A NEW Griffith University research project will use the Gold Coast’s Hinterland to assess the environmental impact on national parks from tourism.
The university was granted $70,000 from the Australian Research Council for the three-year study to investigate how visitors can evolve from potentially harming the environment to becoming actively involved in sustainability.
Head researcher Dave Weaver, says the aim is to create the first ‘ecotoriums’ in the world; a ‘hybrid of ecotourism and auditorium where tourists actually help the park while they’re visiting and are on display like in an auditorium’.
Weaver plans to use Lamington, Springbrook, and Tamborine national parks to survey visitors and locals to find out what kind of activities they would be willing to participate in and under what circumstance.
“There could be opportunity for visitors to be given a shovel and asked to plant a tree, or they could pick up rubbish if they see it when hiking, report trail erosion or poorly behaved visitors,” says Weaver.
“For other people who may not be able physically to participate, there could be an option for political advocacy, donations or bequests.”
Weaver says the project comes at a time of strong public focus on environmental sustainability and is another opportunity for Australia to become a world leader in the field.
“The next step would then be to set up a prototype ‘ecotorium’ with the idea of mobilising visitors and possibly eventually developing a global network of ecotoriums,” he says.
“From this study, we hope that Australia will emerge as a world leader in tourism-conservation partnerships, realising ecological, social and economic benefits from thriving rainforests.”
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