The human species has evolved from, and been nurtured by, the natural environment – we are a biological product of the earth itself. This deep connection is one that we must all remember. Our parks are the storehouse of our past and, more importantly, of our future.
All over the world the natural wealth of the planet is in retreat. A mere 100 years ago vast areas of the Earth’s forests, oceans, grasslands and deserts were barely touched by humans. Today, virtually every corner of the earth is impacted and struggling to maintain healthy natural systems. Throughout humanity’s evolutionary journey we have lived intimately with nature, understanding that it is the source of our water, food, clothes, tradeable goods, transport and shelter. We have imbued our land and seascapes with special meaning, spirits, stories and songs. This acute ancient connection has largely been lost, yet our intellects and feelings remind us of our ultimate dependence on nature. Even in our increasingly urbanised lives, most people still have a strong need to ‘touch green’, to immerse themselves in a natural space – in their own garden, a local park, a large recreation area on the city’s edge or a great national park or reserve of Australia or New Zealand.
These natural spaces often become our favourite places, having special meaning in our lives. They are crucial to our sense of wellbeing. Yet, the importance of these vital remnants of the natural world is often underestimated. Our iconic parks and vast natural landscapes not only give us a sense of place and reflect our culture, they also form the basis of a multi-billion dollar tourism industry, and a window through which we are seen by the rest of the world.
Large national parks are the strongholds of our plants, animals and ecosystems with all the values and benefits they bestow, from protecting water quality to providing habitat for marine fisheries.
Parks near and in our cities breathe peace and tranquillity, and sustain fun, family time, exercise, sport and the healthy outdoor lifestyle that is such a feature of life in Australia and New Zealand.