PARK WATCH March 2020 |

With the Andrews Government missing their deadline to agree to the creation of 60,000 hectares of national parks and reserves, opponents are now lobbying hard to stop any progress on protection in parks. By VNPA Director Matt Ruchel.

The forests of the central west don’t belong to the timber industry or special interest groups. They are a haven for all Victorian nature lovers, and especially for the vulnerable animals and plants that wouldn’t survive without them.

Yet there are, shockingly, imminent plans to clearfell log areas within the what is a proposed new national park for Mount Cole.

These new parks were recommended by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) final report on its Central West Investigation. This report was released 21 June 2019, and tabled in Parliament in on 15 August 2019.

Under legislation the Victoria Government must respond “… not later than the first sitting day after the period of 6 months after the sitting day on which the report was laid before each House of the Parliament.”

By our calculations, this would mean the government’s response should have been tabled in Parliament’s sitting week of 18 February 2020. This response is still overdue and thus in breach of the legislative timelines.

When asked in Parliament on 4 March for the lateness, the Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio answered that the government had been very busy with bushfires and would respond to the report “at the most appropriate time”. Similar questions were also asked in the Upper House, with similarly vague replies.

The most recent correspondence from a letter from the Minister states “The Victorian Government Response to VEAC’s Central West Investigation Final Report has been delayed and we will confirm the timeframe for finalising it shortly.”

While the decision is delayed, the forests in the central west remain wide open for logging, with the Minister’s letter also stating: “Timber harvesting will continue in accordance with approved operations and consistent with the Code of Practice for Timber Production”. Slightly more promising is the comment that “The future of timber harvesting in the investigation area is being considered as part of finalising the response”.

Let’s hope the state government sees some sense and chooses thriving habitats and sustainable jobs in new national parks, rather than renewing government subsidies that keep this destructive logging going.

The Victorian Environment Assessment Council’s role is to conduct investigations requested by the state government, and provide independent assessment and advice on the management of public land.

Over three years ago, in November 2016, the Victorian Government initiated the Central West Investigation by inviting public comments on a proposed Terms of Reference. These were released in March 2017 with a call for submissions from the public. A draft proposal paper was released in August 2018, followed by 60 days of consultation. The investigation was informed by over 3000 submissions, as well as specific focused consultation with Traditional Owners, a community reference group and a socio-economic impact assessment. The final report was publicly released in June last year.

At the time of writing the Andrews Government has now had eight months to consider the recommendations. Statewide polling consistently shows widespread support (over 70 per cent support or strongly support new national parks) – so what is there to think about?

Join the push to create new national parks and stop native forest logging in the central west!

We can’t stand by as VicForests logs the home of Victoria’s newest listed threatened species, the Mount Cole Grevillea, and key refuges for threatened wildlife like the Brush-tailed Phascogale and Powerful Owl.

Ask the Minister responsible for Forestry and Regional Development, Jaclyn Symes, to protects nature and support workers to transition away from native forest logging.

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