The story of the conservation movement in Victoria is rich in moral courage, passion, and dogged persistence. It's also the story of years of debates, decades of protests and public meetings, and generations of community action.
The Victorian National Parks Association has been at the forefront of nature conservation campaigns for more than 60 years, with outstanding results.
New national parks
In 1952, when the VNPA was formed, Victoria had just 13 national parks, covering a bit over 100,000 hectares, and no National Parks Act. Today, largely due to our efforts, we now have 45 national parks, 26 state parks, 13 marine national parks, 11 marine sanctuaries and numerous other parks protected under the 1975 National Parks Act. Here are some of the more notable campaign outcomes.
Little Desert National Park
This two-year campaign succeeded with the park's creation in 1970, giving great impetus to future park campaigns. It also resulted in the establishment of the Land Conservation Council, which was to provide crucial and independent advice to government on the protection and management of public land for nearly 30 years.
Grampians National Park
After almost ten years of campaigning, especially against the initial patchwork proposal that included continued logging, the forestry-free Grampians National Park was established in 1984.
Alpine National Park
In 1989 the Alpine National Park was created after nearly 20 years of campaigning that involved large, town hall meetings, comprehensive publications and fervent lobbying of decision makers.
Protecting the Mallee
A year later there were new and enlarged parks in the Mallee including the Murray-Sunset National Park and Big Desert Wilderness Park.
River Red Gum parks
Another two decades of persistent campaigning secured 100,000 hectares of new River Red Gum national parks in northern Victoria in 2009, which now protect more than 300 endangered species.
Marine National Parks and Sanctuaries
The world's first system of 24 marine national parks and sanctuaries was established in 2002 after our 11-year campaign. In the same year an extended Box-Ironbark national parks system was created.
Point Nepean National Park
Following the establishment of the Point Nepean National Park in 1989, in 2009 the we were instrumental in ensuring that the historic Quarantine Station was integrated within the national park.
New parks laws
There was no National Parks Act when we formed in 1952 and limited legislative support for nature conservation. But thanks to VNPA campaigning, by 1956 Victoria had passed one to establish the National Parks Authority.
It was far from perfect and our campaign continued, achieving stronger legislation in 1975 when the National Parks Act became law. By the end of the 1980s the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act passed through State Parliament and in 1998 legislation created Parks Victoria, a statutory authority to manage our unique parks estate.
Preventing inappropriate development
Developers and governments have sought at various times to establish major commercial developments within national parks. Each time the VNPA and its supporters have successfully resisted them, including:
- Three attempts at major commercial tourism development at Wilsons Promontory National Park. The first was for a 600-guest hotel, golf course, mini railway and a conference centre in the 1960s. The second a multi-storey hotel in 1997, fell victim to VNPA's Hands off the Prom campaign, which set a very important precedent for keeping major commercial developments outside park boundaries. The most recent, in 2013, opposed a new government policy aimed at facilitating major tourism development in parks.
- Attempts in the late 1960s to create an artificial lake and new motel accommodation in Mt Buffalo National Park Chalet were finally abandoned in 1972.
- The same government policy resulted in inappropriate development proposals for the Quarantine Station inside Point Nepean National Park in 2014. It was not the first time inappropriate developments proposed for the site were successfully opposed by the VNPA and may not be the last.
- In 2015, after a concerted VNPA campaign, the government rejected a planning permit application for a new road link between Mt Buller and Mt Stirling that would have sliced through fragile and threatened alpine communities. It was the same year that the option of 99-year leases in national parks to facilitate major commercial tourism developments inside parks was removed from the National Parks Act.
Bushwalking and activities program
We ran our first excursion in 1954 (to Wilsons Promontory National Park) and today have an extensive program of up to 200 bushwalking and activities each year, the largest of any bushwalking group in Victoria. The East Gippsland Forest Camp held every Easter is one such activity that brings people closer to nature and increases their appreciation and support for conservation.
Citizen science programs
The VNPA began its first community monitoring in 1962. This later became the Park Mates program and has now evolved into our NatureWatch program and the award-winning ReefWatch program. Volunteers for Nature Watch monitor plants and animals in bush, creek and grassland areas, while ReefWatch divers and snorkelers monitor Victoria's unique marine life.
We published our first Nature Conservation Review in 1971 - there have now been four released - and established the science-based research that is the cornerstone of our work. Preparation for the most recent in 2014 included the commissioning of research reports from natural systems experts.
The VNPA and our volunteers have in recent years engaged in successful habitat restoration projects. These include planting thousands of trees every year as part of Project Hindmarsh, which has been operating since 1997, and in the Grow West project, which since 2003 has been working to rejuvenate 10,000 hectares of land in the Werribee River catchment.
Victoria's unique natural places are under threat from various invasive species. Our volunteers help reduce and remove these threats through activities such as helping with the destruction of rabbit warrens and the pulling of willows in alpine areas.