Perth environmental groups are concerned by a McGowan government decision to reduce red tape, making it easier for tourism vendors to operate around the Swan Canning Riverpark.
The reform aims to simplify the tourism licence and permit process for charter vessels, cruises and aquatic-based activities such as kite surfing and kayaking, with the goals of reducing barriers for business and providing more local jobs.
The president of the Canning River Residents Environment Protection Association Stephen Johnston says tourism always poses risk to the natural environment, both in installation and operation, but a faster approval process creates more concern.
“If they’re going to fast track something, and the whole desire is to get these new vendors in, and that then makes the environmental concern subservient to the desire to get more tourist ventures in,” he says.
“We the local residents will be more aware than anyone of the potential impacts. It could be of concern if the authority is not also weighing up the costs and benefits.”
Johnston says careful consideration is required before a new tourism business should be able to open near the river.
“There could be negative effect [on the environment] depending on the way it is managed, and the licences that are provided to them. Say a hire a kayak or hire a sailboard operation, a large one is put on too small an area, which is close to nearby foreshore vegetation that could well have an adverse impact.”
West Australian Seabird Rescue Group (WASR) volunteer Veronica McPhail is concerned more tourists will result in an increase in rubbish, posing a threat to local seabirds.
“There’s a lot of rubbish from a lot of people who use those areas,” she says.
“So, over the weekend there’s thousands of people that use it and we’re finding that a lot of rubbish is washing up onto the beaches there.”
McPhail says the key to minimising environmental risk is cooperation between the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and local councils.
“We’ve all got a part to play, we’ve got DBCA that looks after the river, but on the ground it comes down to the local council. I personally think there should be some kind of think tank on how they are going to mitigate any problems.”
WASR president Halina Burmej says environmental concerns should fall on the businesses themselves.
“A business that is capitalising on the natural beauty of the river should seek to not harm and ideally do something to enhance the natural environment such as by hosting a litter pick up station,” she says.