Australian World Heritage Site’s long term volunteers help protect natural, social and cultural values

Lamington National Park, traditional land of the Danggan Balun (Five Rivers) People, is part of the World Heritage, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. Volunteers help on weekends and school holidays at Visitor Centres, and undertake revegetation and fund-raising for projects on the park.

Lamington National Park

This partnership has positive effects for the park through protecting and enhancing the parks natural, social and cultural values, improving safety of park visitors while increasing support and knowledge of the park, its values and conservation.

Lamington National Park, traditional land of the Danggan Balun (Five Rivers) People, is part of the World Heritage, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. Lamington Natural History Association (LNHA) and Green Mountains Natural History Association (GMNHA) are volunteer organisations that provide information to visitors on Lamington National Park and take part in volunteer activities that contribute to the park’s conservation and management. The associations have been running for over 40 years, in partnership with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service &  Partnerships (QPWS&P). Members volunteer on weekends and school holidays at QPWS&P's Binna Burra and Green Mountains Visitor Centres, and undertake revegetation and fund raising for projects on park. This partnership has positive effects for the park through protecting and enhancing the parks natural, social and cultural values, improving safety of park visitors while increasing support and knowledge of the park, its values and conservation.

Challenges

Lamington National Park is 21,000ha of mountainous terrain ranging from below 700m to 1050m above sea level, with over 130 kilometres of graded tracks as well as remote walking trails with limited accessibility other than ‘on foot’. Maintaining the track system is labour and resource intensive. Remote bushwalking can be hazardous to visitors without the right information, physical fitness and preparedness. One of the main challenges for addressing these issues is limited budget and staffing, resulting in a lack of ranger presence on weekends and during peak visitor periods. This limits the capacity to provide local, current knowledge of park conditions to visitors, as well as park opportunities and it’s special values, resulting in an increase of visitor impacts and decreased visitor safety.

Beneficiaries

  • The community; local, Australian and international visitors.
  • Lamington National Park’s values through visitor awareness reducing visitor impacts.
  • QPWS&P through improved community relationships, improved efficiency in park management

How do the building blocks interact?

For this solution to work as well as it has, a mutual desire for positive conservation outcomes is one of the key drivers. The strong relationship that has been developed between QPWS&P and the volunteer organisation members is mutually beneficial and built on trust. The Volunteer Agreements support this relationship and assist in ensuring the responsibilities and boundaries of the relationship are clear to all involved, which reduces the risk of relationship breakdown. Volunteer agreements enable an increased trust among all partners, encouraging greater input and ensuring its longevity. Having a positive relationship and volunteer agreement makes undertaking collaborative projects and programs easier, provides better information to visitors through educational and interpretive materials, delivers a safer on park experience for visitors and encourages positive relationships with park neighbours which has a positive flow on effect for other park management decisions.

Impacts

Volunteers provide park information and safety messaging to visitors and assist visitors on park activities on weekends when Rangers aren’t present.

The associations generate funding by selling their own products at the information centres and taking donations, which feed back into park management and conservation. For example, funding for a 200m, wheelchair accessible wooden boardwalk at Green Mountains to provide better access to view the forest values. The also acquire external funding and grants as well, for example a A$25 000 grant through the Friends of Parks small grants program by the Queensland Government, supporting the 2015 Lamington National Park Centenary project.

Volunteers gather information that assists rangers in their work improving efficiency and saving resources. For example, a logbook kept by the associations at the volunteer centres provides information recording information such as visitor numbers entering the information centres, incidents on park, day use area and facilities use, track condition reports and overall impression of visitation to the park. This provides quicker responses to safety issues, and improved operational activities to address emerging issues while maintaining the 130 kilometre walking track system. Volunteers on park assists rangers in understanding weekend impacts and demand on the park when they are not able to be on site.

Back story

Lamington Natural History Association (LNHA) formed in 1975 with a long history of providing environmental education services to school groups and visitors out of the Environmental Education Centre (EEC) at Binna Burra for many years. LNHA delivered many successful interpretive programs, for example the Lamington Junior Ranger program and Christmas holiday interpretive programs in the 1980s (slide shows and guided walks). They also undertook small natural resource management projects such as removing invasive weeds at Mt Merino and other environmentally sensitive sites.

LNHA volunteers worked out of the old Forestry Hut on Binna Burra lodge land and a tent at the trail head prior to the opening of the Binna Burra Visitor Information Centre in 1988. Binna Burra EEC closed in 1999/2000. LNHA became the first community group to have an official agreement with Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service back in the day.

A group split from LNHA in 1977 to form the Green Mountains Natural History Association (GMNHA) so a second group could work autonomously on the Green Mountains side of the park. GMNHA started assisting O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat with minor construction and interpretation on their Wishing Tree walking track, followed by the construction of the Python Rock track and Tree Top Canopy Walk.

GMNHA originally worked out of a small space at O’Reilly’s on weekends and school holidays, before moving to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service & Partnerships (QPWS&P) office in the mid-1980s. The GMNHA moved again to the new QPWS&P Visitor Information Centre in the late 1990s.

Association activities include developing additional publications such as interpretive track guides in languages other than English and supporting rangers on revegetation projects. Regular member weekends are held on park that include special guests discussing natural history topics. The associations also produce their own newsletters which QPWS&P contributes to; facilitating better communication between QPWS&P and association members.

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