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Published on : Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Parks and Widlife Minister Bess Price described the Northern Territory’s national parks and reserves as “invaluable” and called for their continued protection for the health and well-being of all Territorians.
The Territory boasts 87 national parks and reserves covering 47,000 sq km of land.Mrs Price told an Estimates Committee hearing that the NT’s parks and reserves included some of the Territory’s most majestic natural, cultural, historical and recreational assets.
They provided spectacular scenery and were located in urban, rural and remote areas, making them accessible to every single Territorian. “Parks and reserves play a very important role in ensuring the ongoing sustainability and maintenance of our environment so that it can continue to provide current and future generations with clean water, air, food, and other invaluable resources,” she said.
“No price can be placed on these critical environmental products and services and it is essential that we continue to work towards protecting our natural systems for the health and well-being of Territorians now and into the future.
Mrs Price said parks were increasingly being recognised for the very significant social value they provided to the community. Research demonstrated strong links between human health and exposure to nature – people who spent time outdoors tended to show enhanced physical and emotional wellbeing.
“These people also tend to be more connected with their community, demonstrate greater resilience and have lowered stress levels,” Mrs Price said. “Children who spend time in green spaces display improved development and learning, while elderly people tend to display greater social connectivity. The list goes on and on. Mrs Price said while it was possible to put a dollar figure on the economic value parks provided to our tourism industry, it was not possible to put a dollar figure on the true value of the Territory’s parks and reserves. “They are invaluable,” she said.
Mrs Price told the Estimates Committee the NT Government recognised the crucial role our parks and reserves played in ensuring the Territory’s social, environmental and economic future. By investing resources, recognising the commercial reality and promoting the social value of parks and reserves, the value of our parks and reserves had grown. Mrs Price said that under the Country Liberals Government, parks and reserves had become more accessible to the community and their value continued to increase in the eyes of the community.
“The Country Liberals believe parks are for people and the community, and when the parks and reserves prosper, the Territory propers,” she said. Mrs Price said that during 2015 to the 31 March 2016, visitor numbers to major parks and reserves rose for the second consecutive year, increasing 1.25 per cent across the NT.
Visitors to major Top End parks and reserves rose by around 1 per cent, while in Central Australia the increase was 2.9 per cent. “Our parks provide the perfect platform for investment and tourism development,” Mrs Price said. “Labor’s past inaction on our parks and reserves has been shameful.” Mrs Price said if Labor ever regained office, they would “lock up our parks and reserves”, leaving the tourism industry in disarray with falling visitor numbers again