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Legal advice confirms Victorian alpine grazing plans will need federal approval

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Media release

The Victorian National Parks Association has released legal advice confirming that the Baillieu Government must refer any plans to return cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park to the Federal Government for consideration and approval.

The advice, provided by specialist environmental lawyers the Environment Defenders Office, outlines that under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) any action likely to have a significant impact on a "matter of national environmental significance" must be referred to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.

It's then up to the minister to determine if re-introducing cattle grazing fits the definition of a "controlled action" under the EPBC Act and therefore requires federal assessment and approval.

"The unique sphagnum moss peat beds and wetlands of the Alpine National Park, and at least twelve alpine plants and wildflowers are listed under the federal law as 'matters of national environmental significance' and are threatened by cattle grazing," said Matt Ruchel, VNPA Executive Director.

"On top of that, the entire Alpine National Park is listed as a 'National Heritage Place', which requires that the State Government ensures its use and management is consistent with the conservation of natural values - so there's no getting around this for the Baillieu Government," he said.

"In the alpine environment cattle pollute waterways, trample delicate wetlands, cause soil erosion and spread weeds. They also reduce visitors' enjoyment of the park by trashing what should be spectacular wildflower displays and covering areas in cowpats.

"The Victorian Government has a clear legal obligation to refer any plans to allow grazing within the national park to the Federal Government before making any moves," said Mr Ruchel.

"The Australian Government must step in and use its powers to prevent this unnecessary and damaging activity in one of Australia's most fragile alpine environments. After all, it's a national park not a cow paddock," he said.

"The argument that allowing grazing would reduce the risk of bushfire just doesn't stack up scientifically," added Phil Ingamells, VNPA Parks Protection Project.

"Studies show cattle grazing is not effective in reducing either the extent or severity of fire in the high country and notably the Black Saturday Bushfire Royal Commission did not recommend the return of grazing for fire management," said Mr Ingamells.

"Allowing cows in the national park would not only reintroduce a long-proven environmental threat, it could cost taxpayers millions that would be better spent on more effective fire prevention strategies. It would also undermine the region's growing summer tourism industry.

"The Alpine National Park is precious to all Victorians, not just the few who want to use it as a cow paddock. Parks Victoria needs more resources for controlling threats such as weeds and feral animals, not to have time and money redirected to deal with damaging cattle grazing."

For comment

  • Philip Ingamells, VNPA Park Protection Project Officer - 0427 705 133.
  • Matt Ruchel, VNPA Executive Director - 0418 357 813.
  • For media assistance please contact Louise Matthiesson on 0417 017 844.

Download EDO legal advice
Science, credibility and alpine grazing
FAQ sheet - cattle grazing in the Alps

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