PARK WATCH December 2020 |
We need to get on with creating new national parks in the central west, says Executive Director Matt Ruchel.
There were some glimmers of hope for the currently stalled and overdue proposal for the creation of 60,000 hectares of new parks in Victoria’s central west.
A spokesperson for Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said on ABC radio in early November that a decision would be made before Christmas. It would have been a good gift for Victorians – there is certainly strong community support. Alas, we are still waiting as we head into the new year.
A decision by the Victorian Government is now nine months overdue of its legal deadline, and over 12 months since the Victorian Environment Assessment Council’s (VEAC) final recommendations were first tabled in parliament. And this following a four-year expert review and over a decade of campaigning. It’s understandable that we are getting frustrated.
Latest polling of 1,009 Melburnians over the age of 18, commissioned by the Victorian National Parks Association and conducted by Lonergan Research, highlights that the COVID-19 lockdowns across metro Melbourne have enhanced the value of nature and national parks for most.
The results show widespread support for new national parks, and that COVID-19 restrictions have estranged Melbourne nature-lovers from their favourite conservation areas. These results reinforce what we’ve been hearing across the community over the last few difficult months – people miss the bush. They recognise better than ever that it is simply good for their physical and mental health.
The poll demonstrates the importance for any recovery plans from COVID-19 impacts to consider the broader community benefits of, and access to, nature in and around Melbourne. People want to spend more time in nature, and they want more of Victoria’s natural places protected, including in the central west of our state.
Key points from the poll include:
- More than half of Melburnians say COVID-19 restrictions have made them value access to natural areas (56%), and national parks (52%), across Victoria more. Nearly half (46%), of those in Melbourne say the COVID-19 restrictions made them visit bushland and parks in their local area (see graphic on previous page).
- Four in five (81%) Melburnians support the proposals to expand national parks in Victoria around Daylesford, Woodend, Bendigo and Ballarat. One in seven (14%), are undecided, only 4% oppose.
- Two in five (39%) of those in Melbourne say the creation of new national parks in the central west would make them more likely to vote for a political party, while only 4% say it would make them less likely.
- Six in seven (86%) of Melburnians support Victoria having a comprehensive network of national parks and conservation reserves across land and sea, and when asked even with the impact of COVID-19, three quarters (77%) of Melbournians support the Victorian Andrews Government creating new national parks in Victoria. 86% of ALP voters and 66% of Coalition voters support new parks even with COVID-19 impacts.
- Distance is a factor for half of Melburnians, with 51% saying having parks less than 90 minute’s drive (such as new central west parks, like Wombat Forest, near Woodend) would make them visit national parks more often.
- Most (58%) Melburnians believe the best use for Victoria’s three million hectares of publicly-owned state forests is for the protection of wildlife, trees and nature, only 2% support native forest logging.
Read next article ‘Still time to create the central west national parks‘
After experiencing a global pandemic that required most Victorians to restrict our movement for the greater good, nature-lovers need no reminder of the restorative powers of the bush.
But our elected representatives do. Let Premier Daniel Andrews and Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio know that after the year that was, it is time to finally accept the recommendations and make these parks a reality.
There was already an abundance of reasons to create the new central west national parks. Now there’s no excuse not to.
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