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Firewood collection a threat to red gum parks

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Media release

The Victorian National Parks Association is deeply alarmed at a decision by the Baillieu Government to amend the state's national parks legislation to allow firewood collection in red gum national parks along the Murray River.

A letter received by the VNPA from Victorian Environment Minister Ryan Smith confirms that the National Parks Act (1975) will be amended to allow firewood collection to continue indefinitely in the Barmah and Gunbower national parks.

"This decision is unprecedented in the history of national park protection in Victoria," VNPA Executive Director Matt Ruchel said today.

"No government has ever moved to weaken or undermine legislation that protects Victoria's national parks estate.

"It sets a grave precedent that could lead to weakening of other national park rules across Victoria.

"Our parks are loved by all Victorians. Any moves to undermine their integrity should be of deep concern to all. Parks are special places created to conserve nature, not to be used as firewood depots or cow paddocks.

"Environment Minister Ryan Smith has claimed that his goal is to preserve the sanctity of parks, but this decision does the exact opposite.

"In the absence of any coherent environmental policy the Coalition appears to be turning back the clock on environmental protection one decision at a time.

"We call on Premier Ted Baillieu to abandon the proposed changes to legislation and rule out any further amendments that would undermine protection of our national parks and other conservation reserves."

The State Government recently abolished firewood collection permits and fees, and removed regulations for firewood collection from state forests.

"VNPA has identified growers with thousands of tonnes of plantation grown firewood available to meet any firewood shortage. Not only is this decision anti-conservation, it is anti-farm forestry and anti-competitive," Mr Ruchel said.

"There is no need to allow firewood to be taken from national parks. There are thousands of hectares of state forests along the Murray and many farmers have wood available to sell."

The decision follows a similar move in NSW this month to open up the Murray Valley National Park for firewood collection.

VNPA and other conservation groups worked for almost 20 years to get proper protection for our magnificent red gum forests, which were declared national parks in 2010.

"We are also concerned that commitments to declare the Murray River parks as nature conservation reserves will be in jeopardy if changes to legislation are proposed."

For comment

- Matt Ruchel, VNPA Executive Director - 0418 357 813.
- Nick Roberts, VNPA Red Gum Project Coordinator - 0429 945 429.