If that pretty much sums up your thinking on national parks and conservation areas, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is out to change your mind. The organisation has been tasked with increasing visitor numbers to NSW national parks by 20 per cent over the next five years and says finding recruits will be vital.
If you’re not into camping, NPWS staff will show you alternatives. If you’re not confident about setting off into a wilderness area, they’ll introduced you to tour operators who can lead the way. In short, they want you to see national parks as tourism experiences, not tracts of land locked away for perpetuity.
You may ask why the government is targeting an increase in visitors to areas set aside for conservation, especially when domestic visits alone already number about 38 million a year. But tourism is increasingly being seen as a key to conservation, so long as it is done in a sustainable way, with licensed operators and low-impact development.
Sally Barnes, the head of NPWS, says the state wants to become a world leader in mixing conservation with tourism. “What we’re seeing around the rest of the world is declining visitation to conservation areas by about 1 per cent each year,” Barnes says. “We’re bucking that trend … I think a lot of that is because we are taking a very planned approach to tourism.” Barnes points out that NSW’s first national park, the Royal National Park (the second national park in the world, after Yellowstone in the US), was always intended as a leisure area. “We’ve been catering for visitors and tourists ever since the first park.”
Barnes says that when it comes to national park visits, a demographic that’s under-represented is young families. “There is a whole bunch of young families who are not giving it a go,” she says. “It could be because they are time-poor, it could be because they need the information packaged in a slightly different way. Or it could be because… (click here to keep reading this article by Jane E. Fraser)