Prospecting in parks
In a backward step that undermines the integrity of national parks the former Napthine Government has agreed to allow prospecting and fossicking in eight new areas in three national and state parks, totalling 22,000 hectares.
The Victorian Government tabled its response in parliament on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 in response to an earlier Victorian Environmental Assessment Council's (VEAC) report, which had been tabled in June 2013 on an "investigation into additional prospecting areas in parks".
National parks are there for nature, not for digging up. The government acknowledges in its response that prospecting damages natural areas, so it is disappointing that the activity will be allowed in new areas in national parks.
The VNPA had criticised the terms of reference of the original inquiry because, rather than asking VEAC to look at whether prospecting and fossicking for gold and minerals has a place in national parks at all, the government had already decided that there should be more of it.
From the start of this inquiry, it was an unfortunate mistake by the government to insist that the recommendations must allow additional prospecting in parks.
Take a look at the damage prospecting can do on our flickr slideshow.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Donate now to help us keep prospecting out of national parks.
- Write to your local member of parliament - find out who your local MP is on the Parliament of Victoria website.
- Read Phil Ingamells' analysis in his article 'Prospecting in Wonderland'.
- Read our submission to VEAC.
THE DANGERS OF DIGGING UP OUR PARKS
- Fossicking (metal detecting, digging holes and panning for gold) causes unnecessary damage to streamsides, and can threaten rare species such as ground orchids.
- Our national parks are set aside to protect our natural areas for future generations. They are there for passive recreation, not exploitation.
- Many of the rivers that flow through these parks are already listed as Heritage Rivers, and Natural Catchments. These additional levels of protection should be respected.
- Fossicking is already allowed in a number of Box-Ironbark parks in central Victoria. But there has been no monitoring of their impacts as required by park management plans.
- Fossicking and panning damages streamsides, causes erosion, and silts up rivers. In old gold-bearing streams, already worked over many years ago, heavy metals and other pollutants can be released into streams when soil is disturbed.
- Tools used in prospecting and fossicking can spread harmful soil pathogens like Phytophthora.
- Fossicking and gold panning can damage the many important Aboriginal cultural heritage sites in the region.
- While prospectors insist they behave responsibly, many don't. The parks in the investigation area are in relatively remote areas, and fossickers' activities will be difficult if not impossible to supervise or monitor.
- Managing prospectors and fossicking will take park rangers away from other essential activities, at a time when staff numbers are already well below what's needed for park management.
- Many rivers, streams and catchments are important for rural, regional and city water supplies. We should be aiming to improve their condition, not compromise it.
- There is already plenty of opportunity to fossick for gold in the extensive State Forest areas in eastern Victoria, outside national parks.
- Prospecting is poorly regulated now, and causes considerable damage to many streams and waterways. There should be no expansion of prospecting into national parks. Instead, it should be effectively regulated where it already exists in Victoria.
The VEAC website has lots if useful information including maps and park overviews.