturn in Territory tourism over the past couple of decades they need look no further than that attitude at the Rock! It appears Territory Parks have taken on the same disregard for customer satisfaction. The spectacular Larapinta Trail is just starting to gain recognition as one of Australia’s great walking adventures, beginning to attract numbers of tourists on its own merits.
One of the highlights of walking the trail in the winter months have been the nights spent ’round the camp fire yet with complete disregard for that visitor expectation, the sense of adventure, the warmth and comfort our visitors derive from the experience, Territory Parks have removed without a second thought, the right of visitors to enjoy that pleasure, in doing so instantly devaluing the marketed product.
Their argument, there are too many campfires in too many places using too much fire wood! Would this be I wonder the same firewood that Territory Parks destroy in the hundreds of tonnes every single year as they vandalise our parks with so called firestick farming?
Uncaring and insensitive bureaucracy must be brought screaming and kicking if necessary to the realisation of a community expectation that while managing visitor focused “community owned” not “bureaucracy owned” tourism assets such as the Larapinta Trail and surrounding parks. The community demands a very high level of customer service be maintained. Happy visitors equals a healthy tourist Industry, which in one way or another is of benefit to us all.
While of course there are dangers in allowing hikers to light fires wherever they like, there is absolutely no reason at all that we can’t set aside camping places at set intervals along the track and provide those places with both open fire places and the firewood. It can be sourced from the enormous park resources using wood that is normally allowed to go up in smoke anyway!
The provision of these fire places should be seen for what it is, good and essential customer service making our visitors feel wanted and appreciated, broadening or at least maintaining the product!
The Minister for Tourism Matt Conlan should have this decision by parks overturned immediately allow present practices to apply until such time as campsite and fireplaces can be installed. We have to build our product up, constantly adding value! We cannot allow it to degenerate into the sterile almost Hollywood anti visitor experience that the Rock has become!