National Parks

Cradle MountainLake St Clair national park, undated postcard (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)

By the twenty-first century Tasmania, the last state to establish a National Park (at Mount Field in 1916), had the highest proportion of land in national parks. Containing representative or outstanding examples of natural regions, features or scenery, parks are managed to protect and maintain these values and to provide sustainable recreation. First established in New South Wales in 1879, Australian parks are descendants of the colonial reserved land system. The government right to reserve lands for community purposes such as 'Recreation and Amusement', for 'Health, or Enjoyment' and later 'Sanctuaries for preservation of game or fauna or flora' was enshrined in legislation from the Waste Lands Act (1858). Legislation reflected official vision and public pressure from scientific groups, such as the Royal Society, individuals, Gustav Weindorfer, and tourism associations and the influence of contemporary perceptions of man and landscape.

The Scenery Preservation Act (1915), which established a supervisory Board, also contained official revocation powers. It was superseded by the National Parks and Wildlife Act (1970) which attempted to systematise approaches to and management of reserved land. To the list, which included internationally renowned Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park, others were added; some were revoked while others were enlarged or reduced. Parks were long the scene of disputes between the Hydro-Electric Commission, mining and tourism interests, and conservation groups, and conflict intensified from the late 1960s with major battles especially over Lake Pedder and the Gordon-below-Franklin dam. Campaigns such as Wilderness World Heritage listing in 1989 of former Waste Lands revealed fundamental perception shifts in attitudes to land. (See also Wilderness Society.)

Further reading: Tasmanian year books, 1967 2002; C Hall, Wasteland to world heritage, Melbourne, 1992; G Castles, 'Handcuffed volunteers', Honours thesis, UT, 1986; J Mosley, 'Aspects of the geography of recreation in Tasmania', PhD thesis, ANU, 1963.

Tim Jetson