QUEENSLANDERS love the Outback so much that they want the freshly minted State Government to deliver more funding to protect our 108 million-hectare living wonder for generations to come.
A new survey, published exclusively by NewRegional, shows 92 per cent of Queensland residents consider the Outback a significant contributor to the state's "culture and identity” while 91 per cent reckon visiting it is a great chance to "get away from the city”.
Galaxy Research's Our Living Outback poll of 1003 people also shows 89 per cent of us want more support for people who live and work in the bush and 80 per cent of people reckon there is a big disparity between government funding for the city and the Outback.
Outback Queensland covers almost two-thirds of the state, stretching from the tropical rainforests of Cape York into the Gulf Country's savanna plains and across the vast floodplains of the Channel Country.
Outback to Oceans project director Pepe Clarke said the region was under threat as feral animals, invasive weeds, and destructive wildfires pushed "native species to the brink of extinction” and "undermined” rural industries.
Mr Clarke urged Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to boost funding for national parks, nature refuges, the Indigenous Rangers Program and the Nature Refuge Program.
"There is a sense that people in the Outback have an important role to play in managing the environment and its threats,” Mr Clarke said of the survey.
"Most people found there was a need for the State Government to provide more support for people who are managing the land.
"A lot of people believe the Outback is missing out despite it being a big part of our identity and our economy.”
A government spokesman said ongoing investment in the Outback and other bush areas included expanding the ranger program at a cost of $8.1 million over four years and there was a plan to have 17 per cent of the state declared as nature refuges.
"This Queensland Government has rebuilt the ranger workforce across the state with over 800 active and paid rangers now employed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service,” the spokesman said.
"Nature refuges in Queensland now total more than 4.4 million hectares with the declaration of more nature refuges this year.”
Custodians protecting our bush gem
LYN French is just one of 88,000 Queenslanders who work and live in the Outback.
Her family has owned Gilberton Station for eight generations.
Set on 35,000ha near the head of the Gilberton River and about 450km from Townsville, the station can hold about 3500 head of beef cattle in good years, but the family has had to cut their brahman-cross herd to 2500 because of a lack of rain.
Ms French said her family considered themselves the property's custodians and they would always make decisions that ensured the land remained viable for centuries to come.
"Life on the land is hard, but we wouldn't be here if we didn't want to be,” Ms French said.
"With it comes a lot of challenges - you have to be a special breed of people to live in the bush.”
The entire Gilberton Station is designated an official nature refuge, something Ms French is rightly proud of.
Keeping the region healthy includes not over-stocking, conducting burn-offs, eradicating pests such as the invasive rubber vine while managing sustainable populations of flora and fauna including kangaroos and dingoes.
"The job of people on the land is to look after our country,” she said.
"We really have not changed anything in more than 100 years.
"We are not greenies but we believe if a tree does not need to be cut down it will not be cut down.”
Ms French said she would like to see more government investment in the Outback because looking after farmers was vital to the state's wellbeing.
"People in the city need to remember where their food comes from - every family needs a farmer,” she said.
AT A GLANCE
National parks are important for:
- Scenery and natural beauty: 78 per cent agree.
- Peace and relaxation: 70 per cent agree.
- Time with family: 43 per cent agree.
- Wildlife and bird watching: 42 per cent agree.
- Outdoor activities: 41 per cent agree.
Views on keeping the Outback thriving:
- Landholders have an important role in protecting wildlife habitat: 89 per cent agree.
- Queensland Government should fund nature refuge landholders to protect wildlife and eradicate feral animals and weeds: 84 per cent agree.
- Domestic livestock should be excluded from natural refuges: 66 per cent agree.
- Source: Galaxy Research Our Living Outback survey.