From the President – Autumn 2021 – National Parks Association of Queensland

From the President – Autumn 2021

Author: Susanne Cooper, President, National Parks Association of Queensland (NPAQ)

Welcome to the Autumn edition of Protected.

Ecotourism in Queensland and across Australia is currently a key issue concerning the management of national parks and appreciation of nature. The interest is global, and proposals from commercial operators will only increase.

NPAQ has been an active advocate for all ecotourism to be based around objectives that conserve natural and cultural values.

We often think of the ecotourism issue as one that is relatively recent, aided by easier travel, access, and the growth in organised trips or walks.

It’s often instructive to look back and see what we were thinking a few decades ago, and assess how much has changed. The Australian Ranger Bulletin was a national journal for conservation managers, started in 1980. I was recently reading an old copy published 40 years ago in 1981, and came across an interesting article on Recreation written by CSIRO scientist Dr Graham Yapp. It gives cause for reflection. Here are some key points from the article:
• The major threat to many conservation areas is the overuse of recreation
• Recreation demand is far more insidious and harder to combat than are other threats, for example from mining companies
• In most people’s minds, national parks are recreation resources and a playground

• The trend is for most funds to go into managing recreation, with little left for research and conservation

We have seen such issues and trends continue over the past 40 years, even though alerts were being raised back then.

But times do also change. Dr Yapp mentioned the “high intensity use that is now a permanent feature of Ayers Rock” to access views of the spectacular scenery. Interesting that as well as the renaming to Uluru, the ‘permanent’ opportunity to climb on the rock is now prohibited. This change would have been difficult to forsee in 1981.

The article also includes an interesting suggestion: we should support the dedication of high quality reserves specifically for recreation activity as state recreation areas, to take the pressure off national parks. They should also employ permanent, professional recreation managers.

It’s interesting and informative to sometimes look back and reflect on how much has changed…or not. Much of the funding allocated to national parks by various state governments is earmarked to provide recreation infrastructure: walkways, lookouts, campgrounds, amenities, roads and visitor interpretive centres. Its increasingly challenging to get dedicated funds to actively manage the conservation of nature, the primary purpose of these areas.

I hope you continue to enjoy and appreciate our unique flora and fauna in the diversity of 312 national parks across Queensland.

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