National Parks Australia Council
NPAC’s initial focus was on supporting and increasing the effectiveness of organisations with a specific interest in terrestrial and marine national parks. Over time, our work has extended to cover broader conservation and management issues which may affect established and future national parks.
President: Michelle Prior (NPAQ)
Vice president: Graeme Wiffen (NPA NSW)
Treasurer: Euan Moore (VNPA)
Secretary: Graeme Wiffen (NPA NSW)
Public Officer: Kevin McCue (NPA ACT)
Laura Hahn (NPAQ), Nick Sawyer (TNPA), Esther Gallant (NPA ACT), Julia Peacock (NCSSA).
The National Parks Australia Council (NPAC) has a mission to protect, promote and extend national park systems within Australia.
NPAC was formed in 1975. We are a national body that coordinates and represents the views of a range of State and Territory non-government organisations concerned with protecting the natural environment and furthering national parks. NPAC provides a forum for regular communication between State and Territory National Parks Associations and acts as a united voice supporting conservation of the National Reserve System across Australia. We are also a member of the Australia Committee for the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
National parks and other protected areas are the jewels in Australia’s conservation crown. They are beautiful, irreplaceable and form the cornerstone of conservation efforts across the country. National parks also form the basis of our economic and social wellbeing, attracting millions of visitors annually and delivering ecosystem services that have immense value in dollar terms.
Thanks to the vision of the people and governments of Australia, we have a great wealth and diversity of protected areas covering over 12 million hectares. This system is a visible, enduring conservation legacy. NPAC is committed to working with governments to protect, promote and extend these national park and protected area systems within Australia, both on land and in marine environments.
Currently, national parks across the country face serious threats including inappropriate use, exploitation, overdevelopment and climate change. In response to these threats, NPAC is running the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ campaign to influence governments to adopt a range of strategies for reinvigorating and prioritising the national parks system. This flagship national campaign is driven by NPAC’s vision of a national park legacy for all Australians.
Australia's Reserve System
The Australian government describes a protected area as ‘a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed through legal or other effective means to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.’
National parks are generally managed by state and territory governments, and are one of the best known and most extensive types of protected area. The national reserve system also contains Commonwealth reserves, Indigenous lands, protected areas run by non-profit conservation organisations and areas of ecosystem that are protected by farmers on working agricultural properties.
First and foremost, the purpose of Australia’s national parks and many other protected areas is for conservation of our biodiversity and natural landscapes. Creating reserves puts in place secure, long-term arrangements to ensure that land is used to support conservation, and is a low-cost, high leverage strategy compared with other conservation actions.
The reserve system provides important habitat for native species that are under pressure from land clearing and overexploitation in other areas. Highly protected reserves, such as national parks, are the only conservation strategy that is associated with the stabilisation and recovery of threatened species populations.
As well as being important for conservation of local species, national parks are the cornerstone of broader conservation efforts. Connectivity projects such as landscape-scale corridors are supported by a series of core large protected areas, which can then be linked by conservation and restoration work on private and public lands in between them.
National parks and reserves have other important benefits, beyond biodiversity conservation.
• Culture and heritage: They protect many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage places and artefacts, and provide access to cultural places and resources. Some protected areas are owned, or jointly managed, by Aboriginal people. The natural reserve system also protects features of geological significance, such as cave systems.
• Public access and accountability: Critics of national parks and protected areas sometimes claim that national parks are “locked up” land. However, the opposite is true: our national park system allows the public to access and enjoy many of the diverse and spectacular natural areas of NSW, whilst also protecting them for future generations to enjoy. They also provide places for education and scientific study. Public ownership of the protected area system ensures that there is ongoing professional management that is publicly accountable and supported by financial investment from the government; public participation in management planning; and public access to most areas with visitor facilities provided in many locations.
• Economic values: Intact natural areas provide a variety of resources and processes that benefit human society, known as 'ecosystem services'. These include processes such as water catchment and filtration, air quality control, pollination and carbon capture and storage. In addition, the reserve system generates jobs in tourism, park management and capital works and income from visitors.
The Federal Government’s National Reserve System (NRS) website provides detailed information about Australia’s protected areas, and lays out the goals and principles underpinning the system. NPAC supports the good work being done to expand and manage the NRS, but advocates for further development of this system to protect the full range of Australia’s unique landscapes.
Australia’s current reserve system represents a significant conservation achievement, consisting of more than 10,000 reserves covering over 16% of the country. However, it needs to be expanded further to ensure the survival of many native species. Currently, only 30% of threatened species have an adequate amount of their habitat protected in reserves. However, scientific estimates indicate that, by building on the current reserve system, we could provide adequate habitat protection for all threatened species by placing as little as 18% of the continent in strategically chosen reserves.
The reserve system also needs further development to ensure that it protects Australia’s diverse landscapes. The goal of the National Reserve System is to develop and manage a comprehensive, adequate and representative national system of protected areas that contains samples of the full range of regional ecosystems in Australia. These areas need to be sufficiently large and well-designed to ensure that ecological communities, populations and ecological processes are maintained in the long term, and are resilient to the threats they face. In order to meet this goal, more work is required to fill gaps in the representation of significant ecosystems.
Australia is divided into 88 bioregions, which are large areas that are characterised by particular natural features, geology and environmental processes, and distinctive ecosystems and species. These are further divided into subregions. Based on 2012 figures from the Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database (CAPAD), all 88 Australian bioregions have some representation within the reserve system, but 34 of these currently have less than 10% of their area protected. At a finer scale, more than half of Australia’s 419 subregions have less than 10% of their area protected, with 37 of these having no protection at all.
Maps showing the level of protection of bioregions across Australia, and further data about Australia’s protected areas, are available from the Federal Government’s National Reserve System website.
NPAC believes that Australians need a national park acquisitions program that can:
- Deliver core habitat protection and connectivity to other protected areas
- Leverage funds from State Governments, Conservancies and Indigenous conservation partners committed to enduring conservation management
- Harness the commitment and passion of Traditional Owners for looking after their country and deliver cross-portfolio Indigenous outcomes
NPAC’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’ campaign provides a vision of a national park legacy for all Australians, and includes a number of recommendations for reinvigorating and prioritising the national parks system.
Australia’s national parks and protected areas are the jewel in our conservation crown, and are a legacy for all Australians. They are critical for protecting biodiversity and natural areas, and are the cornerstone of conservation efforts across Australia. They also contribute greatly to Australian society and have significant economic values.
Australia’s extensive national reserve system is a visible, enduring conservation legacy, which provides secure, long term, cost effect conservation of natural areas. Reserves play an important role in conserving native and threatened species, by protecting their habitat from human pressures. They are also national icons, showcasing Australia’s unique landscapes and wildlife to the world.
NPAC’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’ campaign lays out a vision for strengthening Australia’s national parks legacy and seeks to influence governments to adopt a range of strategies for reinvigorating and prioritising the national reserve system.
The primary purpose of national parks and similar protected areas is for the conservation of biodiversity and natural areas. Unfortunately, in recent times, the conservation values of parks have come under serious threat from recreational, commercial and political pressures. These pressures represent a shift in priorities by Governments, politicians and sections of the community. This shift seems to be founded on a failure to understand the intrinsic value of healthy, protected natural environments and the crucial role they play in sustaining human wellbeing, society and the economy.
Many State Governments within Australia have been introducing policies and projects that seriously threaten the conservation values of national parks. One major area of threat is the exploitation of natural resources within protected areas. For example, the Queensland, NSW and Victorian governments have all tried to introduce grazing into national parks. Similarly, the NSW and Victorian governments have introduced logging trials in national parks along the Murray River, and the NSW government permitted fishing within formerly no-take sanctuary zones inside marine parks.
Although visitation and recreation are an important function of national parks, these must be compatible with conservation values. The introduction of inappropriate, high impact recreational activities poses a serious threat to our protected areas. For example, in 2012, the NSW government attempted to introduce recreational hunting into NSW national parks. Other high impact activities that are being expanded in national parks in several states include horse riding, four-wheel driving and fossicking. Similarly, many State Governments are allowing and actively encouraging inappropriate, large-scale commercial tourism developments within parks. These developments are likely to damage environmental values and disadvantage non-paying visitors.
National parks and the staff who maintain them are also being threatened by budget cuts in many states, which compromise the ability of Parks Services to manage, promote and expand the protected area system.
Traditionally, the federal government has played a role in regulating decisions that may impact upon “Matters of National Environmental Significance”, which include threatened species and National and World Heritage areas. However, in response to pressure from business and industry groups, the Federal Government has sought to hand over its approval powers to State Governments. In the past, these federal controls prevented State Governments from making environmentally devastating decisions like damming the Franklin River, allowing oil rigs in the Great Barrier Reef and letting cattle grazing in sensitive alpine areas. Removing this system of checks and balances allows State Governments free rein to exploit natural areas for financial and political gain, and poses a very serious threat to Australia’s natural areas and native species.
National parks and protected areas are some of Australia’s most important public assets, and have widespread community support and recognition. NPAC is seeking clear commitments from all political parties and all levels of government to protect the integrity and security of national parks and protected areas for future generations.
State and Territory Governments, who are largely responsible for creating, managing and funding parks, must show leadership by resisting proposals that exploit and harm the conservation values of national parks. The Australian government has a pivotal role to play in defining and implementing a national park vision for all Australians to enjoy and benefit from.
NPAC is advocating for a national park acquisitions program that can deliver core habitat protection and connectivity to other protected areas; leverage funds from State Governments, Conservancies and Indigenous conservation partners committed to enduring conservation management; and harness the commitment and passion of Traditional Owners for looking after their country and deliver cross-portfolio Indigenous outcomes.
In order to achieve these goals, NPAC recommends:
1. Providing $500 million over five years for strategic National Park acquisitions across Australia.
2. Reforming the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to improve the security of our national parks and list these areas as Matters of National Environmental Significance.
3. Focusing future national park and other protected area acquisitions on critical habitats including climate change connections and refugia sites.
4. Developing national conservation land management standards that ensure national parks retain the values that led to their gazettal.
NPAC has met with Federal politicians from all political parties to provide them with copies of the Jewel in the Crown document, and discuss how they can play a vital role in protecting and developing Australia’s national parks legacy.
The National Parks Australia Council (NPAC) is a national body that represents State and Territory organisations concerned with protecting the natural environment and furthering national parks.
NPAC has six member organisations, representing all states and territories except Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) shares a vision of Victoria as a place with a diverse, secure and healthy natural environment cared for and appreciated by all.
VNPA is an independent, non-profit, membership-based organisation, which exists to protect Victoria's unique natural environment and biodiversity through the establishment and effective management of national parks, conservation reserves and other measures. It works towards its vision by facilitating strategic campaigns and education programs, developing policies, undertaking hands-on conservation work, and running bushwalking and outdoor activity programs which promote the care and enjoyment of Victoria's natural heritage.
Since 2010, the Victorian government has been attempting to reintroduce grazing to the National Heritage-listed Alpine National Park, in the guise of 'scientific cattle grazing' to reduce fire risk on crown land. This move came despite the fact that there is no scientific justification for the belief that alpine cattle grazing helps with fire abatement. It completely disregards more than 60 years of research showing that cattle damage alpine wetlands and the headwaters of many rivers, threaten nationally-listed rare plants and animals, and bring weeds into the park.
During 2010-2011, VNPA worked intensively to highlight the damage being caused to the Alpine National Park by this controversial trial, including trampling of endangered Alpine Tree Frogs and their wetland habitat. This resulted in intervention by the Federal environment minister, who forced the Victorian government to suspend the trial after four months and remove the cattle. Subsequent assessment under national environmental laws found that the trial would have a clearly unacceptable impact on the national heritage values of the park, and it was not permitted to proceed.
Unfortunately, continuing pressure from interest groups prompted the Victorian government to seek federal approval in 2013 for a new cattle grazing trial in the Alpine national park. VNPA is continuing to educate the public and politicians about the damage caused by cattle in alpine areas, rallying public opposition to this move, and lobbying for a stronger, national approach to protecting national parks for all Australians.
More information is available on VNPA’s alpine cattle grazing page.
The mission of the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA NSW) is to protect, connect and restore the integrity and diversity of natural systems in NSW and beyond, through national parks, marine sanctuaries and other means.
NPA NSW works on a range of conservation projects, including promoting the expansion of the terrestrial and marine park systems; protecting NSW national parks from inappropriate activities such as horse riding, recreational hunting and grazing; running citizen science programs such as the Great Koala Count; and working on connectivity conservation projects such as the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative. The association also runs one of the largest bushwalking programs in the southern hemisphere, with over 1000 activities every year, which helps to connect people with the beauty and importance of natural areas in NSW.
Protection of our coasts and oceans through marine protected areas is an important focus for NPA NSW, along with protected areas on land. The marine environment faces many threats from invasive species, pollution, climate change and overexploitation, and marine parks are vital for conservation, as well as bringing many socio-economic benefits. Unfortunately, marine protected areas in NSW have come under unprecedented threat in recent times, with political pressure leading to a moratorium on marine park creation and fishing being allowed in previously ‘no-take’ sanctuary zones.
NPA NSW is advocating strongly for the NSW government to turn the tide on these destructive decisions, and make a positive move by creating a world-leading multiple-use marine park in Sydney Harbour. A Sydney Marine Park would be the first marine park created adjacent to a major city anywhere in the world. It would provide iconic opportunities for environmental tourism, particularly in conjunction with the Sydney Harbour National Park. It would also provide protection for iconic and threatened species such as turtles, dolphins, seahorses and fairy penguins, as well as over 580 species of fish found in the harbour.
NPA NSW has successfully built enthusiasm for a Sydney marine park with the public, local government and business. Through numerous meetings with politicians, government departments and scientists, the association is also gaining increasing political support for the creation of this world-first marine protected area.
More information is available on NPA NSW’s Sydney marine park proposal.
The National Parks Association of Queensland (NPAQ) is dedicated to promoting the preservation, expansion, good management and presentation of National Parks in Queensland.
NPAQ is a non government, non party political, not for profit organisation, which campaigns and lobbies for the preservation of existing national parks in their natural condition and the reservation of new areas identified as deserving national park status. NPAQ also encourages people of all ages to enjoy and appreciate Queensland’s national parks and other wilderness areas, through an active calendar that brings people together to enjoy national parks through bushwalking, camping, boat trips, guest speakers and a range of events and social activities.
NPAQ is running a major campaign to protect Queensland’s national parks. This campaign is responding to a series of decisions by the Queensland government that seriously threaten the conservation values of protected areas, including plans to introduce racing tracks, four wheel driving, commercial development and cattle grazing in protected areas.
NPAQ is calling on the Queensland government to remove cattle grazing from national parks, protect national parks from high impact recreation, prohibit resort construction on National Park land and expand the national park system to cover more than 5% of the state. NPAQ is using a range of strategies to educate and engage the public, including developing an animation explaining the key issues of the campaign, making public presentations, preparing media reports including photographic evidence of grazing impacts in national parks, and harnessing community support through an online petition.
For more information and to view the animation, visit NPAQ’s ‘Protect Queensland’s National Parks’ page.
The National Parks Association of the ACT (NPA ACT) was established in 1960 with the prime objective of getting a national park for the national capital. This goal was achieved when Namadgi National Park was proclaimed in 1984.
Today, the Association works to promote national parks and the protection of fauna and flora, scenery, natural features and cultural heritage. This is done through lobbying and consultation with Government; commissioning research and running seminars on issues affecting the environment; running outdoor activities including field trips, work parties, day walks, longer pack walks and kayaking; and publishing field guides and a quarterly bulletin.
The mission of the Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA) is to preserve the integrity of, and expand, the Tasmanian national park system, and to ensure appropriate management of their natural and cultural values.
TNPA works towards conserving, protecting and, where necessary, rehabilitating the natural environment of national parks; securing the continuing reservation of suitable areas for national parks; increasing community awareness of the values of national parks; and encouraging community involvement in park management.
TNPA is running the ‘Keep the Capes Wild’ project to oppose excessive tourism development in Tasman National Park. The Tasmanian Government has proposed and begun developing the Three Capes Track, which is a planned six-day/five-night walk that will follow the southern coast of the Tasman Peninsula for a total of 68 kilometres. It is anticipated that when fully operational, 10,000 people per year will walk the track. Development of the track requires construction of new walking track, five accommodation nodes, signage and other facilities.
TNPA is seriously concerned that this proposal, if completed, will be the most intrusive, highly visible infrastructure project ever undertaken within a Tasmanian national park. The development is on an unprecedented scale, is expensive, does not make best use of existing walking tracks or beaches in the region and poses a threat to conservation values within the Tasman National Park. TNPA has developed an alternative proposal, the Great Tasman Coastal Experience, which is more appropriate for the management of the Tasman National Park and will provide greater support and economic benefits to tourism operators and the community.
TNPA has been promoting its alternative proposal and highlighting problems with the Three Capes Track through a dedicated campaign website, which also provides opportunities for the public to take action online. The campaign focuses on dissemination of information to the public, meetings with various levels of Government and the tourism industry, and collaborative work with the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and Environment Tasmania. Although the government is still proceeding with the plan, it has initially been reduced in scope to encompass only a three-night walk, and TNPA is continuing to lobby for a more environmentally, economically and socially responsible visitor opportunity for the Tasman National Park.
More information is available on TNPA’s Keep the Capes Wild page.
The primary objective of the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia (NCSSA) is to foster the conservation of the State's wildlife and natural habitats.
NCSSA is a voluntary body with members drawn from all parts of the State and all walks of life. It undertakes a variety of activities, including protecting and managing habitats, particularly native vegetation; researching threatened species and habitats, working to ensure adequate park dedication, management and legislation; educating the community and all tiers of government; and co-operating with other conservation organisations and land managers.
NCSSA is involved in a range of significant biodiversity monitoring projects that aim to assess the condition of native vegetation and population trends of native fauna and flora. One example is the Mount Lofty Ranges Woodland Bird Monitoring Program, which is a long-term collaboration between NCSSA and Professor Hugh Possingham’s research group at the University of Queensland. This program, which has been running since 1999, aims to assess the evidence for declines in woodland birds through repeated surveys of over 150 sites throughout the Mount Lofty Ranges, near Adelaide. This area has been listed by the federal government as one of Australia’s 10 biodiversity ‘hotspots’, due to unique flora and fauna of the region’s woodland systems, and concern about imminent losses of species.
The project uses expert volunteer bird surveyors to systematically monitor sites across a range of land tenures, with approximately half of the sites located in National Park Reserves. These sites are resurveyed annually to look for trends in the distribution and abundance of birds in response to a changing environment, broadscale ecosystem management and on-ground works. NCSSA manages and co-ordinates the annual survey, and sources funding for the project.
The Mount Lofty Ranges Woodland Bird Monitoring Program provides a way to observe and understand the changes happening now across the landscape. With this information we have the best chance of taking action to reduce the decline of woodland birds in the region. The results of monitoring for the past 11 years show that some large generalist bird species are becoming more common, while many smaller birds are becoming less common.
More information is available on NCSSA’s Mount Lofty Ranges Woodland Bird Survey page.