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Increasing national parks is not the answer

By Ron Moon, 10 Jul 2016 Opinion

Increasing national parks is not the answer

Adding more national parks may lead to a decline in native wildlife. Ron explains why.

ON THE south coast of New South Wales between Tathra and Bermagui, four state forests were recently converted to flora reserves, so they’ll now have similar protection to a national park.

In all, more than 250km² of land will be included in the flora reserves and, while it will still be owned by the Forestry Corporation of NSW, it will be managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

This has supposedly been done to protect the habitat of the last colony of koalas on the far south coast of NSW, where it is estimated that only 30 to 60 of the animals remain.

It got me wondering why the surrounding national parks on the south coast of NSW, some of which were established in the 1970s, aren’t providing the habitat protection the animals require. Is it another example of poor management of our national park estate?

No one is admitting poor management of our national parks is resulting in a decline of native animal populations, but there’s a realisation that wildlife – reptiles, birds and mammals – is decreasing Australia-wide in both number and range, while the national park estate has been increasing at a seemingly exponential rate.

Professor Hugh Possingham, a conservation scientist at the University of Queensland, has been quoted in Nature magazine saying there were too many parks of little value in Australia.

He mentioned these should be sold off and the money used to buy land of higher ecological value. He went on to say that no one has done any research to prove that national parks are the best way of protecting an area. What an interesting point of view. I’m hazarding a guess it didn’t go down too well with the green movement, or those pushing for more national parks.

National parks drivingOver the past 10 (or more) years, the Federal Government has been funding a number of private groups, such as Australian Bush Heritage and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, in buying land to include in private nature reserves. The reasoning for this is that these private groups can do things for the betterment of wildlife that can’t be done in our government-funded, controlled and managed national parks… what the?

Meanwhile, in Victoria, another fight is developing over a large swathe of state forest that the Greens, the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) and the Labor Government want to declare as the Great Forest National Park (GFNP).

The area stretches from Erica and Noojee (in the south-east) to Woods Point and Eildon (in the north-east), across to Toolangi and Kinglake, and through to just north of Whittlesea (in the west). The park will take in some of the most used and visited areas by four-wheel drivers, campers, motorbike riders, hunters and anglers in the state.

You can expect a lot more restrictions and job losses if the GFNP comes about, but what about the perceived major benefit that it will protect the last great habitat of the Leadbeater’s possum?

It seems the vast areas of surrounding national park and highly protected water catchment areas, including the Alpine NP (6474km²), Baw Baw NP (135.3km²), Eildon NP (277.5km²), Yarra Ranges NP (760km²) and Mt Buffalo NP (310km²), hasn’t been enough to ensure the continual existence of the delightful Leadbeater’s. And now the last stronghold of these creatures is in a working forest that has been logged for more than 100 years.

Ironic, you’ve got to say! Maybe even a coincidence?

So, for these and other reasons, you can see why I’m not in favour of another national park.

More restrictions, more job losses in our forestry industry and, it seems with current management practices, the continuing loss of wildlife in our national park estate.