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The Forum > Article Comments > Protecting the Blue Pool > Comments

Protecting the Blue Pool : Comments

By Neil Hewett, published 24/6/2005

Neil Hewett argues there needs to be a concerted effort by authorities to protect the Blue Pool environs in the Daintree National Park.

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The 'Blue Pool' conundrum seems like a classic 'tragedy of the commons' related issue. Where no body tangibly owns the resource, no one is willing to enforce its maintenance.

Sadly, it is a model which is being increasingly applied in the conservation of Australia environmental and heritage values. Governments are converting or classifying areas as under their tenurship but fail to supply the financial and administrative resources to efficiently manage the resource.

Clearly the challenges are balancing the importance of natural elements with the demand for public access.

If you wanted to protect the 'blue pool' you could attempt to completly ban access. This is not realistic as shown by the State and Federal governments inability to enforce conservation requirments. Even if this could be acheived, illegal access would be costly and difficult to prevent.

On the other hand you could allow unrestricted public access until the resource is completly degraded and public demand will inevitably fall. The area could then regenerate under a modified and altered environmental condition.

Or one could attempt to reconcile both issues. It is difficult but not impossible to integrate effective conservation with public access. The best way it to define clear rights over the area, place them within an effective managment framework and allow incentives to be develop and protect the resource.

A managment framework could be devised to include conservationists, indigenous stakeholders, tour operators etc and government. Managment rights could be conferred and a delegated authority could be created to allow sound administration.

Apply a user pays system with small fees for access. Money could then be channeled into developing the sight and protecting existing values. A fee will also restrict some access and only those people with interests in the environmental and cultural values would be attracted to the area.

This is not 'profit motivated' conservation but realistic to balance conflicting interests. It does challenge the accepted notion of 'conservation' but is a practical necessity. By recognising the need to include all interests, applying a standard formula and then administering 'natural environments' conservation and balance can be created.
Posted by Marlo, Friday, 24 June 2005 11:56:57 AM
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Hi Marlo,

Thanks for your considered reply.

Ownership of the Blue Pool is well established; from the water’s edge northward and overall, in terms of its cultural heritage and intellectual property.

Its desecration and environmental degradation is a direct result of government exploitation on the one hand and bureaucratic demarcation on the other. Sadly or not, it cannot be described as a model of conservation. The challenges require balancing the importance of cultural heritage values with natural elements and also the demand for public access.

Completely banning access is quite achievable through application of a regulatory notice under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act, 1992. Illegal access would attract a $9,000 fine and would be easily policed, if only the statutory will existed.

A demand for rehabilitation, once the area has degraded to the extent that such a public outcry is elicited, would take eight-hundred years, according to the resilience of the Daintree rainforest. In the meantime, the Southern Cassowary would have become extinct along with the thirty-seven species of plant that rely solely upon its survival for germination and distribution and whatever fauna are dependent upon those plant species.

Reconciliation is the very issue. How do we reconcile popular public access with the singularly most sacred site to its indigenous custodians? Your suggestion of defining clear rights over the area is fraught with difficulty. Currently, there is a clear right for the public at large to destroy the outstanding natural and cultural heritage values of the area, through the sheer weight of numbers. Simultaneously, there is no right for indigenous custodians or freehold land managers to exclude trespass in an area that attracts half-a-million visitors per year under substantive government subsidy.

I liked your idea of a user pays system with small fees for access, however, the government providing unrestricted and unregulated access is already charging for entry at the Daintree River ferry and purportedly for conservation purposes. It accrues around a million dollars per year, in no small part because of its exploitation of the Blue Pool.
Posted by Neil Hewett, Friday, 24 June 2005 8:34:51 PM
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