Should national parks be advertising-free zones?

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Grey nomads and advertising in national parks
Going for a song? The Opera House became one big advert

When an Australian icon like the Sydney Opera House was used as a giant advertising board for a horseracing event last month, opponents of the plan were quick to ask the question: ‘where will it end?’

Given the slow but steady push of commercial interests into some of our most pristine national parks, many grey nomads may well be wondering the same thing. The Opera House is a national treasure and there was, not surprisingly, a huge outcry when Racing NSW sought to advertise the Everest Cup on the building’s famous sails … but money talks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison thought it was a ‘no brainer’.

“It’s not like they’re painting it on there,” he said. “I mean, it’s lights flashing up there for a brief moment of time.”

While it may seem fanciful to imagine a future in which floodlit McDonald’s billboards spring up on Uluru, or insurance company jingles ring out from speakers at popular lookouts, it’s certainly not a laughable prospect.

Just last year, the cash-strapped US national park service adopted a donor recognition program that allows individuals and companies to have their names displayed on things like programs, benches, and other interior spaces at parks.  In doing so, the service tried to assure opponents that it would not let corporations or anyone else re-name parks like Yellowstone or features like Old Faithful.

“While there will continue to be opportunities for limited donor recognition in parks, no one is going to commercialise national parks and park superintendents still won’t be allowed to solicit donations,” said National Park Service Director, Jonathan Jarvis. “We have federal law to back us up on that.”

However, some long-term Australian travellers who are already sceptical of the creeping presence of commercial activity in our national parks are far from convinced.

“It is the thin end of the wedge and a subtle shifting of the goalposts,” said Julian G. “We are slowly being softened up so that when the next bigger venture is introduced it will no longer seem quite as outrageous as it might do now.”

It is no secret that the cost of maintaining infrastructure and managing flora and fauna in Australia’s national parks also puts a strain on various budgets, and that means more creative solutions may be sought.

“I know there are plenty of grey nomads who are unhappy about entry fees to national parks and the cost of camping,” said Julian G. “I guess some of them may be seduced by the idea of a few advertising hoardings helping to bring fees down, but it’s a slippery, slippery slope and we have a duty of care to future generations.”

  • Would you be happy to see a limited number of advertising boards at national park beauty spots and campsites if it brought camping fees down? Comment below.

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3 Responses to Should national parks be advertising-free zones?

  1. No!

  2. It is the thin edge of the wedge,time to say no to this endless corporate spam.

  3. Corporate marketing madness…!

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