New national parks for Victoria’s central west!

The unburnt forests of the central west are extraordinary.

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

These forests and woodlands are fragmented remnants of bush, surrounded by a sea of cleared farmland. An incredible variety of life exists here – including over 370 rare and threatened plants, animals and insects.

These surviving habitats protect the headwaters of important rivers and help ease the impacts of the climate breakdown.

After decades of community pressure, in June 2021 the Victorian Government committed to three new national parks.They accepted that 60,000 hectares of forest across Wombat and Wellsford Forests, the Pyrenees and Mount Cole deserved proper protection.

When created, the new parks will be the Wombat-Lerderderg National Park, (near Daylesford), Mount Buangor National Park (near Beaufort) and the Pyrenees National Park (near Avoca).

Premier Allan: stop destroying and start creating

Instead of honouring their promise to create new national parks, our elected officials are letting the forests, rivers and woodlands of the central west be  logged, damaged, degraded

Add your voice

Premier Allan: stop destroying and start creating

Instead of honouring their promise to create new national parks, our elected officials are letting the forests, rivers and woodlands of the central west be  logged, damaged, degraded

Add your voice

The promise of new national parks

By gaining a commitment to include the west in our parks estate, we’ve helped keep this complex web of life safe.

As Victoria experiences rapid rates of ecosystem decline and the real-time impacts of climate disruption, this could not come at a better time.

This is an incredible victory for our wildlife, their habitats and the communities and visitors who will enjoy these new parks.

But the parks still have to be legislated to actually provide protection.

The devil in the details

Unfortunately, the 2021 Andrews Government decision came with caveats and murky timelines.

Their staged plan means extensive logging of forests at Mount Cole (the proposed Mount Buangor National Park), and Pyrenees Ranges (proposed Pyrenees National Park).

We’re already seeing proposed parks logged before being created.

The plan to log much of these areas before turning them into national parks 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 threatened Mount Cole Grevillea, the blood-red beauty 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.

New national parks will:

Improve community health & wellbeing

Keep our air clean & water healthy

Create refuges for threatened wildlife

Help make our new national parks a reality

It’s now critical our new national parks are properly legislated and declared.

Donate today

Help make our new national parks a reality

It’s now critical our new national parks are properly legislated and declared.

Donate today