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State Government to consider Conserving the Capes project to enhance tourism, environment

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park suffered severe damage in December’s bushfire.
Camera IconThe Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park suffered severe damage in December’s bushfire. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

The local tourism authority’s hopes to get an ambitious tree-top walk up and running in the fire-devastated Boranup could soon have Government backing.

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions has confirmed it lodged a major business case with the State Government covering key items to safeguard and showcase the Capes environment.

The Conserving the Capes initiative sees the DBCA take a leadership role in the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association’s Karri Bowl project, the Unbeaten Tracks project seeking to upgrade, unify and promote the region’s best walking trails, and the Capes Improvement project to develop “highly-visited coastal recreation sites” within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.

The move stems from a six-point plan lodged with WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby in the wake of December’s devastating Calgardup bushfire, with a range of local stakeholders concerned about recovery efforts, the effects on tourism providers, and that WA’s most popular national park was being “loved to death”.

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A DBCA spokesperson told the Times the business case was yet to be considered by the State Government, and no overall costings were provided.

The business case was developed in late 2021 after consultation with local groups and other government agencies.

In 2021 the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions worked closely with local government authorities, State Government agencies and key stakeholders on the development of a business case for the initiative.

“If funded, implementation would be led by various organisations,” the spokesperson said.

Because some of the plans dated back as far as 2019, existing cost estimates were now outdated.

“A review and update of the business case would be required to support a budget submission for Government consideration.

“The Conserving the Capes initiative aims to provide world-class recreation and tourism opportunities for the public while ensuring the unique and highly-valued biodiversity and cultural values of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park are protected.”

MRBTA chief executive Sharna Kearney said the project was closely aligned with the “desired outcomes” of the six-point plan developed by it in partnership with local government, the wine industry and conservation and Indigenous groups.

Mr Whitby told the Times he’d had multiple discussions with local stakeholders about the individual projects covered in the program.

“I’m excited by the potential of this proposal to be a major tourism drawcard for the region and support visitation to an already much-loved national park,” he said.

“The Government is keen to further examine the potential of the project.”

Also reported first by the Times in 2020, Unbeaten Tracks is seeking major funding to integrate walking trails from Augusta to Dunsborough, including the Cape-to-Cape Track, and then promote the drawcard to the burgeoning environmental tourism market.

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