The lack of tourists in our national parks has brought some benefits

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The sun has set on the grey nomad lifestyle ... for now

While ongoing travel restrictions are a huge inconvenience, Susanne Cooper from the National Parks Association of Queensland says there are some unexpected positives

Grey nomads have long enjoyed exploring Queensland’s many and varied national parks and state forests.

Australians from other states typically migrate to Queensland during the winter months and popularity has surged in the last decade, though grey nomads have had their trips cut short this March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst this has had profound effects on every Australian, there have been some positives for national parks. Despite chronic under-resourcing, the pause in visitation gives Queensland park rangers some much-needed breathing space to re-assess management priorities. It has freed up rangers from focusing mainly on visitor facilities and management issues; instead, they can now focus efforts on the parks’ natural resources.

Rangers in some national parks have been able to spend time on critical feral pest and weed management, particularly where there have been devastating fires. With the rains following fire and drought, there has been an explosion of weeds in many parks, which will require resourcing that is already in short supply.

Rangers are also focused on fire hazard reductions with cool burns and assessing Indigenous burning regimes. The extended drought and devastating fires have also taken a toll on tracks which have been blocked with fallen trees and eroded, and in some parks washed away from intense rainfall.

The temporary halt in foot traffic along tracks gives the opportunity for regeneration, particularly in areas where people go off-track to take a short-cut. Areas around campgrounds typically have highly compacted soils. Again, removal of visitor traffic gives a chance for regeneration, especially for native grasses around camp areas.

Fauna is also affected. Dingos and other wildlife are forced to return to self-sufficiency as human food is no longer available at the campsites. The quiet atmosphere around parks coupled with regeneration has resulted in a noticeable increase in sightings of fauna – from birds to pademelons and koalas.

And the closure of high-use areas has allowed some ecosystems in these iconic sites to recover. Four-wheel driving on park beaches has also been restricted giving wildlife and tracks a break. And Fraser (K’gari) Island, part of Great Sandy National Park, is having a break from the 10,000 and 14,000 people who normally visit the island over the Easter period. This breather from visitors allows ecosystems to recover, and rangers to focus on fire hazard, weed, pest management and track maintenance.

Because of this opportunity, when you return to visit a national park, you are likely to notice increased bird life and sightings of native fauna.

NPAQ hopes grey nomads will take the opportunity to visit our diverse national parks as part of a safe, inexpensive holiday, demonstrating how these special, unique areas are valued. This also builds the case for increased resourcing of park management. In response to the collapse of tourism, the Queensland Government has waived commercial operators’ park fees to help with the industry’s recovery. Yet, national parks need every dollar they can get.

Although Queensland park campgrounds will be closed until at least until May 31, NPAQ requests that, when camping re-opens, all grey nomads do the right thing and book campsites online or phone 13 QGOV or 137684. If you can, spending a little extra in the regions can also to help country towns recover faster.

  • NPAQ advocates for the protection, expansion and good management of the protected areas in Queensland.
  • Do you think some national parks will benefit by having a ‘break’ from tourism? Email us here to share your thoughts.

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