A year and a half ago I wrote to the Macleay Argus lamenting the state of Maria National Park.
A follow up with state government agencies resulted in platitudes from state ministers and a referral to the local National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) officer.
With $111 million cut from the NPWS budget last year and a restructuring and enhanced bureaucracy that has seen experienced officers demoralised and happy to leave the organisation, it is little surprise that the park has further degraded.
The 10th anniversary of the Black Saturday fires makes the current inability of NPWS to adequately do their job a poignant issue.
Fire trails are littered with tree debris, that makes some impassable, including the very roads needed for access to battle the 2016 Kundabung fire.
Illegal vehicle use continues the degradation of fire trails and where tree debris blocks their way, the drivers destroy more bush in driving around the obstacles.
They leave their litter and show scant regard for this area, regionally significant for its biological content and wildlife corridor values.
The fragile nature of the soils, the fire prone nature of the vegetation and its role as a corridor for plant and animal species limit the capability of the park for intensive visitor use but trail bikers, four wheel drivers and timber thieves turn a blind eye to the signage prohibiting their entry.
Their dismissal of the right to pedestrians to have a quiet walk in the park is more often than not two words of offensive direction.
When the achievements start to be shouted by those in power, and the money starts getting doled out by the state government with the election looming it is prudent to ask why, in our own backyard the NPWS cannot complete even its most basic of 'chores'. For example, park patrols could begin to address the priorities in Plans of Management that address the reasons why some parks were created.
If only Maria was the only park suffering neglect then it might be tolerable but the instances of other parks around the Macleay suffering is saddening.
What is the rationale behind under-resourcing what was an organisation that other country’s environmental agencies aspired to be, degrading the national estate and, as a consequence, putting at risk those who chose to live near a National Park for the very amenity it offers?
As with the findings of the Banking Royal Commission, I’d suggest that the attitude shown by illegal vehicle users reflects well the attitude of those currently charged with looking after the state. Scant regard.
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