This study provides a holistic assessment of the economic impact of Noosa National Park (NNP) using a mixed method approach to the problem of estimation.
Part of the work was commissioned by Queensland Parks and Wildlife to assess the impact of the most popular national park in Queensland to its regional economy. This study reflects a world wide trend to quantify the economic impact of protected areas upon surrounding communities and towns. NNP was used as a case study to test the appropriateness of an holistic approach (using a variety of techniques) to economic impact assessment.
The study commenced with a historical analysis, which found that six agents were responsible for the economic development of Noosa. These were split into those relating to Nature; NNP and 'sun, beach and surf, and those that were stakeholders in Noosa's development; tourists, residents and local government all these five occurred within the context of economic development over time, the sixth agent. In the scoping of the study it became clear that the assessment of economic impacts would be at a variety of scales namely: residential land surrounding NNP; local postcode area; local government area; and Sunshine Coast Statistical Local Area. Given the emphasis of such an evaluation it was decided to use a variety of techniques including: evolutionary economics and constructivist theory; input-output analysis; paired comparisons; hedonic price analysis; and conceptual modelling.
Most of the study reports quantitative results which estimate the economic impact of NNP on the 1999/2000 economy. However, it was recognised that time and history are major agents of economic development. My historical analysis, using evolutionary economic methods, revealed that there were five distinct phases within Noosa's development. These phases included: Aboriginal land (until 1860s); Resource Extraction (1870s to 1890s); Beach Holiday Town (1890s to 1950s); Bigger is Better Development (1960s to 1970s); and Sustainable Noosa (1980 to present).
The quantitative studies used four analytical techniques to address the economic impact of NNP upon the stakeholders. These are outlined below.
Tourists were assessed using regional input-output analysis and paired comparisons. I found that tourists spent $26 million in the local economy and $53 million (including direct and indirect effects) in the regional economy in 1999. The paired comparison technique was used to separate expenditure related to NNP from expenditure due to other tourist attractions in Noosa, such as 'sun, beach and surf.
Semi-structured interviews of tourists, carried out on three occasions, also indicated that there were three factors that attract tourists to Noosa: "the latte scene"; sun, surf and beach and nature. Most respondents (78%) stated that they would not visit Noosa without NNP, however only 7% stated that NNP was the sole purpose for their holiday in Noosa. In total 42% of all tourists surveyed valued nature as the most important aspect of the holiday.
Previous studies were not able to distinguish the importance of NNP from the other attractions in Noosa. This study found that paired comparisons provided an estimate of the importance of NNP to all tourists who visit Noosa annually. When the importance of NNP was distinguished from other attractions at Noosa it was found that $36 million of local expenditure could be attributed annually to NNP.
The impact of NNP upon residents was assessed by the use of hedonic pricing. This technique estimated that the unimproved land values for single dwelling house blocks, had a premium associated with being near NNP. A variety of different functional forms were tested with the data to provide the best estimate of NNP's impact upon house values, this included: linear regression; kinked linear regression; hyperbolic regression; regression tree; ordinal regression; and ordinal regression tree. The kinked linear regression indicated that, if the property had a glimpse of NNP then the unimproved value of the land increased by 7%. On the other hand the classification trees, showed that a property with a partial view of NNP had a 90% chance of being between $201,000-$250,000, while if the property had a good or excellent view of NNP then there was a 100% chance that the unimproved value was between $301,000-$350,000. This equated to some $38 million in increased unimproved land valuation in the Noosa area due to the view of NNP.
The general conditions under which a local government area would benefit or be adversely affected by having a national park, were examined using a conceptual model which was developed by Tisdell and myself. This model found that even though the number of receipts from rates decreased with NNP, the council gained due to increased property prices and hence increased receipts from rateable land surrounding NNP.
In carrying out an holistic assessment of economic impact I applied a range of techniques, as mentioned above. These were:
• regional input-output analysis to assess the impact of tourist expenditure;
• paired comparisons was applied for the first time to estimate expenditure to NNP as opposed to other tourist attractions at Noosa;
• Hedonic pricing was applied for the first time to the assessment of an urban national park; and
• A model was designed within the study to find the optimal allocation of land to national parks within local govemment areas.
This range of techniques was useful and assessed all the identified stakeholders and agents. All techniques were appropriate for their application to national parks and they collectively contributed to an holistic estimate of NNP's impact. This holistic estimate is not a simple addition of all the separate estimates as many techniques overlap in context and application, however it does provide a greater understanding of the magnitude of the economic impact of a national park.
This is thought to be the first time that an holistic approach has been used to assess a national park, or indeed any protected area. This holistic approach could be used for national programs, which need to account for a variety of different stakeholders in their economic impact assessment of a protected area or environmental issue.