NEWS 3 May 2022 |

You’ll find nature close to the bottom of the list in this year’s Victorian state budget.

The health of our natural areas, and the wildlife that depends on it, comes surprisingly low in the budget priorities.

This is a troubling outcome, especially after several recommendations for an increase in nature protection funding.

A scathing report from the Auditor General inquiry on biodiversity (October 2021) found major shortfall in funding to protect our unique native wildlife. This was reaffirmed in a major parliamentary inquiry into ecosystem decline (December 2021).

Yet today we saw a conspicuous absence of new initiatives to address biodiversity loss, ecosystem decline, threatened species loss, or the long-term ecological impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires.

“The health of nature in Victoria is in free fall. Years of inadequate funding have brought native wildlife and landscapes to the brink. But you wouldn’t know this from today’s budget. It doesn’t even include Andrews’ Government announcements and commitments for new national parks and protected areas, which continue to remain disappointingly unfunded” – Matt Ruchel, Executive Director, Victorian National Parks Association.

There is no major new funding to make good the commitment by the Andrews’ Government to deliver 50,000 hectares of new central west national parks (June 2021). Nor is there funding for delivery 140,000 hectares of Immediate Protection Areas (first announced in 2019).

While there are some new initiatives and a small increase in funding to Parks Victoria, most are very modest or match previous commitments.

These include:

  • Further investment in works related to previous commitments to new suburban parks ($9.8 million), Yallock- Bulluk Marine & Coastal Parks ($1 million) for works on heritage sites like Fort Nepean and lighthouses ($16.5 million).
  • One-off funding ($7 million) towards coastal and marine management, mostly for erosion control, and $10 million towards the establishment and operation of the Great Ocean Road Authority.
  • A welcome $5.8 million to continue to implement the Joint Management Plan for Barmah National Park and the Yorta Yorta Co-operative Management Agreement
  • A further $7 million to implement the Victorian Forestry Plan for seed collection and forest regulation (but this is largely delivery of previous commitments or funding renewals).

But the budget paper reveals that these are small tokens to distract from a long-term plan outlined in next year’s 2023-2024 forecasts to drop program funding for DELWP by $900 million.