NATIONAL PARKS - Camping Permit System

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Environment on the subject of national parks.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have been contacted by a constituent who is concerned that the camping part of the permit system has been suddenly changed without much advice from the department. This constituent is concerned that this is going to be a new way of the department revenue raising, particularly for those people who regularly like to use the camping facilities, who can no longer purchase their camping pass as part of their (in his case) annual parking pass, but they are also no longer available as a package with other passes, such as a hiker/cyclist pass or the holiday park pass. As reported in the Port Lincoln Times:

The department's Parks and Partnerships program manager Chris Thomas said the changes were part of the state government's aim to make South Australia a ' world - leader in nature-based tourism '.

He goes on to say:

As part of this, we are looking at ways of increasing the number of people visiting parks , including reviewing and possibly even abolishing park entry fees where possible.

To which my constituent expresses some scepticism. My questions to the minister are:

1.What individuals and groups did the department consult with prior to this change?

2.What is the anticipated impact of revenue as a result of changes to the camping system?

3.What exactly was Mr Thomas referring to when he was talking about 'abolishing park entry fees'? Can the minister outline those for us?

4.Does the government intend announcing and defending this prior to the very busy Christmas holiday period?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:22 ): I thank the honourable member for her very important questions. The South Australian government is seeking to bring more people into the state's national parks and reserves, as the Hon. Michelle Lensink confirmed, and this is in line with South Australia's nature-based tourism strategy. The government's park investments, including the $10.4 million investment made in metropolitan parks, have resulted in new walking trails, cycle tracks, picnic areas, car parks, playgrounds and other visitor facilities. In 2015, approximately 70 per cent of all South Australians indicated that they had visited a national park, I understand, which is up from 52 per cent in 2014.

Ultimately, access to parks should be made as simple as possible, and action 3.4 of the action plan is a commitment to review park entry fees. This change will streamline the current parks pass offering. An easier payment option has also been introduced through an online booking system, which is being rolled out across the state to allow people to book park entries, camp sites, tours and heritage accommodation in advance. Parks where online booking is already available are receiving increased visitation, including more family groups, I am advised.

Park fees collected go back into maintaining quality visitor facilities and services. I have mentioned in this place before that we have moved to an online booking system for camping bookings. This allows people to book their camping adventure from the comfort of their own home on their own private device, with the certainty that their favourite camping spot will be reserved and available when they arrive. I understand that it has met with a great deal of support and that in fact more camp sites are booked out than ever before, with the camper knowing that they can actually get the camp site that they prefer.

Whilst we are going through a period of modernisation and using new technology to try to drive an increased visitor experience, I understand some people have fears about change. I am not one of them, but I am sure the Hon. Michelle Lensink, once she experiences these things for herself, will appreciate the benefits that can be brought into the system, the benefits to visitation and the benefits for local communities as well. I think that is to be wholly commended and supported.


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:24 ): I have a supplementary question. Is the minister going to answer any of my substantive questions about impact on revenue, potential abolition of any parks passes, whether the government was going to tell anyone and whether they actually asked anyone beforehand?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:24 ): I try to give people the benefit of the doubt in this place when they come in here with, shall I say—

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: Rubbish.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Less informed rubbish, the Hon. David Ridgway said, but I would never say that about his honourable colleague. I understand there is a little deal of tension between the Hon. David Ridgway and the Hon. Michelle Lensink in terms of who might be the leader at one stage, but I would not go so far as the Hon. David Ridgway—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —in accusing the Hon. Michelle Lensink of asking rubbish in this place. She has usually got a very important question. Unfortunately today, her question does not fall into that category.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! And I would appreciate no verbal or gestures across the chamber.