On 23 October in the lead up to the state election, the Queensland LNP's Shadow Environment Minister David Crisafulli announced that if elected, they would spend $80 million over four years to grow Queensland’s national parks and nature refuges.
Queensland lags behind every other state and territory with just 8.2% of land area protected for the future, and this commitment provides a much needed boost to growing that area, according to Our Living Outback spokesperson Riley Rocco.
“$20 million a year means we’ll have more national parks and more protected areas on private land - and that’s something our state desperately needs to protect our wildlife, invest in regional jobs, and grow our tourism offering,” Rocco said.
“We need to double the area protected to reach international targets of 17% to properly safeguard nature in our state, and we’re not going to do that if we don’t start investing at a larger scale.
"Investing in protected areas pays in dividends for the state's economy - it will stimulate the economy and save our wildlife at the same time.
“It’s excellent to see the LNP lifting the bar on protected area spending towards the $135 million a year growth in funding needed in order to properly manage and grow national parks and nature refuges,” they said.
Nature refuge holder Ian McMaster said the expansion of the Private Protected Area program is a welcome move.
“This would mean more property owners like me, who have special places to look after on their land, can take better care of wildlife, and that’s a good thing for every single Queenslander,” McMaster said.
“My partner Christine and I own and manage two adjoining nature refuges on the Sunshine Coast hinterland that are home to koalas, greater gliders, the endangered Giant Barred Frog, and an incredible variety of butterflies and moths.
“I know there are other property owners out there with special natural heritage on their land, but the government funding has been so limited that they can’t be supported with a nature refuge on their properties - it’s good to know that with this commitment, there would be more funding to support more landholders to protect more wildlife.”
The announcement does not include new funding for the environmental management of new or existing national parks or protected areas on private land, nor specifics about the stewardship of traditional owners.
“The lack of more funding for land management is a concern because of the need to take better care of those landscapes by tackling feral animals, invasive weeds and destructive fires - we’ll be expecting more announcements on that to come,” Rocco said.
A recent study by the University of Queensland found that national parks generate over $2.64 billion to Queensland's economy through tourism. It also found that they support an estimated 24,000 jobs in a range of industries including land management.
The Palaszczuk Government released a Protected Area Strategy on October 3, which included a $60 million ‘down payment’ that included $28 million for national park acquisition, $8 million for the Private Protected Areas program, and 100 new Indigenous ranger jobs, as well as $6 million announced on Thursday for protected area acquisition in the Great Barrier Reef.
“It’s great to see better funding for national parks, nature refuges and land management jobs getting the attention they deserve from major parties at this critical time,” Rocco said.
The Queensland nature refuges program is a voluntary conservation program for private landholders who wish to protect the natural and cultural values for future generations by dedicating part or all of their land for conservation.
Our Living Outback is part of an alliance of environmental organisations calling on all parties to:
- Expand and better manage Queensland’s national parks to protect wildlife and support tourism and regional development (an additional $55million per year with additional increments in base funding for QPWS to manage new parks as appropriate);
- Increase investment in the Queensland Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger Program ($47.5 million over four years; 100 new positions);
- Support nature refuges landholders by expanding and improving the Nature Refuges Program (an additional $24million per year with an annual increment of $4 million to support expansion of the network);
- Continue investment in the Cape York Tenure Resolution Program.