I have a guilty secret: lock-down brought good things into my life. And I don’t think I’m alone.

Walking through Orleigh Park during lock-down, I was struck by the number of us reconnecting with nature. Young siblings catching insects on the edge of a waterway, couples lying on picnic blankets watching the action-packed entertainment of a Moreton Bay fig tree, young families laughing at a cockatoo whose screeching couldn’t be ignored. It looked like a wholesome children’s show – I’ve never seen so many people connecting with nature and the outdoors at once.

There was community discontent about the restricted access to national parks as social distancing measures took hold. For better or worse, it’s another sign of our love for nature.  Now Queensland’s national parks, walking tracks and 4WD areas are slowly reopening, we’re flocking to them with new found excitement and appreciation for the outdoors.

I don’t for a second want to take away from the disruption and grief the pandemic has brought to our lives. In fact I’ve seen the healing quality of nature through the stories on social media about nature making its way back to our cities and visiting our backyards… or maybe we’ve just slowed down to smell the boronias?

While I’ve spent more time at home, I’ve found joy from the simple things like watching the birds squabble in the trees outside, the bees buzzing and butterflies fluttering around the garden and the cutest of all, the ever-so-innocent possums sneaking along the fence line.

We need to make sure there are positives for nature out of this too.

Before coronavirus struck, the campaign I work on @OurLivingOutback, was hopeful about the Palaszczuk Government finally delivering on an election promise to better fund existing protected areas and grow the size and number of protected areas in Queensland.

We still want to see the release of an ambitious protected area strategy from the Palaszczuk Government. One that would see national parks, nature refuges and special wildlife reserves grow in size and number, and be better funded to improve their management.

We hope the strategy will be met with generous funding announced by Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch in the delayed state budget.

Rather than distract us from our natural environment, COVID has brought out our appreciation for it.

As governments make difficult decisions about our short and long term future, we need to remember that investing in protected areas remains a high priority for the benefit of both people and nature. Our love for nature is part of the fabric of Queensland life.

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