Update on National Park activities across the country

Published 20 May 2015 
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Peter Mooney is the General Manager for National Parks and Wildlife in Tasmania, and has shared his update with his staff and with the Healthy Landscape Alliance I represent Bush Hertitage on in Tasmania.

I thought given Peter was happy for this to be shared, others in Bush Heritage might also find it interesting. 

I recently met with the Heads of Parks Agencies from most Australian States and Territories and New Zealand(Western Australia and the ACT did not attend). We all meet roughly every 8-9 months to discuss standard agenda items such as WHS, Visitor Safety, Conservation, Tourism  and other emerging issues. I thought it would be interesting to give staff an update from this recent  meeting.

New Zealand

NZ has received an unprecedented increase in tourism, with most reserves up 30% in visitation, mostly international.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) has initiated some very strong corporate partnerships with companies such as Air New Zealand, Fonterra and Dulux Paints. These partnerships comprise a variety of arrangements from supply of paint for all their back country huts (they have 1,400 of these), free air travel for DoC employees for work purposes, and million dollar donations to support the conservation and rehabilitation of degraded landscapes. NZ has also experienced some large private land sales that have resulted in new private reserves being established.

DoC is still spending up to 30% of their budget on pest animal control. This includes the servicing of millions of traps in their national parks, with the main species trapped being Stouts, Rats and Possums. The use of 1080 poison is prevalent across the whole country.

DoC has been undertaking a major overhaul of their workplace safety systems. They still have an enormous workplace injury issue, and also have had to replace their infrastructure maintenance program. They have experienced a large increase in Chinese tourism, and this is causing safety concerns, especially with the self-hire car industry. Presently, Chinese visitors are arriving with a drivers licence, but no road driving experience; you can gain a drivers licence in China by using a simulator only.

Climate change is causing major changes to the environment in NZ. They have lost 30% of their ice fields during the past 20 years, with all of their commercial ski fields now requiring snow making machines to keep the fields economically viable; the introduced species, Douglas fir pine tree, has now permanently changed the landscape of 25% of the South Island; and they are experiencing an increase in cyclonic events on the east coast of the country.

Northern Territory

The NT PWS has received a major injection of funds, with a $26 million grant for infrastructure improvements in their national parks. Their tourism visitation has increased 15% in recent years. The introduced Buffell grass is now colonised in many areas of the NT, resulting in the landscape now experiencing major bushfires in areas that never previously received bushfires.

The NT now has 32 jointly‑managed national parks, with these parks being leased by the Government from the local Aboriginal community.


The QLD PWS has had to deal with a number of large cyclonic events over the past year, and this has required significant resources to be deployed to repairs and maintenance of their park infrastructure. QLD now has 20 national parks jointly‑managed with the indigenous community. The QLD PWS is attempting to have their leases and licences arranged for better returns to the Crown; presently their returns are minimal.

Great Barrier Reef

The GBR Marine Park Authority is now dealing with some serious climate change issues. If the sea temperature rises more than one degree above the average for more than four weeks, permanent bleaching can occur to the coral. In addition, the PH levels are continuing to rise, and this causes further loss of coral. The Authority has spent much energy in assisting the low‑lying farming communities with changing their practices to enable less run‑off of soils during large rain events. The silting of the inner coral reef is still a big contributor to the loss of coral.

Their tourism industry has been on a gradual increase over the past five years, with Cairns, Port Douglas and Townsville being the main departure ports.

South Australia

National Parks SA is going through some structural changes. Their community management model, through partnering with Natural Resource Management groups, is now being reduced and they are concentrating on bringing back their core business model of being an independent parks service.

Their tourism visitation has been steadily increasing, with ecotourism being concentrated in locations such as Kangaroo Island. They are attempting to establish a multi-day walk opportunity on Kangaroo Island.


Parks Victoria has been implementing some structural reform. This has been done to meet budget savings.

They recently experienced a large litigation case, resulting from the death of a visitor sleeping in a tent. The person was camping on the banks of the Murray River, in a section of Parks Victoria land that is not managed for camping and has no facilities provided. The person had accessed the river bank from private property. During a wind event, some branches from a large River Red gum tree had broken off and one unfortunately hit the person’s tent, causing the fatality. The Court hearing successfully proved that Parks Victoria was negligent by not having provided warning signs that the branches of the River Red gums could fall. This case is presently being reviewed by Parks Victoria and could have ramifications for non-managed areas along the banks of the Murray River, and other locations.

New South Wales

NSW has amended their national parks legislation to enable increased tourism activity within reserved lands. They have also been assessing opportunities for multi‑day walks along the coast of the State. Some of the remote reserves have experienced severe drought conditions during the past year.

Australian Government

The Aust Govt manages three national parks on mainland Australia; Kakadu and Uluru in the Northern Territory, and Bodoree at Jervis Bay, NSW. All parks are jointly‑managed with the indigenous community and have direct employment initiatives with indigenous persons.

The majority of visitors to Kakadu and Uluru are from overseas, with visitation numbers only recently building back up to levels of several years ago. Both these national parks have serious feral species incursions, with the Cane toad causing massive devastation to native species in Kakadu. The Aust Govt manages a number of very large marine national parks; however, most of these are many kilometres from the Australian coastline and get very few visitors, if any.


It was noted at this meeting that the work the PWS has done with forming the Parks21 Agreement with the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania will be used as a best practice example of how the parks industry can better work in partnership with the tourism industry.

Tasmania is experiencing much the same issues as every other State; however, one point of difference is the low amount of invasive species management that is required within the reserve system. Obviously, the recent Myrtle Rust incursion has been a timely reminder that we are still vulnerable to invasive species.

All locations

Every jurisdiction has been dealing with a reduction in recurrent budgets. Some have been provided with project funding for major infrastructure projects. Everyone is attempting to achieve better connections with the community using the principles of Healthy Parks ‑ Heathy People. Everyone is experiencing a change in the international visitor profile, with the Asian visitation increase presenting new challenges for protected area managers. Everyone is using social media at increased levels, which is replacing the traditional use of print media to get messages and information to the community. The eastern seaboard and southern States have been experiencing more frequent extreme weather events that has triggered an increase in insurance claims for the replacement of infrastructure and rehabilitation of coastal foreshores.


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