The ACT Liberal Democrats value the natural environment within the context of a prosperous society that provides equal protection under the law and is based on respect for individual freedom, personal responsibility, small government and the defence of private property.

We note that governments don’t have a great record of environmental management. The extinction of the vast majority of species has occurred in public ownership. We recognise that societies in which government is smaller rather than larger have produced better environmental quality and a better and fairer outcome for all members of society, including the poor.

There is nothing inherently superior about the “natural” environment, a term that simply refers to that part of the environment man has not extensively modified, nor anything inferior about the man-made environment. The elevation by some people of the natural environment to semi-religious status is no more than a reflection of their personal beliefs and values. The ACT Liberal Democrats will legislate for a more balanced perspective.

National Parks

National Parks are established in order to preserve selected examples of the natural environment from human modification. Many people approve of the creation of National Parks on the basis that they represent areas in which the flora and fauna are largely unchanged from hundreds or thousands of years ago.

National Parks have no purpose if they are not accessible to the people who pay for them – that is, general taxpayers.

Except in rare cases where the mere presence of humans would constitute an unacceptable threat to the environment, National Parks must be open to the public for multiple recreational purposes. This includes reasonable vehicle access to allow access by members of the public who are elderly, disabled or otherwise unable to walk for long distances in rough terrain. The ACT Liberal Democrats are strongly opposed to the locking up of large areas of National Parks so that only privileged public servants and politicians are permitted to enter them.

National Parks must also be actively managed to remove or reduce the threat of exotic animals and damaging bushfires (not all bushfires are damaging). This includes the control of pest animals (e.g. pigs, foxes, feral cats and rabbits) and regular, large-scale fuel reduction burns.

Specifically, where appropriate expert advice suggests that a kangaroo population is unsustainable and will result in starvation of the kangaroo population or other unacceptable ecological damage, the ACT Liberal Democrats will defer to that expert advice and support kangaroo culls where they are necessary as a last resort.

We do not oppose the charging of entry fees to National Parks provided the funds are used to help offset the cost of park maintenance.

The ACT Liberal Democrats:

  1. Acknowledge that fishers, 4WD enthusiasts, along with mountain bikers, horse riders, cross-country skiers and hikers are almost always committed conservationists. These groups should not be marginalised but rather proactively engaged when designing environmental policy and determining levels of access to Natural Parks.
  2. Believe that where people do the wrong thing in relation to outdoor recreation, they ought to be penalised, but the current approach towards management of outdoor areas is a form of collective punishment against the vast majority of outdoor enthusiasts who care for the environment.
  3. Acknowledge the need for reducing feral pest populations, like rabbits and foxes.
  4. Value the economic contribution that outdoor enthusiast groups make to the local economy.
  5. Reject compulsory confiscation and encroachment of property rights and restriction of individual freedom in the name of the environment.
  6. Will immediately work with outdoor enthusiast groups to unlock the ACT’s National Parks to allow people to enjoy the natural beauty of our Territory.