ENVIRONMENTAL VOLUNTEERS

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 14:38 ): I seek leave to make
a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment
and Conservation questions about environmental volunteers.

Leave granted. 

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: On 14 May, the
minister answered a question in this place regarding the contribution of
volunteers to the management of South Australia's environment. As part of his
answer, the minister said: 

Volunteers work on a huge array
of projects, including soil and land management, revegetation, native animal
and plant surveys, fire management, trail maintenance, weed and pest animal
control and heritage site restoration. As you can imagine, this is an important
contribution to the successful implementation of our environmental program. 

As most members will realise,
these efforts epitomise the voluntary work of members of the Friends of Parks
network across South Australia. In particular, I have personally had a long
association with the Friends of Para Wirra group and the work that its members
do in most—if not all—of those facets of environmental work. With this in mind,
my questions are as follows: 

1.When will the minister advise
the Friends of Para Wirra group whether he will allow mountain bikes to be used
in the natural bushland which that group has revitalised over a number of
years? 

2.Will he take into account the
potential impact of mountain bike activity on the breeding cycles of wildlife
in those bushland areas? 

3.Is he considering reversing the
decision to maintain the recreation park classification for Para Wirra park
made early last year despite DEWNR's recommendation that it be declared a
conservation park? 

The
Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister
for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the
River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:40 ): I thank the
honourable member for his most important question and, in particular, his
longstanding association with Friends of the Parks at Para Wirra. It is a very
important job that he does out there, as do all of our volunteers. I know the
Hon. Mr Dawkins is out there weeding as often as he possibly can. 

The
Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins: No, he's not. 

The
Hon. I.K. HUNTER: He's not? He has
given that up. We have got rid of most of the weeds in Para Wirra because of
his sterling efforts with our volunteer group. The Department of Environment,
Water and Natural Resources contributes to the South Australian Strategic Plan:
Target 72—'Improving volunteer participation' through a range of volunteer
efforts. For example, the department engages volunteers to undertake conservation
activities in parks and across landscapes through the regional natural
resources management model. 

In 2013-14, volunteers spent an
estimated 8,085 days on land management activities across the state and of
these days approximately 591 days were spent on land management activities and
projects specifically in our parks. Activities conducted by volunteers vary
across locations but include important work such as weed removal, habitat
restoration, raising community awareness through guided walks and events, and
assisting with wildlife research and monitoring. 

The department has a number of
initiatives in place to increase environmental volunteering. A Friends of Parks
business plan has been developed, the Campground Hosts program has been
revitalised and is incredibly successful, I am advised, and annual regional
initiatives involving community groups are organised frequently. 

The Friends of Parks model began
in the early 80s and has been the department's largest and longest running
volunteer program, with more than 111 groups and several thousand active
volunteers across the state. The department assists the Friends of Parks Incorporated
board to develop business plans for improving and increasing the Friends of
Parks program into the future. 

The business plan is designed to
provide support to Friends of Parks members groups, as well as raising the
profile of the Friends of Parks brand as we try to recruit more and younger
participants in that program. In order to roll out the business plan, a
statewide consultation process is being implemented between the Friends of
Parks board and members. Training workshops are being offered to board member
groups that are subsidised by the Friends of Parks board, and a new Friends of
Parks website is also being developed. 

I give that information by way of
background to our holistic approach to friends groups, but in terms of Para
Wirra, and particularly mountain biking, it is a fantastic success story in how
we come to terms with multiple uses in parks and how we reconcile sometimes
different ambitions from different user groups in terms of bushwalking,
mountain biking or just bringing young families to have picnics in parks. 

There is often competition for
the resources in our parks, and in Para Wirra what we manage to do is bring
together all these sectors in the community to discuss their individual needs
and come up with a way forward where everybody can get a share of those
resources. We have built bike trails, walking trails and dual use trails in
Para Wirra, and that seems to be working very successfully. 

The great advantage of having
bike trails built into our parks is that it actively encourages mountain bikers
out of sensitive areas of parks where they would cut their own trails and go
through sensitive areas, particularly where there may be, for example, rare
orchid species in association with particular shrub land. Instead of allowing
that to happen we actually encourage them to use the purpose-built bike paths. 

In effect, those users become
self-policing of their community group and also our eyes and ears in the park.
They will report for us anyone who does the wrong thing, transgresses, and goes
and uses their mountain bikes in places where they should not. It is a
fantastic success story of bringing the community together to resolve
competition problems in our parks. 



It is something we are emulating
elsewhere in terms of multiple uses in our parks. As the government proceeds
with our consultation in the communities north and south about how to expend
those moneys that have been allocated for upgrading our metropolitan parks,
that is a process we will be using to bring users together to advise us how
they want those moneys best spent. And, yes, I will not be changing the
dedication provision in terms of the park. The policy as it currently stands
will stay.