Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Frequently asked questions – review of environmental carrying capacity in Kosciuszko alpine resorts

A review of carrying capacity in the Kosciuszko National Park alpine resorts is under way. Currently carrying capacity is managed by setting bed limits. The review aims to consider new ways of managing environmental carrying capacity in the resorts.

What is environmental carrying capacity?

Environmental carrying capacity is the level of visitors or activity that can be sustained in an area without degradation of the environment below acceptable thresholds. The ‘environment’ includes biological, physical and social factors. What threshold levels are considered appropriate and sustainable requires discussion and input from the community, resort operators and government.

How is visitor use managed in NSW National Parks?

NSW national parks are managed in accordance with plans of management, which are established under the National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974. These set the direction for supporting visitor use that is sustainable and consistent with protecting the environmental values that attract people to national parks in the first place. Plans of management are only adopted by the Minister after formal community consultation and review by two independent advisory bodies.

How is environmental carrying capacity currently managed for the resorts in Kosciuszko National Park?

In the alpine resort areas, limits have been placed on the number of beds each resort may provide for visitor accommodation.

In addition, some specific visitor and development impacts are managed by licensing high-risk activities such as water use and sewage treatment, and under environmental impact assessment laws and general national park rules and policies.

Each resort also operates under an environmental management system (EMS). Each EMS addresses relevant sustainability, energy and waste management as well as land, water and biodiversity issues in the resort areas.

Why is the review needed?

The current Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management commits NPWS to a review of how carrying capacity in the alpine resorts is measured and regulated. This is because bed numbers are not considered the most effective way to understand and manage environmental issues associated with the operation of the resorts. While bed numbers do influence the physical size of the resorts and required infrastructure, they may not be the best indicator of the actual environmental footprint, which is influenced by resort design, operational management and visitor and staff behaviour. In addition, the impacts of the large number of day visitors are not addressed by a bed number limit.

Will the review result in more development in the resorts and how would this occur?

The Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management commits to fostering sustainable and prosperous alpine resorts, and ensuring that any future development occurs in a way that protects the exceptional natural and cultural values of the park.

The plan of management will continue to provide key directions for future management of the resorts. The review may result in amendments to the plan of management. Any future development proposals will need to be in accordance with the adopted plan of management and will also be assessed in accordance with requirements of NSW environmental planning legislation.

Will this mean improved environmental outcomes in the resorts?

The quality of the resort environments has been relatively stable for some time, but climate change is a growing concern in alpine environments worldwide. A revised environmental carrying capacity framework would aim to better manage environmental risk in the resorts, including targeted monitoring and adaptive management of biophysical and social conditions. It may also support greater opportunities for ongoing repair and rehabilitation and promotion of natural and cultural values in and around the resorts.

Will bed numbers still be used in managing resorts?

Yes. It is likely that bed numbers will continue to have value as part of a system for managing carrying capacity. For example, bed numbers are important in development planning, licensing and leasing, transport and utilities management, and for public safety.

How will stakeholder views be considered?

NPWS understands that various stakeholders may be affected by or react differently to the review. Individual resorts may be concerned at implications for ongoing operations and future development opportunities. Community may be concerned it could result in greater impacts to the environment. Local accommodation and other businesses will be interested in the consequences for them.

NPWS is committed to fully understanding stakeholder concerns, looking for ways to accommodate and adapt to these and communicate them to the Minister for the Environment and other decision makers. There will be opportunities throughout the review process to provide comment and input.

What stage is the review at now?

A stage 1 consultation is now complete. Submissions are being considered and a summary of submissions is now available. Stage 2 of the project is under way. There will be a further opportunity to comment on the development of an alpine resorts carrying capacity framework.

To read the background paper, visit the consultation page.

Page last updated: 21 November 2016