Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association chair Stuart Hicks says the new funding to help out the Cape to Cape Track is hopefully just the start of the State Government opening its coffers on behalf of the region’s environment. The MRBTA’s new Capes Foundation was a key player in harnessing the connection between tourism and its capacity to fund protection of the natural environment, recognised by tourism chiefs as a key driver for the regional industry. “Our calls to upgrade the Cape to Cape Track form part of broader advocacy we are undertaking with key regional partners to highlight the challenges faced by the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, which remains under immense pressure from intense and growing public use,” Mr Hicks said. “We are hopeful that this commitment from the State will form part of an ongoing staged investment program for the park, addressing priorities including investment in day-use coastal recreation sites, as well as opportunities to enable visitors to learn about the environmental and cultural significance of this unique and threatened part of Wadandi Boodja.” A key project still hankering for a funding commitment is the MRBTA’s Karri Bowl, which includes a major interpretive centre as well as a mooted tree-top walk through the Boranup, and which could also require realignment of a short section of Caves Road. The progress of that project, in partnership with WA’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, remains under wraps. “We appreciate the McGowan Government’s support of this region, recognising the crucial role that tourism plays in sustaining the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of our place and its people,” Mr Hicks said. “We look forward eagerly to the continuation of this support. “The risk that 4.6 million visitors a year might be ‘loving the national park to death’ would remain if conservation and protection of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is limited only to overdue fixes on the Cape to Cape Track and some new signage,” Mr Hicks said. “Discussions with Environment Minster Whitby confirm he is very conscious of the other elements in the community’s comprehensive six-point plan which have not yet received Government commitment. “We’re looking forward to more news as the Government progresses its review of the six-point plan.” Environment Minister Reece Whitby previously said the Karri Bowl was a strong proposal, while in his latest comments, Tourism Minister Roger Cook pointed to the sought-after future support. “The Cape to Cape Track is a major drawcard in our South West, and these upgrades will ensure the area remains a top tourism destination for years to come,” he said. “Our $17.7 million investment is helping to develop new, environmentally sensitive tourism attractions and accommodation options in our stunning national parks. “This will help entice more tourists to visit and stay in these incredible and iconic locations of Western Australia.” Mr Whitby said the State Government was committed to enhancing its conservation estate.