Russell Thomas – MEM Course Day 4

Nature Deficit Disorder is a condition that is occurring more commonly, where people for a variety of reasons have not connected with nature – they prefer the feel of a computer key board to the feel of a tree for example.  There are a number of reasons for this – basically increased urban living and a fear of the outdoors (sun, snakes, spiders, strangers etc).  Some initial responses to this were programmes such as “Bush Schools” which seems counter‑intuitive with children being encouraged to hit trees with sticks and the like.  This seems in contrast to what I remember of national park visits when I was a child – the mantra was “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs”.  To get back to something closer to this, alternate programmes are being implemented – discovery walks etc with rangers of the NPWS.  Great idea, but I think the programme needs a little more publicity.  With enough engagement, and appreciation of the role of biodiversity (and the threats to it), we can start to shift the “common interest” to preservation of biodiversity, and all the programmes that go with that.

A walk through the “Grand Canyon” with Wyn Jones confirmed the value in such ventures.  Although not coming away with a single piece of knowledge from the walk, the experience of adsorbing the bush with someone who knows a lot more about it than me was inspiring.  However, we did see the impact of high traffic areas – graffiti and vandalism can be seen throughout.  While a level of public engagement and understanding to the point where they “take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints” is the goal, it is clear that society is not there yet.  This is where the maintenance of walking tracks etc really shows its value – it limits damage to a small, defined area, and protects the majority of the park.  The next step is obviously to educate people so they use the tracks AND don’t damage the park.

Discussion regarding the manner in which the park is managed indicated at positive financial return on the investment in walking tracks (approx $3.25 returned for each $1 invested, at approximately $1,000 per linear metre of track).  Further, the consultation mechanism is through the generation of management plans – plans are put on public display and comments received.  I guess this is where I can see an application for the kind of thinking that gets applied to OH&S problems in industry.  Like the park industry primarily uses management plans as the tool to manage specific risks, with the plans forming an integrated system.  However, plans are developed based on qualitative or quantitative risk assessment that involves personnel directly affected.  It seems to me that the consultation in national parks management plans comes after this stage.  In an OH&S system, the involvement of people from all levels, while painful during the risk assessment, tends to provide genuine buy-in – much akin to “I told them to do this and they did” as opposed to “they want to do this”.  I think a heavier involvement from community members earlier in the development of management systems could lead to a greater public engagement, and also help to create a more integrated system – including more views means that the “common good” can be harder to find, and may need to be at quite a high level.  Keeping the “common good” of each plan at a high level can allow a more standard common good across multiple management plans, to help create a more integrated management system, as opposed to multiple management plans working for specific interests.

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Figure 1 – Wyn Jones in natural habitat

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Figure 2 – Local Flora

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Figure 3 – In the Grand Canyon

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Figure 4 – The walk was beautiful, but the way back up the Grand Canyon is a killer

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Figure 5 – Not Rock Art, just vandalism

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Figure 6 – Take nothing but photographs

While the key to preserving biodiversity in the park is to manage the species that are there, there is also another piece of work – breeding in captivity for species that are no longer there, with the aim of reintroducing them.  The Secret Creek facility near Lithgow has established a programme to breed and release Eastern Quolls – which are endangered in Tasmania and extinct on the mainland.  Some great work is being done, however, the facility is managed as a zoo under the Department of Trade and Investment (formerly the Department of Primary Industries) – this department seems (at least based on anecdotal evidence) to provide a more practical oversight – possibly due to their experience in industry.

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Figure 7 – Emu at Secret Creek

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Figure 8 – Alpine Dingoes at Secret Creek

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Figure 9 – resident at Secret Creek

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Figure 10 – Spotted Quoll at Secret Creek

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Figure 11 – Potteroo at Secret Creek

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Figure 12 – Eastern Grey Kangaroo at Secret Creek

Russell Thomas


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