Queensland’s national parks protect Queensland’s rich biodiversity and provide opportunities to appreciate nature and healthy outdoor recreation that helps our physical and mental health. They also generate approximately $2.64 billion through ecotourism annually and support thousands of jobs, particularly in the regions.
Queensland currently has over 1,000 protected areas, including national parks. However they are underfunded which compromises effective management and limits the capacity to grow our protected area system.
In October 2020, the Palaszczuk Government released the Protected Areas Strategy 2020-30. The strategy promised to double the protected land in Queensland from 8.2% to 17%, an increase of 15 million hectares.
Twelve months after the release of the plan and Queensland has only added an additional 0.5% to its protected land estate, maintaining its position as the worst performing state in Australia towards reaching the internationally accepted 17% goal.
To better protect and present Queensland’s critical natural assets, the National Parks Association of Queensland (NPAQ) has formed an alliance with the Queensland Conservation Council (QCC), the Queensland First Nations Tourism Council, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Ecotourism Australia, and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC).
“It’s a practical move” explained Susanne Cooper, President of NPAQ.
“The Queensland Tourism and Conservation alliance members have come together to ensure the government looks after our joint interests in growing and improving our protected areas and better progressing its Protected Areas Strategy.”
The alliance brings together the leaders of Queensland tourism and conservation sectors to ensure that there is a stronger voice to advocate for our natural resources and to push for greater funding to maintain and preserve Queensland’s unique natural and cultural environment for the benefit of locals and ecotourists.
Ultimately, it’s about a partnership where the combined organisations speak as one voice in pursuit of our common interests.
“NPAQ has made it very clear from the outset that we will not necessarily be in full agreement with all positions and priorities that the tourism industry or others in the partnership and that from time to time we are likely to have differences. This was acknowledged by all parties upfront. But where there are common agendas, we will have a bigger impact with a united approach to government rather than a divided approach,” said Ms Cooper.
The Alliance has called on the state government to significantly increase management funding and provide an acceleration of growth of Queensland’s protected area network by 2032 in time for the Brisbane Olympic Games.
“If we are going to reach the 17% target, we need to start now. A substantial commitment is needed in the 2022 state budget with funding to grow our national parks and nature refuges,” said Susanne Cooper.
Additional funding will ensure effective management of existing and new protected areas; support nature-based tourism activities, and provide new opportunities for Indigenous-led conservation and cultural ecotourism.
“By increasing the protected area estate of Queensland and correspondingly raising the funding dedicated to the maintenance of these natural assets, more habitat will be secured to protect our iconic biodiversity,” said Ms Cooper.
“Queensland is home to 85% of Australian mammal species, and half of the species living here are found nowhere else on earth; they are unique to this state.”
“Also, investment by the Government to develop sensitive infrastructure which allows visitors to sustainably appreciate these assets will be essential to secure the future of ecotourism in our national parks.”
“We look forward to working further with our tourism and conservation partners to better safeguard Queensland’s special natural areas.”