The proposal for a new, privately-operated boat tour of Wilsons Promontory National Park’s islands and seal colony raises a number of problems for one of Victoria’s most loved national parks.
For a start, three high-powered amphibious boats, each carrying 32 passengers, would be leaving from the prime visitor spot on Norman Bay beach, and presumably sit there in between tours. This would significantly impact visitor enjoyment of the beach.
The tour operator’s initial proposal, to leave from the small bay at the northern side of Tidal River, is scarcely feasible, especially at high tide.
But perhaps the biggest problem is that the tours will generate increased traffic at the Prom, at a time when traffic is already an unmanageable problem. The Prom has 465 car parking spots, and the management plan recommends limiting the number of cars entering the park each day to 800.
Currently, however, around 1500 cars a day enter the park in peak periods. Parking is chaotic, affecting the enjoyment of everyone, and actually dangerous if a need to evacuate the Prom occurs.
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, the company proposing the tours, has not given any clear answer to this problem, but have suggested the tours might only be available to campers in peak periods. This, however, seems to conflict with their promise to advertise the tours internationally.
There are other issues, such as approaching breeding colonies of seals, and appropriate speeds in the Prom’s marine national park (Pennicott tours in Tasmania are high-speed events), but they might be manageable under strict licence conditions.
And then there’s the problem of process. The tour proposal has been supported by Parks Victoria from the start, before any initial community consultation, assessment of impacts, or invitation for alternative proposals.
If touring the Prom’s islands is a good idea for visitors (and when well done, it would be) why has there been no process for getting the best operation, and best deal for visitors.
A similar boat tour operation now runs from Port Welshpool, with a fully-catered day trip around the Prom, but inexplicably it has had no government support.
The Pennicott tour operation has now been approved, subject to a finalised ‘Operations Plan’ from Parks Victoria. Sea trials are planned from August 2018, and potentially one boat will start operating in December.
We remain opposed to this highly intrusive operation from the beach at Tidal River, and are concerned that it will significantly exacerbate the dangerous traffic congestion at the Prom in peak periods.