How parks are declared
For almost 40 years, new national parks in Queensland were selected to protect the state's major natural environments. So, even before scientists realised the importance of biodiversity, this was a factor in choosing national parks.
Regional surveys of ecosystems identify places which should become national parks. In recommending areas for the Queensland Government to declare as national park, the department's Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service seeks to:
- preserve viable representative samples of regional ecosystems across Queensland's 19 major mainland bioregions
- preserve the diversity of native plant and animal life
- protect rare and threatened species
- preserve outstanding examples of natural scenic beauty and Queensland's history.
Factors considered before an area can qualify for national park status include:
- how representative the area is of particular ecosystems in a regional context
- the natural diversity of the area
- the degree of disturbance - how natural the area is
- whether the size and shape are adequate for an effective conservation unit
- cultural heritage values
- recreational values
Ideally, a protected area should be sufficiently large and intact to cope with threatening processes such as severe fires and weed invasion.
The actual shape of the proposed park is important. While narrow strips of land can be important wildlife corridors, national parks should be wide enough to cope with external pressures on their edges. So, large, rectangular, circular or square parks are usually better.
Ideally, natural features such as mountain ranges and river catchments should be included within the park's boundaries.
These factors are thoroughly investigated and documented before an area is recommended to become a national park.
Before an area can become a national park, the State must own the land, and all other interests be removed. To ensure there are no impediments to national park gazettal, other government departments are consulted first. Provided other interested departments and agencies do not object, the national park proposal proceeds.
Park proposals include vacant State land and private or leasehold land which is bought or obtained by converting tenure.
If land has very high conservation value and the owner refuses to sell, the Government has the power to take over the land and offer and pay compensation. When occasionally this happens, the Land Court provides an independent mechanism for awarding compensation. Queensland's first national park, Witches Falls (now part of Tamborine National Park) was declared in 1908.
Now Queensland has over 215 national parks. In the past decade, the park acquisition program has sought to:
- ensure adequate representation of ecosystems in all biogeographic regions
- sample poorly conserved ecosystems in western Queensland which are less known and less scenic than coastal areas
- sample poorly represented natural regions such as the Mulga lands and Mitchell Grass Downs
- protect critical areas such as the greater bilby habitat in south-western Queensland and the World Heritage-listed Riversleigh fossil field
- extend and consolidate existing parks such as Great Sandy (Fraser Island and Cooloola).
Future acquisitions will focus on conserving the state's biodiversity.