Sharp rise in park vis­i­tors

Pilbara News - - News - Daniel Mercer

West Aus­tralians are fall­ing back in love with the great out­doors, with num­bers vis­it­ing the State’s na­tional parks and na­ture re­serves soar­ing in re­cent years.

Of­fi­cial fig­ures show the num­ber of vis­its to parks and re­serves rock­eted 64 per cent be­tween 200607 and last fi­nan­cial year.

The Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife fig­ures show there were 19.75 mil­lion vis­its in 2015-16 com­pared with 12 mil­lion a decade ago.

They con­tinue an un­bro­ken run of in­creases dur­ing the pe­riod, in­clud­ing a 5 per cent bump in the most re­cent fi­nan­cial year alone.

Parks with the big­gest in­crease in traf­fic are those that have had ma­jor cap­i­tal works up­grades, such as Torndirrup Na­tional Park in Al­bany.

Vis­i­tor num­bers to the south coast park jumped 70 per cent — or an ex­tra 20,000 — in just two weeks af­ter the depart­ment un­veiled a new look­out over­hang­ing the Gap as part of a $6.1 mil­lion re­de­vel­op­ment at the pop­u­lar spot.

Other parks to have had a boost in vis­its in­clude the Porongu­rup, Fitzger­ald River and Kal­barri na­tional parks af­ter millions of dol­lars — of­ten from the Roy­al­ties for Re­gions pro­gram — was poured into new in­fra­struc­ture.

West Aus­tralians are lead­ing the charge in the growing pop­u­lar­ity of the parks and re­serves. Ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment, the pro­por­tion of West Aus­tralians vis­it­ing the parks and re­serves have risen over the past year from 75 per cent to 77 per cent.

In­ter­state tourists made up 13 per cent of vis­i­tors and those from over­seas ac­counted for 10 per cent of traf­fic.

The depart­ment said the “sig­nif­i­cant shift” showed a larger amount of West Aus­tralians were hol­i­day­ing at home — a find­ing in line with re­cent Tourism Coun­cil fig­ures, amid the fall­ing Australian dol­lar and slug­gish do­mes­tic econ­omy.

DPAW di­rec­tor-gen­eral Jim Sharp said the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of nat­u­ral ar­eas was a boon for WA’s re­gions and re­in­forced the de­ci­sion to move the agency’s headquarters to Bun­bury.

“En­hanc­ing the cul­tural rich­ness of vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ences in na­tional parks and re­serves con­tin­ued to re­main a pri­or­ity for the depart­ment,” Mr Sharp said in the re­port.

“Through pro­vid­ing greater ac­cess and new and im­proved fa­cil­i­ties, we have seen the num­ber of vis­its to (Depart­ment of ) Parks and Wildlife-man­aged lands in­creased by 1.08 mil­lion.”

The depart­ment said vis­i­tor sat­is­fac­tion dur­ing 2015-16 was also the high­est on record at 91.4 per cent, up from 87.9 per cent the pre­vi­ous year.

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