Not a recipe for success or safety

The NSW Opposition has welcomed the strong growth revealed by the latest survey of visits (see graph below) to National Parks on the North Coast, but warns of the devastating impact of cuts to National Parks staff and funding.

In the last two years visits to North Coast National Parks have grown by 70 per cent, making it the most popular region outside of Sydney.

The North Coast has leapfrogged Hunter-Central Coast and the Blue Mountains to become the second most popular region for National Park visits statewide, behind only Greater Sydney.

However, this growth is being undermined by savage cuts of $121 million inflicted by the NSW Government.

The increased visitation is putting significant pressure on the National Parks and Wildlife Service, leaving overworked staff under pressure to keep facilities operating, make repairs, provide visitor services and education, as well as undertaking core park priorities of conservation programs, fire and pest management.

Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe condemned the State Government for a series of cuts and restructures that have the left the Service reeling and struggling with more visitors and fewer resources.

“This Government is without doubt the greatest danger to our treasured National Parks estate since the National Parks and Wildlife Service was established in 1967,” Ms Sharpe said.

“NSW should have a world class National Parks and Wildlife Service, but this is impossible with the cuts being imposed by this Government. Labor calls on the Government to reverse the cuts and commit to properly resourcing the Service to look after our parks now and for the future.

“I’ve been approached by experienced former National Parks staff almost in tears at the way this great public institution is being ground down – their greatest fear is a deliberate campaign of neglect, in which the Government leaves parks to ruin so they can be opened up for logging or shooting instead.

“With the Government prioritising spending $2.5 billion on stadiums in Sydney, it is appalling to see our National Parks and the staff who manage them treated so poorly.”

Funding cuts and “efficiency dividends” have smashed the National Parks budget to the tune of more than $121 million cut over two years. This is on top of a cut of $24 million to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 2014.

At the same time, permanent National Parks staff have been drastically reduced. Since 2011 – staff cuts mean that 26 per cent of permanent rangers have been lost and 35 per cent of area managers are gone. There are fewer field officers on the ground to maintain the parks, assist visitors and undertake bush fire management operations. The ecologists in the Service have been made redundant and the staff coordinating the work of volunteers who are working to protect threatened species is rapidly diminishing.

*See chart with figures over page.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe

“The Berejiklian Government is without doubt the greatest danger to our treasured National Parks estate since the National Parks and Wildlife Service was established in 1967.

“NSW should have a world class National Parks and Wildlife Service, but this is impossible with the cuts being imposed by this Government.

Labor calls on the Government to reverse the cuts and commit to properly resourcing the Service to look after our parks now and for the future.

“I’ve been approached by experienced former National Parks staff almost in tears at the way this great public institution is being ground down – their greatest fear is a deliberate campaign of neglect, in which the Government leaves parks to ruin so they can be opened up for logging or shooting instead.

“With the Government prioritising spending $2.5 billion on stadiums in Sydney, it is appalling to see our National Parks and the staff who manage them treated so poorly.”