River Red Gum national parks
In November 2009 legislation passed in the Victorian Parliament giving the green light for the creation of almost 100,000 hectares of new River Red Gum national parks from Lake Hume to the South Australian border.
The outcome followed more than 20 years of work by conservation, community and Aboriginal groups and is one of the greatest wins for the protection of nature in Victoria's history.
It also came on the back of four years of independent investigations and public consultation that will see a significant reduction in ecologically damaging logging and grazing in Victoria's Red Gum forests and wetlands.
The creation of four new Red Gum parks - the Barmah National Park, Gunbower National Park, Lower Goulburn River National Park, and the Warby Range-Ovens River National Park - is a historic and far sighted decision that will be good for the environment, the sustainability of the local economy and aspirations of the indigenous people of the region.
Jobs for the future
The new parks are expected to bring considerable economic benefit to the region including boosting tourism along the Murray River, a move that will create 26 new jobs.
On top of the tourism jobs 30 new park rangers and 10 fencing contractors will be employed, counteracting the loss of up to 56 timber harvesting jobs, many of which would have been lost anyway through unsustainable harvesting practices and slow forest growth rates because of a lack of water.
By moving an inefficient timber industry out of the struggling Red Gum forests the Brumby Government has made a necessary and far sighted decision.
The Brumby Government’s decision to create new Red Gum national parks has not just greatly honoured the area's legacy, but has built on it by factoring in the Yorta Yorta's struggle for land justice, and other Indigenous claims in the region.
And for the first time in the state's history national park boards of management will be created with majority indigenous membership at Barmah and Nyah-Vinifera.
1. Duck Shooting: Roughly speaking there was a reduction of approximately 10,000ha for new parks between the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s proposals and those put forward by the Community Engagement Panel, which was appointed by Environment Minister Gavin Jennings in August 2008.
This 10,000ha will not be available for logging, however, nearly all of it will be classified as "wildlife areas", effectively opening them up to duck hunting.
2. Joint Management: Co-management will occur at both Barmah and Nyah-Vinifera forest, as proposed by VEAC. For the first time in Victoria’s history the national park boards for both these areas will be created with a majority membership being made up of Traditional Owners.
There will be no land hand back. VEAC also recommended that the National Parks Act be amended to allow for full hand back/leaseback in the future. As far as we know, this will also occur.
3. Changes to VEAC proposals: The boundaries for the new national parks of the Barmah, Gunbower, Lower Goulburn River and Warby Range-Ovens River have remained largely unchanged from the VEAC proposals. The small changes are listed below:
- Gunbower National Park: The State Government swapped an area to leave some wetlands for duck hunting. This swap resulted in a net increase for the parks. These parks are currently a special protection zone and are not available for logging.
- Lower Goulburn River National Park: A small area (Loch Garry Wildlife Area) was swapped with an area of similar size, to keep a wetland open to duck hunting.
- Lower Ovens National Park: A significant area at the junction with the Murray River, it will now become a wildlife area available for duck hunting.
- The Leaghur National Park will not be included as a result of the return of other areas to Wildlife Reserves, which will be open for duck hunting.
4. Larger national parks: The following existing national parks will be expanded following VEAC’s proposals:
- Murray-Sunset National Park.
- Terrick Terrick National Park.
5. Wildlife areas eat in to VEAC proposals: The following Murray River and other parks will be created with a small loss of total area from VEAC’s original proposal after some areas were classified as wildlife areas to allow for duck hunting:
- Murray River Park.
- Nyah-Vinifera Park.
- Gadsen Bend Park.
- Kerang Regional Park.
- Shepparton Regional Park.
- Murray-Kulkyne Park.
6. Logging: Logging will end in all new national parks, however ecological thinning will be managed by Parks Victoria, as in the Box-Ironbark parks. The total area VEAC proposed to remain available for logging has decreased by approximately 1000ha.
7. Environmental Water: In keeping with the VEAC proposals, no additional environmental water has been delivered through the government announcement.
8. Cattle Grazing: Grazing will be removed from all new Red Gum national parks, however, it is unclear whether or not this will also take place on Crown land river grazing frontages.
Overall the environmental benefits of the new Red Gum parks will be immense. At a time when multiple benefits are required from government decisions at all levels, this decision will be a win for the entire state of Victoria.
The Victorian National Parks Association would like to thank everyone who supported our push for the creation of new Red Gum Jobs for the futurenational parks.
View our summary of VEAC's final report recommendations.
Visit the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s Red Gum website for maps and more information about the planned new Red Gum national parks.
Read VEAC's River Red Gum Forests Investigation Final Report.
Nick Roberts is the Red Gum Icons Project Officer. You can email him on email@example.com.