Primarily National Parks are created to conserve the floral and faunal biodiversity found in natural areas, and provide habitats for permanent and migrating animals in the area. They are recognised nationally and internationally as being the most effective method of improving the conservation and biodiversity values of reserves.
National Parks also protect cultural sites such as shell middens, scar trees and cave paintings from being damaged by human activities, and involve indigenous peoples by including their lands in indigenous protected areas (Figgis, Australia’s National Parks: Future Directions, 1999).
That is not to say that the general community cannot continue to use and enjoy National Parks in the same way they enjoyed reserves. Many recreational activities are allowed in National Parks such as walking, camping, boating and canoeing, fishing and swimming. It is this recreational aspect of National Parks that make them particularly viable for tourism.
National Parks receive 'top billing' in many tourist guides as places to visit and as such boost the economy of local areas. For example, the Grampians National Park contributed over $150 million to the regional economy. The increased popularity of National Parks also allows for more employment opportunities of both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
It is not only the income generated by visitation that makes National Parks important to the economy but also a variety of potential ecosystem services. Ecosystem services benefits include catchment protection, water production, protection of soil stability, climatic controls, carbon sinks, genetic resources, pollination of economic species, habitat for economically important species such as insectivorous birds and the protection of hatcheries of commercial aquatic species (Beattie, Commercial Exploration of Biodiversity, 1995).
Overall, National Parks are an important and valuable resource for scientists, educators and the community due to the variety of aesthetic, recreational and economic uses they offer.