The local tourism association has headhunted one of the region’s most senior Parks and Wildlife officers to champion its revamped focus on conservation. Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions veteran Ben Tannock, whose wife Kellie runs Walk Talk Taste tours, will front the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association as its new conservation and heritage manager. The position comes as part of a new focus, endorsed by the MRBTA board, in its Strategic Directions 2022-25 document which details formation of its new Capes Foundation. MRBTA co-chief executive Sharna Kearney said the measures were part of increasing steps towards the tourism body’s conservation role. “It is now embedded in our strategic directions, and gathering meaning and momentum more widely,” she said. Mr Tannock was the frontman for negotiations with a wide range of user groups interacting with the region’s national parks and conservation, including mountain bikers, caving and Aboriginal heritage groups. The experience ideally positioned him to oversee the MRBTA’s work in conserving the natural assets under its care. “Ben will also lead and facilitate tourism-based partnerships and initiatives which produce environmental, cultural, heritage and social outcomes for the region,” Ms Kearney said. “The creation of the role signifies a deepening of MRBTA’s commitment to environmental conservation, enhancing visitor education, and growing visitor appreciation of the region’s natural assets.” In a media statement, Mr Tannock said he welcomed the important, but complex role. “A key area of interest in my career so far has been the deep cultural connection and values of the region, which we should cherish and celebrate,” he said. MRBTA chair Stuart Hicks said the appointment signalled the important shift moving forward “as the organisation becomes increasingly focused on ensuring that tourism produces positive benefits for our community”. The new Capes Foundation emerged from a recognition the MRBTA was in the tourism game while simultaneously in a custodianship role for the region’s natural environment. “MRBTA has created Capes Foundation to provide coherence on how all parts of the organisation focus on priorities of conservation and restoration, education and interpretation, and appreciation and enjoyment of nature,” the Strategic Directions document said. “MRBTA’s Capes Foundation will also provide leadership, facilitation, support and investment for broader, regional, tourism-related initiatives that demonstrate positive outcomes for our people and place.” The document listed priorities for the next few years: destination development, preserving cultural heritage and the natural environment, and “efficient, effective, financially sustainable management”. The document also recognised “not all tourism is good” and promotes high-yield visitor attraction which minimises tourism’s environmental footprint.