Our parks in trouble if Parks Victoria doesn’t get serious injection of funds
The management of Victoria's national parks and nature conservation reserves is in serious decline and can only be rectified through a major boost in long-term funding.
Since 2010 state government operational funding to Parks Victoria has fallen by almost a third from an already low base. As well as being hit by these massive funding shortfalls there have been staff cuts, placing serious stress on those that remain.
There has also been a reduction in the skills needed to manage the many threats Victoria's parks face, and funding for a number of weed and feral animal programs has been cut altogether.
The Victorian National Parks Association is calling on the Victorian Government to immediately return Parks Victoria funding to at least 2010 levels (approximately $75 million), with substantial increases over following years so that the organisation can rebuild the resources and expertise it needs to reverse declines in the condition of many of our most important national parks.
This would be consistent with the government's election commitment to invest in a world class national parks system with Parks Victoria reporting directly to the environment minister.
We note that the Andrews Government did provide $56.5 million additional funding to Parks Victoria last financial year (2015-2016). However, this was largely for new infrastructure - $19 million for construction of the Grampians Peak Trail, $12 million for Portarlington Harbour plus $13 million for critical asset issues. Only about $12 million could be considered for operational needs.
We have welcomed comments from state environment minister Lisa Neville that her government is reinvesting in national parks to improve their facilities and management, but the key test will be significant increases in this year's state budget and beyond.
Victorians love their parks
A recent survey commissioned by the VNPA showed that 96% of Victorians recognise the importance of national parks for conserving nature and protecting native wildlife, and 81% support increasing funding for protecting nature.
Victoria's national parks draw 35 million visitors every year.
The parks system generates $1 billion a year through tourism, $330 million in water services and $180 million in avoided health costs.