The latest survey of visits to NSW national parks has revealed the public’s love affair with our national parks continues to grow with visitation skyrocketing in the last two years, going up 32% from 39.2 million visits in 2014 to 51.8 million in the latest 2016 report. The Royal National Park is number 2 in terms of volume with 4.6 million visits
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.
It is evident National Parks are under pressure in the Illawarra, the Mount Keira Ring Track
has been partially closed since September 2015 and insufficient signage to convey this
message to individuals. The Illawarra is host to some of the finest walking tracks in the
State, Sublime Point Walking track and Mount Kembla ring track to name a few.
Shadow Minister for the Illawarra, Ryan Park, has condemned the Berejiklian Government for a series of brutal budget cuts, staff reductions and a restructure that have the left the organisation reeling and struggling with more visitors and fewer resources.
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.
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Illawarra Ryan Park:
“The popularity of the Royal National Park continues to grow with more and more visitors wanting to explore the popular walking tracks we have on offer. It is simply astounding that this Liberal Government has slashed the funding to the NPWS while content on spending up big on stadiums in Sydney.
“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.
“With the Government prioritising spending $2.5 billion on stadiums in Sydney, it is appalling to see our national parks and the staff who manages them treated so poorly.
“We have tracks that have been closed for years thanks to a lack of funding. Greater priority must be given to upgrading our walking tracks so we can continue to welcome visitors to our region. The more we have to offer the longer they will stay and that is a positive for our growing tourism sector.