As part of the UN’s 30×30 initiative to protect 30% of Australia’s land by 2030, Pony Rider and Stone & Wood are working together to raise funds for the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife’s Growing Parks project, which fundraises to buy land and extend national parks.

The fundraising is happening via The National Project, which is Pony Rider’s initiative to support national parks. The Growing Parks scheme aims to acquire and expand the land surrounding Australia’s national parks. So what’s the story behind the fundraising project and the future?

First off, what exactly is a national park?

In Australia, a national park is an area of land that’s been declared environmentally or culturally significant and is granted government protection and preservation.

This may be because it’s home to a unique ecosystem, an abundance of native flora or fauna, a specific species not found elsewhere, cultural sites, whether Indigenous or colonial, or a striking and significant natural landscape.

National parks are created as an indication of the land’s national significance and for the enjoyment of everyone.

They’re protected from urban development, land clearing, mining, invasive species, and other factors that would damage the area and its flora and fauna.

Read more: What’s the difference between national parks and state forests?


Ever Wondered How Land Becomes a National Park? Here’s How One Project Aims to Cover More Ground on the Issue, sponsored, stone & wood, pony rider, conservation, national park, littoral rainforest with Ficus watkinsiana (Strangling Fig)

Photo by Anthony Belton | Via NSW Environment and Heritage

Why expand them?

Protecting and expanding areas such as national parks is a fundamental part of reducing deforestation and protecting biodiversity.

Land clearing is responsible for the loss of over 40% of Australia’s forests and woodlands, which has contributed massively to the extinction and endangerment of hundreds of different species.

Apart from this, more land in national parks can mean more places to explore as well.

With many of Australia’s national parks reporting record attendance (South Australia, Victoria, and NSW of course being no exception), as well as ecotourism accounting for a growing portion of the country’s GDP, expanding national parks and their infrastructure is a way to ensure that the number of people in parks remains sustainable and can minimise impact.

How is land acquired and where does the money come from?

Overall, there are many different ways that land can be acquired for national parks.

Some common sources are: government initiatives and policies, donations and bequests (from groups like the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife), or biodiversity offsets from large corporations.

A more pessimistic article may choose to focus on the practice of oil and gas companies in Australia of purchasing and abandoning fallow land (unsown land that could be farmed) simply to fulfil those biodiversity offsets, which only leads to delays in actual conservation and sustainability.

Apart from this, there are various fundraising and philanthropic efforts from different groups.

Some of these are private interests with altruistic or ulterior motives, and some are entities with faces, more like Stone & Wood and Pony Rider: B-Corp folks that work in partnership with the national parks and their associated foundations to acquire the land.

In the case of the National Project, Pony Rider and Stone & Wood have teamed up to raise funds for the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife to fund land purchases that will grow national parks. How? By throwing a giant party in nature! The Wild for Wilderness festival.


Ever Wondered How Land Becomes a National Park? Here’s How One Project Aims to Cover More Ground on the Issue, sponsored, stone & wood, pony rider, conservation, national park, wild for wilderness festival

Photo thanks to Stone & Wood


The funds raised from this festival in Glenworth Valley were confirmed to be $30,000, which is a great start, and a positive way to include individuals in these conservation projects.

But All That Land Comes at a Price

According to the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW), the cost of acquiring that land is naturally pretty variable. Since these deals usually happen in large parcels, the cost can be as little as $150K, but has also been known to exceed $10 million.

It usually costs between $1,000 and $3,000 per hectare to protect the land around most national parks, which means that it could theoretically cost as little as 25 cents to protect a square metre of Australia.

Although the cost is high, there’s still plenty of progress being made in protecting these areas. In the last decade alone, there have been substantial increases in both terrestrial and marine reserve areas, due in no small part to initiatives like these.

What happens once land is bought?

Ideally, there are two things that happen when land is placed under the protection of national parks.

The first is the regeneration of that land. This is important work, since oftentimes the tracts that surround national parks have been abandoned for decades, which usually means they have been taken over by invasive species.

Some of the more straightforward examples of these kinds of mismanaged land are former agricultural or pine plantation sites.


Ever Wondered How Land Becomes a National Park? Here’s How One Project Aims to Cover More Ground on the Issue, sponsored, stone & wood, pony rider, conservation, national park, a 4WD under a radiata pine forest (pinus radiata)

Photo by Nick Cubbin | Via NSW Environment and Heritage


Agricultural land that was used for sheep or cattle grazing has often been stripped of its native biodiversity, as well as trampling which results in overpacking and poorer soil health.

Similarly, plantation sites, particularly those like radiata pine plantations, are extremely effective at sucking every last nutrient out of the soil, as well as out-competing native vegetation – which inevitably leads to homogenisation.

Variety is a great native spice of life.

In tandem with that bush regeneration, every national park also works with local communities and Traditional Owners to co-manage new land – making sure that best practices are put in place in regard to both cultural and biological heritage.

One great example of this is the Indigenous burning practices used in places like Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa and many other national parks across Australia.

In relation to Indigenous co-ownership, it’s also worth mentioning that Indigenous Protected Areas (a different kind of IPA) now account for 50% of Australia’s reserve system, and that all Commonwealth/Federal national parks such as Kakadu and Booderee are co-managed with Traditional Owners and have been returned and are now leased back by the government.

How can I get involved?

Some claim that the idea of land buybacks for conservation is as quintessentially Aussie as the legend Steve Irwin himself.

And in a very small way, it may really be as easy as buying a beer. After all, many folks were involved in the raising of $30K this year at the Wild for Wilderness festival, simply by purchasing a lager, a ticket, or some decidedly khaki merch.


Ever Wondered How Land Becomes a National Park? Here’s How One Project Aims to Cover More Ground on the Issue, sponsored, stone & wood, pony rider, conservation, national park, wild for wilderness festival

Photo thanks to Stone & Wood


It’s good to know that this $30K goes directly to the FNPW, which will be using it to buy back land surrounding national parks.

The National Project may just feel like a hoppy drop in the bucket, but grassroots efforts like these might be what Australia ends up relying on to meet those 30×30 goals.

This kind of business model might be a great approach for all Australian festivals going forward.

What I mean is that, personally, I’d rather give my hard-earned dollars to sustainability-focused B-Corp and its partners.

At any rate, if you also share Steve Irwin’s extremely infectious passions, and you’re looking to get involved in a more direct way, (assuming that you aren’t the inheritor of a million-hectare estate that you’re keen to donate) then a contribution of any size to the FNPW wouldn’t be remiss.

Otherwise, we’ll see you at Wild for Wilderness 2024!


Lead image thanks to Pony Rider

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