Ecosystem Potential of Tasmania’s Tarkin National Park

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The Tarkine is an extensive wilderness region located in Tasmania, Australia. The region contains many aboriginal sites (Cummings 2006). The Australian Heritage Council announced that the region is among the greatest archaeological sites in the world. For many years, the area remained unofficially recognized as a natural heritage until a dispute arose between conservationists and miners and loggers.

Geographical Location

T The Tarkine is bordered by Arthur River in the north, Murchison Highway on the eastern side, Pieman River in the south, and the Indian Ocean on the western side. It covers about 4,500 square kilometers (Driml 2005).

Ecosystem Value

The Tarkine is Australia’s biggest surviving single tract of the Gondwanan rainforest. The region harbors about 1800 square kilometers of rainforests as well as other vegetation such as non-vascular plants, liverworts, and mosses (Grandstaff 2005). It also contains a variety of fauna including 28 species of mammals, 111 birds species, 11 reptiles, 8 frogs, and 13 species of freshwater fish. In addition, the huge wilderness covers several wild rivers, pristine mountains, magnesite and dolomite caves, and sand dunes that used to be occupied by aborigines in prehistoric times (Hanemann 2008).

Governance and Preservation Movement

The largest part of Tarkine is controlled by a state authority, Forestry Tasmania. The drive for the preservation of the area started in the 1960s (Greenley 2009). The official conservation proposal was suggested in 2005 when the Federal Government Forestry Package was implemented (Desvouges 2009). About 80 percent of the region has been zoned off from logging and 5 percent from mining.

The Suggested Tarkine National Park

Crucial conservation steps for the area have been taken led by Scott Jordan who heads the Tarkine National Coalition (Herath 2007). The aim of the Coalition is to ensure that Tarkine status has been raised so that it becomes a national park. The proposed project would require about $276 million to transform the area into a national park.

Potential Tarkine National Park Services

The Economic Value of National Parks

The proposed Tarkine National Park holds a huge tourism potential for the country. Generally, the economic value of tourism linked to protected areas is taken to be the total of use and non-use values (Jenkin 2008). Further, use-value may be categorized as direct or indirect. Direct use values relate to market values. Indirect use-values, on the other hand, refer to non-market values. Non-use value can as well be divided into various classes including option, existence, and bequest values. There is controversy on whether option value should be regarded as a use or non-use value since it can be considered as a non-use value presently and a use-value in the future. Non-use values are non-market values as well (Jacobs 2006).

National park-based tourism is taken to be a direct use value for the confined area. Despite this, visits to the park have an effect on the other values (Lockwood 2010). When tourists go to a park, they learn more about it which increases their appreciation of the resource. Consequently, they are prepared to donate funds for the conservation of the park and to campaign for its preservation and protection for the sake of posterity (Knapman 2008). By so doing, they express their acknowledgment of both the use and non-use values of the park.

The Use and Non-use Values of the Proposed Tarkine National Park

The proposed Tarkine National Park holds various economic values for the country and the region of Tasmania. These values can be categorized in both use and non-use values.

Use Values

The use-value of the park can be further classified into direct and indirect values with various sub-categories under each classification (Jakobsson 2010). The first direct use value that will arise from the creation of the park is recreation. Residents of Tasmania and Australia, in general, will have the opportunity to enjoy the park services and facilities and the resource will also bring in money from foreign tourists. Second, the park will provide opportunities for education and research based on the flora and fauna existing in it. Wild animals as well as plants are very important in the testing of drugs and investigating medical conditions and the park can play a crucial role in this area (Loomis 2004). The park can also be useful for wildlife harvesting. Wildlife harvesting entails culling those animals and plants which have grown very old and which need to be eliminated to create room for the younger ones. Wildlife harvesting can be a source of cash to the region if the project will be implemented.

Apart from the direct use-values, the park will also have various indirect use values for the area of Tasmania. One such value relates to the ecological functions of the park, specifically helping to maintain a balanced ecosystem. In an unprotected state, the role of Tarkine area in promoting a balance of the ecosystem is threatened by human activities and encroachment (McClelland 2010).

Secondly, Tasmania harbors the sources of various rivers which are very vital for maintaining favorable climatic conditions in the region (Mendelson 2006). The region is particularly situated in a watershed and, therefore, creating the Tarkine National Park will help to protect the watershed from interference by human activities such as mining and logging. Thirdly, the region is a wildlife habitat and is now facing the threat of being destroyed by indiscriminate human activities. Establishing the park will, thus, be useful in preserving this habitat and, as a consequence, reduce incidences of human-wildlife conflict (Loomis 2004). Fourthly, the preservation of forests both man-made and indigenous forests is vital because of carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration refers to the process through which plants remove oxygen from the atmosphere for storage in reservoirs. The process helps to reduce global warming and the effects of climate change by eliminating excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Non-use Values

There are three main non-use values that Tarkine National Park could bring to the people of Tasmania and Australia in general: option value, existence value, and bequest value. Option value refers to the kind of insurance that a national park offers which enables the future use of a site (Mitchell 2007). Protection of the Tasmania area will act as a resource bank since the values contained in the region can be used in the future instead of being used at present. Moreover, existence value implies the benefits of being aware that a certain natural resource exists. This is usually measured by the willingness of people to sacrifice their money and time for the preservation of the resource (Mitchell 2007). Lastly, bequest value concerns the satisfaction of knowing that a given natural resource will be available for posterity to enjoy. All these potential non-use benefits of the proposed Tarkine National Park are non-market values because they cannot be priced through the market mechanism.

Pricing Data Sources for a Cost-benefit Analysis

Data for evaluating the economic viability of ecosystems are usually very rare and unreliable when it exists. Consequently, communities and governments often underestimate the benefits arising from ecosystems which causes them not to offer the finances needed to maximize those benefits (Sappideen 2009). The main reason behind the lack of accurate data regarding the economic benefits of ecosystems is due to failure to implement large-scale systems for gathering economic data from national parks. This scarcity of sufficient statistics leads to an inaccurate valuation of natural resources and reduced willingness to preserve them for future benefits and generations. Failure to value ecosystems properly could cause reduced economic performance at present and loss of economic benefits for the future. To value the economic benefits that will emanate from the proposed Tarkine National Park various forms of data must be collected. One of the sources of this data is government estimates of the impact of establishing the national park on the economic activity of the Tasmania region (Schultz 2007).

The construction of the national park will create both direct and indirect employment for the people of this area. Direct employment will entail the jobs of maintaining and managing the park while indirect employment will arise from services such as hospitality, transport, and selling curios to the tourists that will be visiting the park (Mitchell 2007). In addition to the effect of the park on the local economy, the tourists will also be paying fees to the park. These fees plus foreign exchange benefits should be quantified in the form of estimates and added to the income benefits to the local community through employment so as to come up with a figure of the potential direct economic impact of the park.

Another important economic impact of the park is the effect of the project on the health of the inhabitants of the region and workers who will be employed (Greenly 2009). Since the park has not yet been started, the only way this data can be obtained is by determining the impact other similar parks in the country or elsewhere in the world have had on local populations and their employees. This amount can then be used as a rough estimate of the impact the park will have on the health of the people of Tasmania. Ill health has both direct and indirect costs which take the form of hospital fees and lost productivity, respectively. Most of the non-use values can be measured by administering satisfaction questionnaires on Tasmania residents.

Financial Incentives Related to the Proposed Tarkine National Park

The proposed park holds a very high potential of increasing the number of foreign tourists that visit Australia every year (Driml 2005). This will have an impact on the local employment levels besides bringing the country foreign exchange and increasing its national income. Since the Tasmania area is largely pristine and covered with indigenous forests, there will be no replacement and relocation cost which would otherwise be there if the forests were occupied (Jacobs 2006). A lot of resistance to relocating would have also arisen from the occupants if this was the case. Currently, the only groups capable of causing such resistance are miners and loggers. However, because these activities are known to destroy the future values of ecosystems, the Australian government is unlikely to consider the interests of these groups.

Market Failure that Could Occur in Relation to the Proposed National Park

The market mechanism is effective in valuing those goods and services that can be exchanged between two reasonably informed buyers (Herath 2007). However, the system often fails in the valuation of externalities and public goods. Externalities refer to those goods whose costs and benefits spill over to third parties and, therefore, the third party may be benefitted or harmed inappropriately depending on whether it is an economic good or an economic bad. Public goods, on the other hand, imply those goods whose consumption cannot be limited to a single individual because of the nature of the goods (Cummings 2006). Such goods are usually provided by governments because individuals are not willing to pay for goods whose benefits will accrue to other individuals as well. However, the government is able to provide such goods because it has the authority to charge compulsory taxes on its citizens. A national park is an example of public or social good and, consequently, it cannot be valued through the market mechanism.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Budgeting for national parks is usually a difficult decision for many governments. In making such decisions, it is important to apply a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that government finances are used in the most efficient manner. However, it is difficult to perform a cost-benefit analysis of national parks because park resources and facilities such as sceneries, species conservation, etc have no market values (Lockwood 2010). Moreover, it is expensive to maintain these resources and amenities. Park managers are more aware of these costs than the actual benefits of their parks. To remove this problem, nonmarket valuation techniques are used to determine the value of the resources and facilities that cannot be traded in the market.

Like all other budgets, budgetary allocations to national parks are usually limited. As a result, it is important to consider cost-effectiveness when allocating money to budgets. Specifically, the benefits of the park should exceed its costs (Knapman 2008). Comparing the costs and benefits of a project yields information regarding the efficiency of the project so that government funds can produce optimum benefits for park users.

Non-market valuation Techniques

In the recent past, approaches to estimating nonmarket benefits have been considerably improved. In one of the approaches, the values of non-market goods are established by determining the value of associated goods or services (Desvouges 2009). For instance, tourists usually incur travel costs and other expenditures when they go to visit national parks. The costs incurred by these tourists can be used as the basis for determining the value of the relevant national park. This technique is known as the revealed consumer preference approach. In this case, the consumer preference is manifested by him or her choosing a complementary good or service (Jenkin 2008). A typical measure employed in the revealed preference approach is the travel costs incurred by visitors to a given park. The approach premises that expenses suffered when visiting a recreation amenity or site reflect a person’s value for the site. Despite the logical appeal of this method, complementary commodities required to disclose consumer preferences are not always there. As a result, an alternative valuation technique for non-market goods was formulated.

The contingency approach is also known as the direct method. The method measures consumers’ preparedness to incur a cost for some natural resource or site. It entails questioning individuals directly on their willingness to expend their money to visit a given recreational site or amenity (McClelland 2010). An example of such a question would be what amount are you prepared to spend in order to visit Buffalo National Park? It is called the contingent approach since it will require individuals to state the amount they would be prepared to spend if they were in a certain situation. The contingent method has been applied in many areas to measure the value of different kinds of public goods. It is more preferred that the revealed preference approach because it is flexible and applicable to a variety of situations. There are several versions of the contingency valuation approach including contingent ranking and choice surveys.

Another approach for valuing non-market goods is choice modeling (Herath 2007). Choice modeling involves asking respondents to state their choice regarding various attributes of a recreational facility such as entry fees, quality of park roads, campsites, etc. The stated choices and their associated costs are used as the basis of attaching monetary values to non-monetary goods (Mitchell 2007). The other approach is hedonic pricing. This method is used to measure the value of living near a recreational site or facility. The method mainly focuses on the value of residential properties around the park (Queensland Department of the Environment 2006).

Valuation Method for the Proposed Tarkine National Park

The best approach for valuing the non-market values of the proposed Tarkine National Park would be choice modeling. This will involve asking residents of the Tasmania area the kind of facilities they would require for the park and the maximum amount of fees they would be willing to pay in order to visit the park. These choices can then be quantified to determine the non-market value of the park. The method is preferable because it is less complex and more objective.

Limitations and Risks in the use of the above Methodology

Despite the convenience of choice modeling, the approach may yield inaccurate results because respondents will naturally like to be charged low fees and enjoy high-quality amenities. Thus, they are likely to understate the entry fees to the park and to overstate the quality of the facilities they would like to enjoy. In addition, describing the facilities of the proposed park to the respondents can be quite difficult.


Before establishing Tarkine National Park it is crucial for the state to carry out a cost-benefit analysis that will include both market and non-market values of the park. Market values will include the estimated revenues from charging entry fees on tourists, the income to the local population through the creation of jobs, foreign exchange benefits arising from an increase in foreign tourists, estimated monetary costs of running the park, etc. All these costs can be estimated by the relevant government departments. To measure non-market costs the government can use choice modeling which is both convenient and objective especially because the park has not been established yet. The government should then weigh the costs against the benefits and if the net result is positive, it should proceed to establish the park.


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