Parks are for nature not private development
Thursday, 23 August 2012
The Baillieu Government's decision today to open up Victoria's national parks to tourism development and private investment sets a dangerous precedent for the state's conservation reserves.
"This is a misguided and dangerous new direction in management of our magnificent network of national parks and reserves," Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel said today.
"Exposing our parks like this could lead to irreversible damage to some of our most precious natural areas.
"The primary role of national parks is the conservation of nature on behalf of all Victorians. Our parks were not created to end up as building sites for hotels and large-scale infrastructure that can only be used by a privileged few who can afford it," Mr Ruchel said.
"There is ample opportunity for tourism infrastructure adjacent to parks, where financially rewarding private developments can take place without impacting on the core conservation values of parks.
"There is a danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. People visit national parks for experiences they can't get elsewhere - they want the opportunity to see the natural world at its best, not hotels and a shopping mall."
The VNPA has called on the State Government to clearly rule out large-scale infrastructure such as hotels in parks.
"National parks and conservation reserves make up only about 18 per cent of the land in Victoria, and are a refuge for plants and animals in a state were there is relatively little intact native habitat left," Mr Ruchel said.
Today's decision was sparked by a Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission report that recommended changes to encourage private development of tourism infrastructure within national park boundaries.
"The Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission's report fails to appreciate the public land tenure system and its landscape context. More than 60 per cent of Victorian land is already privately owned and between 80 and 90 per cent of that land has already been cleared," Mr Ruchel said.
"We strongly support the government's recognition of the important role private land plays in tourism infrastructure adjacent to parks, but believe those opportunities will be compromised if the government surrenders land to developers inside parks.
"The publicly available documents provide no evidence or model of how national parks or wildlife would benefit from private investment and infrastructure.
"Experience shows that the people who benefit from private investment in parks are investors, not park visitors, or the parks themselves.
"The Victorian Government should clearly explain how the parks will benefit from today's decision," Mr Ruchel said.
The Victorian National Parks Association is critical of the Baillieu Government's conservation record, and has called on it to release a detailed conservation and environment policy.
- Matt Ruchel, VNPA Executive Director - 0418 357 813.
- Phil Ingamels, VNPA Parks Protection - 0427 705 133.