“I'd like to highlight an issue that is a limiting factor on investment, at both a state and local governmental levels, into outdoor and unstructured recreation in Australia. That is the lack of recognition by the federal government of the outdoor recreation sector as an independent industry. Businesses and not for profits that operate in the space either fall under tourism, education, or the heath sector depending on their target audience and type of program they run. Thus when ABS data or other industry data comes out it is almost imposable to resolve out the size of the sector using natural areas for their operations and the level of contribution it makes to both local economies and social health.
This limits investment in nature based recreational opportunities due to the fact that local governments have very little concrete evidence as to the return these investments would have to the community. By formally recognizing the outdoor recreation sector as an industry of entities that relay on access to the natural environment to achieve their outcomes, be that education, health, or pleasure we will begin to build evidence for appropriate levels of investment to support those activities. This will empower both state and local government with the information they need to make wise use of the community’s tax dollars to support ongoing health and economic returns. With increasing pressure on both state and local government lands to provide for these outdoor based activities having data that informs investment will be key to maintaining Australia’s tourism, outdoor education, and some preventative health outcomes for our society into the future.
Recent examples across Australia are starting to show the return that strong investment in providing nature based recreation opportunities can have to local economies but more relevant data on this would make committing to this form of infrastructure investment easier for local governments across Australia. ”