Alpine cattle grazing trials challenged in Victoria's Supreme Court
Friday 16 May 2014
Legal proceedings launched today in the Supreme Court of Victoria will challenge the Napthine Government's reintroduction of cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park.
Initiated by the Victorian National Parks Association and supported by Environmental Justice Australia, the legal case could test the integrity of the legal framework protecting national parks in Victoria, particularly the National Parks Act 1975.
"By insisting on putting cattle back into the heritage-listed Alpine National Park, the Napthine Government is ignoring the very intention of the law that established national parks," VNPA Executive Director Matt Ruchel said today.
"Ensuring the integrity of national parks is an investment in the future. Win or lose this case, the idea and importance of national parks as a haven for people and nature must be defended."
Within weeks of gaining office in 2010, the Victorian Coalition rushed cattle back into the Alpine National Park under the guise of a scientific trial without seeking appropriate approval from then federal environment minister Tony Burke, who later ordered the cattle removed.
A new application was made recently by the Napthine Government. The new federal environment minister Greg Hunt approved a trial of 60 cattle until the end of June 2014, and a larger trial of 300 cattle starting in January 2015, in the Wonnangatta Valley deep within the Alpine National Park.
"There has been a series of attacks on the integrity of Victoria's national parks and conservation estate by the Napthine Government over the past four years and it's time to draw a line. Parks are too important to be political playthings," Mr Ruchel said.
"National parks are for nature conservation. They are a priceless gift to the present generation and a legacy for the future. They are not to be used for cow paddocks, major developments, mining or other inappropriate activities.
"The proposed 'cattle grazing trials' have been widely criticised by scientists and conservationists as flawed science that will contribute little, if anything, to our understanding of fire management.
"There is absolutely no reason to hold the trial in the national park, but the government seems intent on restoring grazing access for their cattlemen mates."
The VNPA is now calling on the Coalition to publicly clarify its policy on cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park before the Victorian election in November this year.
"Victorians have a right to know before the next state election if they are voting for a small-scale scientific trial or the full-scale return of cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park," Mr Ruchel said.
Key criticisms of the current trial includes:
- There is still no peer-reviewed scientific design for the trial. This is a normal requirement for any significant scientific experiment.
- There has been no consideration to hold the trial outside the national park, even though many alternative locations are available.
- The application for the trial ignores the published scientific evidence that cattle grazing does not significantly reduce alpine fires.
- There has only been a very limited flora survey, and no fauna survey, before the trial was given the go-ahead. That's simply irresponsible.
- The government's fumbled attempts to run the 'trial' are costing the taxpayer well over $1 million, which could have been spent on genuine bushfire research or other fire safety measures.
- More than 60 years of research demonstrates that cattle damage alpine wetlands and the headwaters of many rivers, which in turn affect our water catchments. Cattle also threaten nationally-listed rare plants and animals, cause erosion and introduce weeds.
- Matt Ruchel, VNPA Executive Director - 0418 357 813.