NEWS UPDATE 23 November 2018 |

Looking after our natural heritage is a key state responsibility, but the major parties have mostly ignored its existence, and released very little in the way of environmental conservation policies.

Just days before polling this Saturday, an ABC investigation has found that thousands of hectares of state forest appear to have been illegally logged or earmarked for logging – amounting to what some say is the mass “theft” by the state government-owned for-profit logging company VicForests.

Protecting native forest has been a long-running and divisive issue. But even with these new revelations, there has yet to be a response.

And while the issue of native forest logging takes political courage to address, there are a multitude of other nature conservation issues which are not controversial and also need to be addressed. These include support for:

  • community restoration and rehabilitation;
  • private land conservation;
  • protection of threatened species;
  • management of wetland and waterways;
  • native vegetation controls;
  • marine management & coastal management;
  • weed management; and
  • control of feral animals, such as deer.

These are the issues which deserve to be addressed in a comprehensive environmental policy of any good government.

VNPA, along with five other peak groups, called for the release of comprehensive policies in the lead up to this state election.

Labor released quite a comprehensive environmental policy at the 2014 election. While it fell short on forests, it lead on some other significant initiatives. This time around in 2018, Labor has released a narrowly focused parks package mostly focused on infrastructure, though did include a commitment for new metropolitan parks and a coastal park between San Remo and Inverloch (see more below).

The Coalition has released nothing even resembling an environmental policy, even though the opposition leader promised publicly to release a “comprehensive environmental statement before the election” (which would be the first in over a decade) in October. Nothing has materialised (see more below).

The Greens have released a comprehensive package of policies (see more below).

Greens

The Greens have released comprehensive policies on parks funding, protecting natureinvasive species, rivers and marine and coastal protection.

Labor

Labor has announced the establishment of 6,500 hectares of new suburban parks. Read more.

Alarmingly Labor and the Coalition supported the taking over of parks along the Great Ocean Road by a new tourism-focused body. Read more.

VNPA has welcomed an Andrews Labor’s commitment, if re-elected, for a significant boost in investment to rebuild campgrounds in our parks system, funding for conservation volunteers, new coastal park and reduction of campaigning fees is great news.

Some of the key features of package include:

  • invest $105.6 million to create new and upgrading more camping grounds, (30 existing campgrounds will be upgraded – and 30 will be built from scratch plus new walking tracks, canoeing facilities etc);
  • removing camping fees at 500 basic sites over 70 campgrounds in 19 parks across regional Victoria;
  • $4.3 million for building and upgrading paths at parks across the state;
  •  halving all remaining camping fees in state and national parks;
  • a new Coastal Park on the Bass Coast, linking up existing parks and reserves dotted along the popular 40 kilometres of coastline from San Remo to Inverloch, including a $10 million land purchase and $9.6 million to build new campgrounds;
  • $4.5 million will go towards expanding conservation and volunteering programs that improve the conservation values of the places people go to camp or use recreationally.
  • $10.5 million to improve 4WD drive tracks and rejuvenate Victoria’s seven iconic 4wd adventures.

Read the Labor Party factsheet for more information.

The investment package for facilities is welcome, but we still worry that park managers still need significantly more funding for core frontline capacity to deal with the many pressures in placed on parks, particularly pest plants and animals. There are also still big gaps in our reserve system and we need commitments for significant areas of new parks to protect forests, woodlands and marine areas in many parts of the state. Read more.

Coalition (Liberal/National)

According to ABC reports on 1 October 2018, Liberal leader Matthew Guy said his party will release a comprehensive environmental statement before the election. He is quoted as saying: And all those questions that I know a number of people are asking about parks, about preservation, will answer.”

The Coalition has rejected creating the Great Forest National Park, and have made a number of minor announcements including a $200,000 feasibility study for a new hiking track from Healesville to Eildon, and $1.8 million to build an 8.8-kilometre predator-proof fence for Wilson Promontory to help establish it as a sanctuary. The Prom proposal is fine in principle, but needs a much larger package of integrated pest control and re-wilding if it is to be at all successful. The Coalition also announced $28.8 million for a project to study the use of traditional fie management practices.

The Liberal member for the marginal regional seat of Rippon (north-west of Ballarat) has campaigned against the creating of new parks in the central west.  Worryingly, the Liberal Candidate for the independent-held seat of Shepparton announced that is elected Liberal Government will hand over 200 state game reserves currently managed by Parks Victoria, and many with important conservation values, to the unqualified and poorly resources Game Management Authority. According to the candidate: “It means members of Field and Game or other registered hunting organisations, will have the opportunity to be part of better management and conservation of our game reserves…” (See here.)

Community expectations!

Latest state-wide polling, commissioned by VNPA, shows that support for establishing new national parks is higher than ever.

Over 45 per cent of Victorians agreed that they were more likely to vote for a political party which has a comprehensive nature conservation and national park policy.

The majority of Victorians support parks and nature protection, with more than 70 per cent of people supporting both the comprehensive parks network, new national parks across the state, improved funding for parks and threatened species management. Over 80 per cent of people supported new marine national parks, but Victoria hasn’t had a new marine park since 2002.

Read more on ou polling.

VNPA’s letter-boxing work with partner groups on forest protection has meant we have reached around 210,000 letterboxes before polling day.

Thank you for the dedicated, passionate work from everybody who helped out during this state election campaign.

Vote wisely!

And regardless of the formation of the next state government, VNPA will keep advocating for national parks. We’ve been doing so for over 65 years. And with your financial support, together we can continue this essential work of protecting Victoria’s nature.

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