The Director of National Parks (the Director) is appointed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to conserve and manage biodiversity and cultural heritage within Commonwealth parks and reserves. Parks Australia, a division of the Department of the Environment and Energy, assists the Director to fulfil these functions.
There are six terrestrial Commonwealth national parks under the EPBC Act:
- Booderee, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks, which are jointly managed by the Director and traditional owners; and
- island national parks in the territories of Norfolk, Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
ore management activities undertaken across these parks include invasive species control, threatened species monitoring, asset maintenance, visitor and park use management, and community and stakeholder engagement. As required by the EPBC Act, activities are to be undertaken in accordance with 10-year statutory park management plans. The Director also maintains operational plans for each park.
Terrestrial Commonwealth national parks cover over 2.1 million hectares and have been established to conserve natural and cultural heritage that is of national and international significance. The government holds over $200 million in assets and invests approximately $50 million per year to manage these parks in line with international commitments for biodiversity protection as well as commitments to traditional owners. This funding is designed to contribute not only to environmental conservation, but also the tourism industry and the economic development of Aboriginal communities associated with the parks.
The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the Director’s management of the six terrestrial Commonwealth national parks. To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO adopted the following high level criteria:
- Are appropriate governance arrangements in place to support strategic risk management and business and operational planning?
- Are national park business management and operational plans effectively implemented?
- Does the Director effectively measure, monitor and report on park operational activities?