Monday 18 September 2017

The NSW Government and the Management of the State's National Parks Estate

What the NSW government is doing to our national parks through repeated restructuring and staff cuts is an absolute tragedy. Remaining staff are demoralised and frustrated, seeing their wonderful conservation reserves deteriorating, species declining, with invasive weeds smothering native vegetation, and feral predators sending threatened species to extinction.

According to a report in the Land newspaper: “In the past six years, Parks have shed about100 rangers and about 300 field officers. A number of regional managers have also been axed taking with them decades of bushfire management and pest control management knowledge”.

At the same time Parks regions in NSW have been cut from 66 to 35.

The official stance of the Office of Environment and Heritage that: “Our key focus on fire, pests, weeds, asset maintenance and visitor facilities remains unchanged” is, to put it mildly, fanciful nonsense.

The following is an example of reality.

Fifteen months ago, during an extended dry period, two bushfires lit and left unattended by graziers, burned out the whole of the Chambigne Nature Reserve south west of Grafton, across some 1,500 hectares of conservation land under Clarence Valley Council's management, and all or part of at least five private properties.

Property damage was extensive and environmental damage massive, and the three days of fire-fighting and follow-up removal of trees that were threatening to fall on roads and transmission lines would have cost tax-payers millions, yet not one person was held accountable.

Fifteen months on, and because the parks service does not have the available monetary or human resources, none of the kilometres of park fencing that were damaged by the fire have been repaired. As a result the nature reserve, and the shores of the regional water supply dam at Shannon Creek have been overrun by cattle, trampling the unique threatened flora, and defecating in the region's drinking water.

The “Land's” observation: “For the few staff which are left it must be very demoralising to know that they can't do their job with the resources they have been provided”, would be a massive understatement.

Is this really the best we can do?

- John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 11, 2017.