Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Review of National Parks establishment, valuation of proposals and public consultation

In its response to an Upper House Public Lands Inquiry the NSW Government resolved to review national park reservation processes. Given the politics involved, this review could herald a return to the 1950s when only economically useless land could be reserved in a national park.

The Office of Environment and Heritage is seeking public comment on:

1/. The types of land that should be reserved by the Government over the next five years;

2/. The consideration of social and economic issues of land to be added to the reserve estate; and

3/. Community involvement in the reservation process (external link).

Your help is needed to ensure logging, mining, grazing interests do not gain a veto power over reserve proposals. Even if lands are flagged for park reservation, this review process appears likely to also give stakeholders the power to dictate park management and block wilderness protection.

Please write short submission to this review using the points below as a guide. 

See also, the Colong Foundation submission.

Make a submission before midnight Sunday 12 April, 2015.


To lodge a submission: email: OEH.ReserveEstablishment@environment.nsw.gov.au or

Post your submission:
Senior Team Leader
Reserve Establishment
Parks Conservation and Heritage
NPWS
P O Box 1967
HURSTVILLE  NSW  2220


1/- A 2015-2020 reserve establishment plan is needed

  • The NSW Government should develop a well-funded program to double the area reserved for nature conservation in the next five years. Our state has the second lowest percentage of land protected in the National Reserve System (9%) after Queensland (7.5%), and compares poorly against the international benchmark of 17% of land to be dedicated to nature conservation by 2020 (Aichi Biodiversity Target 11). New reserves essential if we are to stop wildlife extinctions.

  • Wilderness must remain a reservation priority because larger and less fragmented natural areas ensure more native species remain viable in the long-term, slowing extinction rates.

  • Reserve establishment must consider if the ecological integrity of future park additions can be maintained and improved. In consequence, wilderness assessment criteria should play a prominent role in reserve selection to ensure the health of future reserves.

  • Reserve establishment must incorporate lands people want to protect, such as the Gardens of Stone Stage 2 reserve proposal that has outstanding conservation values and reservation would dramatically improve future conservation outcomes for the area.

  • The new reserve establishment plan must work in concert with other legislative, funding and government policy measures that prevent land clearing and facilitate nature conservation of private bushland.

  • A revised reserve establishment plan should seek to create by 2020 an interconnected system of large intact reserves of high conservation value managed in association with other protected areas and effective nature conservation measures on private land.

  • New national parks are needed as a priority in Outback NSW, the Central West and on the coastal lowlands where natural ecosystems are poorly protected and most at risk.

  • The goal of protecting all irreplaceable conservation values to achieve a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system must be married with community-based reserve proposals that seek to protect the ‘Crown jewels’ – the wild, pristine, large and rugged bushland. Nearly all Australia’s World Heritage Areas were based on community reserve proposals and have ‘outstanding universal value’ demonstrating the enduring benefits of community conservation reserve proposals.

2/- Consideration of social and economic issues of lands proposed for reservation

  • The social and economic values of competing uses to a national park reserve proposal are already adequately assessed through current government agency referral processes.

  • In regard to the acquisition of private land, the social and economic cost considerations are covered in the voluntarily negotiated purchase price for the area.

  • The huge number of national park visitors, 34 million in 2010, demonstrates that the community is happy with national parks being managed primarily for nature conservation. National park proposals provide important educational, recreational, psychological and spiritual values. Large wilderness national parks ensure healthy air, water and soil systems, and give wildlife opportunities to adapt to climate change. These priceless values are essential to the continued functioning of society, cannot be adequately captured by economic assessment and should be a key part of the reserve assessment processes.

  • Protection of intact ecosystems in national parks is more economically and socially efficient than investment of human and financial capital in the ecological restoration of degraded land. The protection of native flora and fauna in national parks and wilderness is the best practical alternative to intensive wildlife management methods that rely on uncertain, much greater inputs of capital and human resources.

  • Reserving wilderness is also a cost effective way to protect native biodiversity. Edge impacts such as weed invasion, feral animals, and frequent fire from arson are lower in wilderness areas. It also provides a greater range of habitats for species to adapt to climate change.

  • The social and economic values of an intact national park proposal are priceless. Some national park values can be quantified, such as visitation, but economic valuation must not be used to justify commercial facilities or exploitative uses that degrade natural values and would divert effort from the primary nature conservation purpose of reservation.

  • The benefit of a proposed national park will be maximised when future park visitors are encouraged to stay in nearby towns and villages. Identifying accommodation development opportunities in a proposed national park degrades park values and denies business revenue to restaurants and resorts in adjoining districts.

  • Reserve establishment must retain a clear distinction between public land reserved for nature conservation and land subject to resource exploitation. National Parks should remain places where nature-centred values prevail over use-centred perspectives.

  • The proposed grazing and logging in reserves, such as in River Red Gum and Pilliga regions, are examples of potential double dipping. Land users who now seek inappropriate exploitation of these reserved areas were paid fair financial compensation to cease operation so as to permit reserve establishment.

  • The purpose of reservation establishment must remain primarily for nature conservation that is free from damaging uses that degrade the ecological integrity of natural areas. Reserves must remain free of mining, logging, grazing, high impact recreation uses and built infrastructure like dams and power lines. These uses facilitate pest species invasion and reduce ecological connectivity and healthy functioning of natural areas.

3/- Community involvement in reserve establishment

  • Community consultation regarding future visitor use is best considered during the development of the plan of management and through the regional advisory committee following reservation of the national park.

  • As nearly all interest groups put themselves first rather than nature, stakeholders should not exercise direct control of reserve decision making or park management as doing so will defeat nature-focussed reserve management.

  • Miners, loggers, farmers, and property developer’s interests, along with commercial tourism developers, high-impact recreation users, such as recreational four-wheel drivers and horse riders, all want unrestricted to access the area proposed for a reserve. Decision makers must resist this pressure to change the primary nature conservation purpose of national park reservation to accommodate particular interests.

  • Many stakeholders will deny the environmental impacts caused by their activities in an effort to gain inappropriate access to protected areas. This behaviour is misleading and needs to be taken into account during community consultation.

  • Best practice ecological principles must be the priority for reserve design and prevail during the consultation process.

  • Legislative protection should not be wound back in response to representations by community groups regarding a reserve proposal. National parks and reserves must continue to provide a limited range of appropriate and low impact recreation opportunities so that nature can thrive.

  • The primary consideration of national park reservation should remain the protection of the natural environment and to the greatest extent possible the maintenance or restoration of its wilderness character.

  • Public consultation should consider the regional context when considering the recreation opportunities of uses that are incompatible with a proposed national park. Off-road vehicle users need hills for their thrills and spills adventure. These public land users can be relocated to less sensitive areas. They do not need access to areas possessing high conservation value.

  • Accommodating all demands received through a public consultation process is often inappropriate and will defeat the primary reservation purpose of setting areas aside for nature, as heritage values will be degraded.  The impact of feral horses on Kosciuszko National Park is a classic example of how public consultation now dictates reserve management on this issue regardless of scientific considerations.

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