Friday, April 4, 2008

Double Qld national parks, says WWF

A key conservation group has called on the Queensland government to double the amount of land declared national parks.

WWF Australia on Friday marked the centenary of the declaration of Queensland's first national park by calling for a doubling in parks to cope with their burgeoning number of visitors.
Dr Martin Taylor, protected areas policy manager with WWF Australia, said the organisation had estimated GST revenue from national park visitors' spending outstripped actual state investment in them by about $185 million a year.

"Parks visitation is growing at over eight per cent a year and trying to pack more visitors into the same parks can only kill the goose that laid the golden egg," Dr Taylor said.
"Doubling our national parks should be top of the list in Queensland's tourism and economic development strategies and would be a fitting way to celebrate this, the centenary year of national parks in Queensland.

"Far from being a money sink, national parks are economic powerhouses hitting well above their weight."

He said the state government should be reinvesting more tourism revenue in building and maintaining the park system, the most important asset of the tourism industry.
The first national park in Queensland was declared at Witches Falls at Mount Tamborine on the Gold Coast hinterland on March 28, 1908.

But a recent WWF report had found the state still had the lowest percentage of land area in national parks and nature reserves of all the states and territories.

WWF estimated around $14.5 billion was spent in Australia on holidays by domestic and international visitors to parks and nature reserves in 2006-07.

This represented about $1.45 billion in GST revenue, 20.5 per cent or about $296 million of which would have gone into the Queensland Treasury's coffers in that year, Dr Taylor said.
"However, in the same year Queensland invested $34.6 million in acquisitions and $76 million on parks management, in total about $185 million less than the GST from spending by visitors to parks," Dr Taylor said.

Revenue from tourism only represented a small part of the total social and economic value of parks, he said.

"The primary value of parks is the protection of Queensland's irreplaceable native wildlife and plants," he said.
Public events to celebrate the centenary will be held at Witches Falls.

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