Parks plan could create 200 jobs
A bold plan to convert five million hectares of pastoral land into national parks managed by traditional owners is being pushed in front of politicians as a positive policy in the lead-up to the 2017 State Election.
The backers of the Create Ranger Parks plan say it would create more than 200 jobs in remote areas, generate regional tourism opportunities and significant State budget savings.
Pew Charitable Trusts WA Outback manager David Mackenzie said for every dollar invested in the plan, $3.70 of value would be created for WA.
“The cries for not only ranger programs but also the development opportunities that go with it are stretching from north of the Pilbara right down to Esperance.
“In those areas where we are establishing a new park from scratch, there are quite often no existing ranger jobs. That’s probably one of the most exciting areas.
“We know ranger programs will work, we know national parks and conservation parks work, so in some ways it’s the bundling of success stories.”
Mr Mackenzie said if successful the project would act as a model for the rest of Australia.
“I think we need to be highlighting the fact that this addresses a whole range of existing problems and saves WA taxpayers money,” he said.
“When you can solve problems with tremendously positive outcomes at no cost to taxpayers, we believe that is a way to get a really positive political dialogue going.”
Mr Mackenzie said he had visited communities where children viewed working as a ranger in the same light as becoming an AFL star.
Nyangumarta Warrarn Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Nyaparu Rose said ranger programs got the younger generation out on country, mentored by elders who look after country.
“Living and working on country is like medicine for my people.
“Being a ranger is meaningful work that gives us hope for the future,” she said.
Under the plan, indigenous rangers would manage tourism infrastructure on the new parks, working with local communities and volunteer groups to generate new tourism opportunities.
The plan would encompass a number of Pilbara stations, including all of the Rio Tinto-owned leases surrounding Karijini National Park. A Rio Tinto spokesman indicated potential support for the idea from the iron ore giant.
“Rio Tinto will continue to work with the relevant government agencies in relation to our activities near Karijini National Park and these new conservation estate areas,” he said.
“We support and encourage the employment of Aboriginal people to care for country and will seek to collaborate with neighbouring properties, so that the regional benefits of sustainable land management can be fully realised.”