Clear blue skies and cool mountain air welcomed 400 committed conservationists to the Mt Donna Buang summit on the weekend as we formed a giant human sign spelling out support for a new Great Forest National Park in the Central Highlands and Gippsland.

Made up of happy, smiling people, children and families, the sign was 60 metres long, 50 metres wide and was an impressive sight when viewed from the top of the Mt Donna Buang observation tower.

Called the Great Forest Picnic, we have been planning the 13 May 2017 event for a number of months as part of our push for new national parks in Victoria.

Joining Victorian National Parks Association members and supporters were locals and other conservation groups determined to see a new Great Forest National Park established in the central highlands and Gippsland.

Time is running out

With less than two years left before the next state election Premier Daniel Andrews is running out of time to give Victorians a clear commitment that it will create a new Great Forest National Park.

The premier went to the last election boasting that “Labor has a long history of extending our national parks and reserves”, and that his party would support a consensus approach to establishing new parks through a forest industry taskforce.

The Victorian National Parks Association, along with other conservation groups, spent two years talking to industry and unions as part of an official ‘Forest Industry Taskforce’.

While agreement was reached around a statement of intent,  discussions broke down and the forest industry largely walked away from the process, demanding more access to our native forests. Their demand came despite the fact the Victorian Government’s own logging agency admitted there is not enough timber in our forests to continue business as usual logging.

While the Forest Industry Taskforce did not succeed, it would be unfair to call it a complete failure. The decisions about the future of our native forests is now squarely back in the government’s corner.

Now the Andrew’s government is almost out of time, with an election just 18 months away it’s time for commitments and action.

Time for a Great Forest National Park

National parks benefit people and nature by providing permanent protection for our unique wildlife and a place for people to enjoy the great outdoors, and create a nature-based playground for stressed out urbanites.

A Great Forest National Park, less than 90 minutes from Melbourne, would protect forest-dependent species such as the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, safeguard drinking water catchments.

It would also boost business and employment in our otherwise economically disadvantaged townships.

Recent economic studies have shown that a new park could lead to more than 750 full-time, sustainable jobs.

The Great Forest Picnic was organised by the Victorian National Parks Association and supported by the Wilderness Society Victoria, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum, Warburton Environment, Warburton Habitat Tree, Knitting Nannas of Toolangi, Save Mt St Leonard Community Campaign, Environment East Gippsland and the Goongerah Environment Centre.

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Part of the 400 people who gathered at the top of Mt Donna Buang today spelling out their love for parks, and for a Great Forest National Park. Photo: Bette Divine
Caption: Part of the 400 people who gathered at the top of Mt Donna Buang today spelling out their love for parks, and for a Great Forest National Park. Photo:  Bette Devine