NEWS 19 January 2022 |

The state government has announced its “Next Steps To Guide The Future Of Our Protected Forests”.  The environment minister’s Eminent Panel for Community Engagement is welcome progress on what has so far been a drip-fed, drawn-out process, with the first announcement made back in November 2019

The Andrews’ Government needs to be careful with its various, inconsistent claims describing the Interim Protected Areas. In the same media release both 146,000 and 96,000 hectare figures were used. This is concerning especially when the claim of 90,000 hectares of old growth is speculative and (despite what is claimed) not actually “immediately protected”.

The government’s qualification of ‘old growth’ depended on an on-ground assessment that raised serious questions as to how they define this important and dwindling forest ecosystem. A serious concern is that the definition deployed will protect some individual stands of old-growth, it will not protect old-growth overall.

The media release also claims that “Since 2019 the Victorian Government has added more than 250,000 hectares of protected forests in Victoria – including 96,000 hectares of Immediate Protection Areas, 65,106 hectares for the new Central West National Parks and 90,000 hectares of old growth”.

While announcements have been made no of these areas have been legally “added” to the formal protected area system. 

The announcement to commit to new central west parks was welcomed, but the proposed parks are yet to be legislated and important areas will be logged at Mt Cole/Mt Buangor, the Pyrenees Ranges and smaller parts of the Wombat Forest before being turned into parks at some stage in in the future. There is no clear timeline or plan for when legislation will be forthcoming.

As many of these commitments are both significantly flawed, and yet to be completed it’s hard to see how these “..are one of the largest environmental initiatives in our state’s history…”.

It doesn’t matter how many time you say it, you need to deliver it before you can claim it.