Gary Dunnett, Chief Executive Officer, National Parks Association of NSW
In the best of possible worlds NPA focuses the resources and support provided by our members onto delivering a world class activities program and advocating for the creation of new national parks and reserves. Unfortunately, the all too frequent reality is that your NPA is compelled to expend much of our efforts on defending our existing parks, despite all the legal protections those parks are supposed to enjoy.
Many of the proposals we defend against come from those seeking commercial gain from national parks, whether massive increases in resort accommodation, or new transmission lines in Kosciuszko, or exclusive glamping on the Light to Light walk. Other threats to parks, such as the proliferation of illegal clearing for mountain bike access, reflect a disappointing lack of awareness of the fragility and importance of gazetted reserves.
Perhaps the most dangerous threats of all are when government seeks to change the basic legal framework and protections that apply to all national parks and reserves. That is precisely the situation that your NPA faced late in 2021, when then Environment Minister Matt Kean introduced a raft of amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act.
The proposed legislation went far beyond a minor ‘nip and tuck’ of the parks legislation. It fundamentally changed the conservation objectives of the Act, stripped conservation representatives out of the statutory advisory committees and massively reduced the opportunity for community comment on ‘on park’ development proposals. Most shockingly, it granted the Minister virtually unfettered powers to approve development in parks without going through any of the formal processes of amending the relevant Plan of Management. There was no prior consultation with the conservation movement about these proposals, and no invitation to discuss opportunities to streamline or improve clunky processes.
NPA’s long-standing position as champions of the protected area network came to the fore during the vigorous debate that ensued. There is no question that we were effective in influencing the final outcome which saw many improvements, including the outright removal of the Ministerial power to ignore Plans of Management. You can see more detail on the proposals at Recent Changes to the National Parks and Wildlife Act
This shameful episode was a timely reminder that we can never cease our vigilance over threats to our national parks and reserves. I’m very proud that we had the capacity, agility and most importantly influence to mount an effective defence of our parks.
Thank you for providing the support that allows NPA to be such a strong advocate for nature.