Free camping lure touted

Bush walkers and families will be lured back to Queensland's national parks with the offer of an annual waiver on camping fees.

But they'll have to wait until next year to benefit from the free weekend.

The camping lure is one of the measures in a 10-year nature blueprint to be released by the state government, which will also beef up national park management plans following past criticism.

Environment Minister Vicky Darling said in the wake of the state's natural disasters, which forced the temporary closure of many parks, she wanted to attract visitors back to the 440 camping grounds in national parks and state forests.

Ms Darling said camping permit fees would be waived one weekend each year, on a date to be announced by the government.

"This is a free holiday that at the same time will increase the popularity of our natural assets, promote conservation awareness and in turn benefit local business," she said in a statement.

"I'd encourage all Queensland families to get out and spend a weekend in our pristine national parks and forests when the free weekend deal kicks in from next year."

The release of the Naturally Queensland 2020 blueprint comes as the government pushes ahead with its plan to phase out sand mining on North Stradbroke Island and replace it with national park, amid some local opposition to the plan.

It also follows last year's report by the Auditor-General which found more than three quarters of Queensland's protected parks were at risk as they did not have compulsory management plans.

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It is understood measures outlined in today's plan will include the completion of statements of management intent for all national parks by 2012.

Either a management plan or statement of management intent would be completed for all protected areas by 2015, along with an overall state of the parks report.

Naturally Queensland 2020 will also outline a target for koala bushland habitat gain and a push to run school holiday programs in high-profile national parks.

Ms Darling said more than 800 rangers were employed to look after parks and forests.

"This is an overarching plan, going beyond the actual national parks network and into other areas of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service business, including marine parks, forests and wildlife management," she said.

Ms Darling will face her first parliamentary grilling as Environment Minister today when she faces a budget estimates committee hearing.

In August, Auditor-General Glenn Poole found that out of the state's 576 protected park areas, management plans had been developed for only 98 of them.

At the time, then-Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Kate Jones said departmental advice suggested it would cost up to $60 million and take more than 30 years to implement a formal plan for every national park.

The draft Naturally Queensland 2020 plan will be open for public consultation for four months and can be found at www.derm.qld.gov.au.

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