Public Participation in Protected Area Management - NT Parks & Wildlife Commission 2002

A Report to the ANZECC Working Group on National Park and Protected Area Management
Parks and Wildlife Commission, Northern Territory 2002

About this document

Public participation is an integral component of protected area management. The shift towards greater public involvement in the decision making process(es) of government over recent years is essentially a change in emphasis from substance (what should government do) to process (how should choices be made).

This Best Practice Report on Public Participation in Protected Area Management identifies public participation as a continuum, extending from full government control to full community control. The report indicates that most public participation programs occur somewhere between these two extremes and will vary depending on the situation at hand.

All protected area management agencies in Australia and New Zealand are required by legislation to seek public input into the development of plans of management. Some agencies are required by law to seek public involvement in nominating new protected areas and most require public representation on statutory bodies such as Management Boards, Advisory Councils and Consultative Committees.

All jurisdictions consider public participation to be a major plank in their corporate strategy, and most are seeking to enhance their efforts with respect to public participation. Whilst the support for conducting public participation programs by agencies is resolute, most do not specifically budget for public participation programs and few agencies provide specific staff training in facilitation or other public participation techniques.

All agencies consult with Aboriginal groups/stakeholders and most agencies are moving towards increasing levels of participation with indigenous groups along the public participation continuum. Similarly, all jurisdictions engage with private landholders in the management of lands off-reserve for conservation purposes and most conduct a 'Friends of the parks' program.

This report exposes a number of myths surrounding public participation (such as empowering the community equals a loss of agency control) and provides principles and a model for best practice. The report identifies best/good practices in public participation in protected area management and provides examples of participation techniques and performance indicators for the various participation levels.

The report also provides case studies and recommendations for agencies wishing to adopt a best practice approach to public participation in protected area management.