Foley Plan lacks tourism vision

Media release from the North Coast Forests Taskforce
Aspiring NSW Labour leader Mr Luke Foley's plan to turn North Coast productive forests into wilderness contradicts his desire to grow the regional economy.

A most important component of North Coast Tourism is nature-based recreation, be it passive or active, in our forests and green public spaces. The importance of this aspect of tourism cannot be understated and is reflected in the goals of local councils and regional tourism Destination Management Plans. These Plans attract state government funding in their delivery, with NSW State Forests playing no small part in this through provision of free-to-use visitor areas and unique forest experiences.

With the well-reported statistics about growing levels of urbanisation and the health impacts of modern living, the desire to experience the great outdoors through nature-based leisure and recreation activities will assuredly continue.

Our National Parks were created to protect high conservation value and iconic landscape areas. This objective was widely supported by the timber industry at the time. However, the last thirty years has seen a steady reclassification of many of the North Coast's most productive forests, even those with little conservation value, into National Parks. Much of the land formerly available for outdoor pursuits such as four wheel driving, trail and mountain biking and horse–riding, together with Australia's most productive, harvestable forest, is now closed to these types of activities.

It is the North Coast Forest Taskforce’s belief that Luke Foley's proposal will multiply these effects considerably and indeed slow or halt any growth in regional tourism and the visitor economy.

NSW State Forests are multi-use, designed to allow for a wide variety and range of recreational activities, to complement the far more restricted uses allowable in National Parks. There are many free-to-use visitor sites in NSW State Forests, attracting significant visitation and growing every year. Events such as the World Rally Championship in the State Forests of Coffs Harbour and other car, trail and mountain bike events receive international recognition and attract new tourists to regional areas, who then spend money on food, fuel, accommodation and other activities. They grow our regional economy.

The ability to pursue your preferred outdoor recreational activity in a native Australian forest landscape is the real star in attracting new visitors and tourists to our North Coast regional areas. NSW State Forests are well-managed, with well-maintained access roads and plentiful tourist and camping sites. NSW State Forests are committed to growing regional visitor economies, evidenced through the creation of new and exciting visitor destinations. Recognition via a prestigious tourism awards for destinations such as the Treetop Adventure Park, Old Bottlebutt, the ecotourism jewel Strickland State Forest and the outstanding Sealy Lookout in the Orara East State Forest – is testimony to the importance of NSW State Forests to tourism and regional visitor economy growth.

On the NSW North Coast, there is an enviable potential for growth in nature-based tourism and the North Coast visitor economy, with a wide variety of landscapes and forested environment right on our doorstep. Lets not constrain this opportunity through unmanaged landscapes, locked gates, access restrictions and senseless pre-election proposals by poorly briefed politicians.