The economic value of our national parks via mental health benefits was the topic of discussion at the Binna Burra Geographic evening held in the new marque at Mt Roberts, where the former lodge was located.
The guest speaker was Dr Ali Chauvenet, School of Environment and Science & Centre for Planetary Health and Food Security, Griffith University who has been part of a multi-disciplinary research team calculating the economic value of protected areas derived from the improved mental health of visitors in Australia and globally.
As the research was funded by the State agencies in Victoria and Queensland responsible for national parks, the survey of 20,000 respondents was undertaken in those two States.
Dr Chauvenet said that while nature freely provides services directly linked to our living conditions and well-being such as clean water and air, and disaster mitigation, mental health is only now emerging as a costable service from nature to society.
The research found that visiting parks provides a boost to individual’s mental health regardless of their demographic or socio-economic status and that a conservative global estimate using quality-adjusted life years, a standard measure in health economics, is US $6 trillion pa.
Dr Chauvenet said: ‘This is an order of magnitude greater than the global value of protected area tourism, and two to three orders greater than global aggregate protected area management agency budgets. In Australia, without parks we could double the cost of mental health care. By connecting the value of nature as a health service to individual self-interest, we create a powerful political lever for increased conservation funding of parks.
Dr Chauvenet’s participation was another welcome contribution under the MOU that Binna Burra Lodge established with Griffith University as part of the onging recovery prof]=cess after the 2019 bushfire devastation.