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User Pays Schemes

Virtually all protected area agencies in Australia have adopted some form of user-pays system. Park agencies are becoming increasingly reliant on visitor fees as the demand for recreation and tourism in parks rises and the cost of providing facilities and services exceeds the level of government funding. Read more

Virtually all protected area agencies in Australia have adopted some form of user-pays system. Park agencies are becoming increasingly reliant on visitor fees as the demand for recreation and tourism in parks rises and the cost of providing facilities and services exceeds the level of government funding.

Recent research in Australia and worldwide suggests that:

  • A one-size fits all (nationally consistent) approach to user pays in Australia is not a viable option, due to differences in legislation, social and political contexts and management structures between Australian States and Territories;
  • ‘Good practice’ user pays methods should be employed to ensure the objectives of park agencies can be met on a long term basis, these include:
      • conduct pre-emptive positive public relations exercises prior to fees introduction or increases;
      • ensure timely notification to operators regarding irregular or large fee variations;
      • ensure staff are competent in financial management and motivated to actively manage the system; this may require training or hiring of appropriately skilled staff;
      • retain revenue for parks or districts where fees are collected
      • adopt a simple user fees structure and easy access to related passes and payment of fees
      • employ a business management approach to user-pays systems
      • use a discretionary approach to enforcement of compliance with acceptance of a certain level of non-compliance
      • use technology where possible to improve efficiency of user-pays systems, including online reporting by regional staff, EFTPOS and credit card payment systems and online fully automated payment systems.
  • few park managers keep accurate records of the cost of operating their user-pays systems, and
  • there is still a limited understanding of the costs and benefits (both tangible and intangible) of user-pays systems.

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