New national parks for Victoria’s central west!

The unburnt forests of the central west are extraordinary.

They are refuges for wildlife and people, they are places of connection to Country for First Nations communities.

Over 370 rare and threatened birds, insects, mammals and plants call them home.

These landscapes protect the headwaters of important rivers and help ease the impacts of the climate breakdown through carbon storage.

That’s why 60,000 hectares of forest across the Wombat, Wellsford, Pyrenees Ranges, and Mount Cole was recommended for permanent protection in National Parks.

Two years after the expert recommendations were made, the Andrews Government committed to three new national parks. The Wombat-Lerderderg National Park, (near Daylesford), Mount Buangor National Park (near Beaufort) and the Pyrenees National Park (near Avoca).

New national parks announcement

On 24 June 2021, the Andrews Government announced the creation of three new national parks for Victoria, which will provide permanent protection for over 370 rare and threatened animals, plants and insects.

As Victoria fronts up to alarming rates of ecosystem decline and the real-time impacts of climate change, this news could not come at a better time.

Together, we’ve helped bring into existence the most significant addition to our parks estate in over a decade – 50,000 hectares of protected bushland for Victoria.

A commitment to create the new Wombat-Lerderderg National Park (near Daylesford), Mount Buangor National Park (near Beaufort), and the Pyrenees National Park (near Avoca), along with other parks and reserves including a new regional park at Wellsford near Bendigo, has been formally tabled in Victorian Parliament.

This is a win for our wildlife, their habitats and the communities who can enjoy these new parks, whilst protecting their natural values at the same time.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this great outcome.

The devil in the details

While we are thrilled to see the Andrews Government make a commitment to permanently protect these incredible natural places for current and future generations, the decision has come with strings attached.

VNPA is  deeply worried that some proposed parks will be logged before being created at some future date.

While the core additions are welcome, such as the new park at Wombat Forest, there are some concerning elements: the staged implementation plan which allows continued extensive logging of the forests at Mount Cole (the proposed Mount Buangor National Park), and Pyrenees Ranges (proposed Pyrenees National Park) are deeply worrying.

The plan to log much of these areas and then turn them into national parks in 2030 doesn’t make any sense. There is still decades of wood supply outside of the proposed park areas.

We’ll be continuing our work across these areas to make sure higher protections are given to them. Of much concern is the future of the Mount Cole Grevillea – Victoria’s latest threatened species – endemic to the woods of Mount Cole.

What does this mean for the Wellsford Forest?

The government does not accept recommendation A3 for the Greater Bendigo National Park (addition), and instead this area will be added to the existing Bendigo Regional Park.

There is an immediate moratorium on commercial timber harvesting in the Wellsford block but we were disappointed to see the government reject the recommendation for a Greater Bendigo National Park.

The moratorium will protect the area from the worst sort of commercial logging, though domestic firewood collection, mining access and in appropriate recreation may be an issue that will need to be closely monitored.

The government response states:

“This will support a broader range of recreational activities, provide another area for domestic firewood collection (from designated sites) until June 2029, and provide greater flexibility for the North Central Victorian Goldfields Ground Release.

The government supports mining occurring beneath the park addition and acknowledges that some minimally intrusive surface activity may need to occur in the regional park addition to support this.”

What does this mean for the Wombat Forest?

A 24,000 ha addition to create a larger new Wombat–Lerderderg National Park (around 45,000 ha when added to existing state park).

The government response varies from VEAC’s recommendation A4 for the Wombat–Lerderderg National Park by committing to create a 4855-hectare Barkstead Regional Park instead of including the area in the recommended national park.

Hepburn Regional Park additions (2947 ha) Spargo Creek Regional Park (1693 ha) Blackwood Regional Park (3707 ha) Fingerpost Regional Park (5442 ha) have been accepted – but will allow continued commercial firewood production.

In which, “Commercial licensees will be able to undertake forest thinning operations and selective harvesting operations primarily for commercial firewood production. Forest regeneration is not required after forest thinning operations as there is adequate retention of trees".

There will be no clear fell or seed tree harvesting in this area

Sawlogs harvesting have been removed for the formal yield estimates for wombat forest and this is not mentioned in the government response.

What does this mean for Mount Buangor, Mount Cole and the Pyrenees?

Creating the Mount Buangor, Pyrenees national parks will be staged to allow timber harvesting and regeneration (where required) to occur in some areas prior to incorporating those areas in the parks, which could be as long as 2030.

An 80-metre buffer from logging around the Beeripmo walk at Mt Cole/ Mt Buangor has been included, as well as a
new Wimmera River Heritage Area.

According to the Govt response:

“The creation of the national parks will be staged to ensure there are no forestry-based business job losses and to align with timing in the Victorian Forestry Plan. This will allow businesses time to transition from the native forest timber industry with support and certainty”

This is a very odd response, considering that there are decades of wood supply in the Mt Cole and Pyrenees region outside of the proposed park area, which should last the industry past the 2030 deadline at current use rates.

Forestry in the west of the state is almost exclusively state subsidised, small in comparison to the east, but very damaging, so this is a poor outcome.

We will have to encourage the government to implement the key parks in this term of government, and speed up implementation of the forest industry transition.

What about domestic firewood collection?

In most of the proposed new regional parks in the Wombat–Macedon block and in the Bendigo Regional Park (additions) in the Wellsford block, domestic firewood collection (from designated sites) will be allowed until June 2029.

In areas of the proposed national parks that will be unavailable for timber harvesting on release of the government response, domestic firewood collection will not be permitted, except as a last resort to maintain supply to local communities.

This provision will only apply for up to two years after the release of the government response.

What about recreational deer hunting?

The government will allow seasonal hunting (by stalking) in the Pyrenees and Wombat–Lerderderg national parks, in the areas where it is currently permitted, and with some restrictions.

Given the close proximity of the Wombat–Lerderderg National Park to Melbourne and several townships that are popular with visitors, the season will be limited to the period between May and the start of the spring school holidays.

What about prospecting?

There will continue to be opportunities for prospecting in the three blocks of the investigation area, including in regional parks, bushland reserves, state forest and historic reserves, where these activities will not impact on environmental and cultural heritage values.

What about recreational use – such as four-wheel driving, trail-bike riding and mountain biking

Four-wheel driving, trail-bike riding, mountain biking, bushwalking, picnicking and nature observation opportunities are not impacted by the government response to VEAC’s recommendations.

How will these parks be funded?

While some initial funding for visitor facility upgrades has been provided through Victoria’s Great Outdoors package, additional funding for implementing the government response (where required) is subject to budget processes in the context of the government’s investment and service delivery priorities.

We would like to see specific funding allocated to the implementation of the new national parks, reserves and conservation areas.

Help make our new national parks a reality

The Victorian National Parks Association community was instrumental in bringing home this long-fought accomplishment.

But this is only the first step in the formal creation of these new parks.  It’s now critical our new national parks are properly legislated and declared.

Please donate today to power the ongoing work essential to secure these new national parks for nature and the community.

We need your support to make sure these forests are granted the permanent protection of National Park status – a gift to all Victorians, now and in the future.

Donate today
Powerful_Owl_juvenile-Justin_Cally

Help make our new national parks a reality

The Victorian National Parks Association community was instrumental in bringing home this long-fought accomplishment.

But this is only the first step in the formal creation of these new parks.  It’s now critical our new national parks are properly legislated and declared.

Please donate today to power the ongoing work essential to secure these new national parks for nature and the community.

We need your support to make sure these forests are granted the permanent protection of National Park status – a gift to all Victorians, now and in the future.

Donate today

Improve community health & wellbeing

Keep our air clean & water healthy

Create refuges for threatened wildlife

A drawcard for recreation & play

Keep the rare Mt. Cole Grevillea safe from bulldozers

End state-sponsored mining & logging for good