Victoria is the most cleared state in Australia and has the highest number of threatened species by subregion in the country – yet we still fortunate to have an amazing diversity of wildlife and fascinating habitats across land and sea.

Our state has come a long way in nature conservation, but in 2020 we are still far from turning the corner to restoration.

Biodiversity decline in Victoria is stark and clear. According to the Victorian State of the Environment 2018 Report, most biodiversity indicators are poor and trending downwards.

By better protecting areas, addressing threatening processes, and aiming towards restoration, we can greatly improve the health of our state’s ecosystems, recover our threatened flora and fauna, and preserve Victoria’s marvellous natural heritage for generations to come.

The Environment and Planning Committee of the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament is undertaking an Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline in Victoria (also referred to as the “extinction inquiry”) and is seeking submissions on what measures should be taken to restore habitats and populations of threatened and endangered species.

The Inquiry will consider various issues such as:

  • the extent of the decline of Victoria’s biodiversity
  • The existing and potential impacts on ecosystems
  • the adequacy of the legislative framework protecting the environment
  • the adequacy and effectiveness of government programs and funding
  • the solutions and opportunities to restore Victoria’s environment

The Inquiry is accepting public submissions until Monday 31 August 2020.

If you would like to contribute your knowledge and recommendations, you can read the Terms of Reference and then make your submission online here.


Tips for making a submission

We think individualised submission or letters are better at this stage. So please use our resources or your own experiences to write a letter or submission.

There are many topics of discussion pertaining to the health of our beautiful state but here are 10 to get started with. You may like to dig into one or two, or you could summarise the lot. These include:

Key drivers of ecosystem decline

There are numerous threats to Victoria’s ecosystems and flora and fauna. Some are legacy issues that hark back to the early days of British settlement in Australia, while others are emerging threatening processes that make old problems worse by exacerbating habitat loss and degradation. As part of your submission perhaps you would like to write about and recommend solutions for particular threats to particular ecosystems that you may have knowledge about and that matter to you.

Victoria has the highest number of threatened species by subregion in Australia. Since European settlement there has been a progressive rate of native animal and plant extinctions with Victoria losing 18 mammal species, 2 birds, 1 snake, 3 freshwater fish, 6 invertebrates and 51 plants. Of the 3,330 known Victorian species, 49 are extinct and 2,097 (63%) are on the Threatened Species Advisory Lists.

There has been an increasing trend in the number of critically endangered and vulnerable vertebrate groups, specifically reptiles, and an increase in the number of endangered vertebrates. Of the known species, those that are threatened include: 22% terrestrial mammals, 19% birds, 30% reptiles and 43% amphibians.

More than a quarter of Victoria’s wetlands have been lost since European settlement, and the remaining are mostly in poor condition.

Native vegetation continues to be lost at approximately 4,000 habitat hectares per year. (See: www.ces.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/SoE2018ScientificAssessment_B.pdf)

Key Submission Points:

Some of the key drivers of ecosystem decline in Victoria that you could address are:

  • Habitat fragmentation – caused by centuries of land clearing, but slowly but surely still happening.
  • Climate change – this is multiplying impacts of other drivers of decline, such as fire and water.
  • Inappropriate fire regimes – especially unseasonal or too frequent fire.
  • Invasive animals – such as feral deer, pigs, goats, horses, rabbits, cats and foxes.
  • Invasive plants – such as serrated tussock and willows.
  • Native forest logging – which fragments forests and damages habitat for forest-dependent species.
  • Unsustainable hunting of native wildlife – like native duck shooting or over-fishing.
  • Altered water regimes – due to dams or over-extraction.
  • Population growth – especially around metropolitan and large urban centres, lead to permeant land clearing and fragmentation.
  • Land-use intensification – including increased grazing pressure or changing from grazing to cropping or irrigation.
  • Inadequate public resources for ecosystem management – increased investment needed as we are still going backwards.
Threatened species laws – where is the Guarantee?

The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 is the main piece of legislation protecting Victoria’s threatened flora and fauna, ecological communities and habitats. A great name with great intent, but unfortunately the Act has historically been poorly implemented. Poor implementation and limited obligations on public authorities have resulted in many of the legal tools available to protect flora and fauna never being used.

Many of the listed threatened species do not have recovery action statements and no management plans have been made to guide and enable the implementation of action statements. Just one critical habitat determination and zero conservation orders have been made in the 32-year history of the Act.

The new amendments to the FFG Act that came into effect on 1 June 2020 somewhat improved the legislation but, fundamentally, threatened species protection is still at the discretion of government ministers. Our government and public service needs much greater encouragement to implement the legal conservation tools available under the Act, or better still, needs to be legally obligated to act.

Key Submission Points:

As part of your comments in your submission you may like to mention the importance of ensuring that the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 is adequately implemented, and/or made stronger. This includes:

  • Creating action statements and management plans to guide and implement conservation action for all listed species and communities.
  • Making critical habitat determinations mandatory to enable the environment Minister to use habitat conservation orders in urgent conservation situations.
  • Ensuring that public authorities are aware of their new duty to consider biodiversity conservation and the objectives of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
  • Updating and strengthening the Biodiversity Strategy so that it relates to the objectives of the FFG Act and so that it incorporates the use of the legal conservation tools available under the Act.
Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance – globally recognised but neglected

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (also known as the Ramsar Convention) entered into force in Australia in December 1975. The Convention encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity – particularly for migratory birds. The Convention provides a framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Australia has 66 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance. 12 of these sites are in Victoria and include places like the Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula, the Gippsland Lakes, Western Port, the Kerang Lakes, Gunbower Forest and Barmah National Park.

A recent parliamentary inquiry report into whether there is an effective regime to manage Victoria’s Ramsar sites and protect them from decline found that:

  • 31% of the 281 management actions listed in the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning’s Ramsar management system database, have not commenced despite most Ramsar management plans being developed in 2014; 63% percent of activities have commenced and 6% have been completed.
  • Many management plans have not been updated to adhere with the management principles for Ramsar sites.
  • There are data gaps and potential for improvement in data coordination.
  • At 10 of the 12 Ramsar sites there are outdated Ecological Character Descriptions (important for establishing limits of acceptable change for all critical components, processes and systems).
  • There are inadequate funding arrangements to maintain long-term Ramsar management programs for implementation, monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement.
  • At 10 of the 12 Ramsar sites, there is a lack of compliance with the Convention’s requirement to update Ramsar Information Sheets which are important for assessing the status and trends of Wetlands of International Importance regionally and globally.

This poor oversight and management record is compounded by imminent plans to build a new large scale Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Import Terminal Facility (i.e. an LNG port) in Western Port Bay, one of our most precious Ramsar wetlands. See more in our recent Park Watch article here.

Key Submission Points:

You may like to mention the local and international significance of Ramsar sites in your submission and ask the Government to consider the recommendations of the recent Public Accounts and Estimates Committee parliamentary inquiry (the full inquiry report can be accessed here), particularly:

  • Establish long‑term funding for Ramsar site management so that monitoring programs can be maintained, to protect our international reputation as well as migratory birds and other species.
  • Stopping large scale development in Ramsar wetlands, such as proposed AGL Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Import Terminal Facility (i.e. an LNG port) in Westernport Bay.
Critically endangered grasslands – promises broken

Victoria has an array of highly endangered temperate grasslands and grassy eucalypt woodlands that are unique and full of threatened species. Once covering almost a third of Victoria, now just 2–5% of natural grasslands remain in small and fragmented pockets of remnant vegetation, making it one of the most endangered ecosystems in Australia.

The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) recently audited the protection of critically endangered grasslands in Melbourne’s urban growth boundary and assessed the implementation of a decade-old joint Commonwealth and State government program known as the Melbourne Strategic Assessment.

This program had intended to streamline urban development approvals and ensure the survival of the remaining grasslands and grassy woodlands threatened by urban sprawl in Melbourne’s west and north. To offset losses from urban development, in 2010 the Victorian government committed to establish by 2020, a 15,000-hectare Western Grassland Reserve (between Werribee and Melton) and a 1,200-hectare Grassy Eucalypt Woodland Reserve (near Donnybrook), along with a range of other measures. 10 years later DELWP has still not met its commitments to establish the reserves and has purchased only 10 % of just one reserve to date, while property developers have continued apace.

This is not just unfair, but it is also another example of the environment being pushed aside for development. See our recent media release here.

Key findings from the VAGO report (available here) include:

  • To date, only 10% of designated land has been acquired for the Western Grassland Reserve, and no land has been acquired for the Grassy Eucalypt Woodland Reserve.
  • Delays in acquiring land, and continuing threats of degradation, pose significant risks to the ecological values of native vegetation within the reserves.
  • Delays in acquiring land have been compounded by cost increases; estimated program costs have increased around 80% between 2013 and 2019, mostly due to rising land values.

Key Submission Points:

In your submission you can ask the Parliamentary Inquiry to recommend that the Victorian Government:

  • Highlight the importance of making sure that all Victoria’s diverse vegetation communities including unique grasslands are adequately represented and properly managed within the reserve system to better secure the future of threatened species.
  • Ask the Victorian government to deliver on their promises to protect endangered temperate grasslands and grassy woodlands immediately.
  • Encourage/demand they get on with the job of meeting the commitments to establish the Western Grassland Reserve and the Grassy Eucalypt Woodland Reserve. They should prioritise the highest conservation value grasslands for purchase and management, as soon as possible.
National parks – icons taken for granted

Permanently protected habitats on public and private land form the backbone of our society’s efforts to conserve our natural heritage and its rich biodiversity. Victoria’s national parks and conservation estate, areas protected by legislation, are also a key community asset. They provide great benefit to people as well as to nature.

National parks and conservation reserves protect areas of significance from some damaging activities; but to be effective they also need active management to combat weeds, to control introduced pest animals, to manage visitors, to implement recovery programs for threatened species and their habitats, to mitigate inappropriate fire regimes, to assess and monitor biodiversity and ecosystem health, and to provide general land care and restoration.

Park management issues are often complex and therefore require management by a well-resourced team of the very best scientists and land managers as well as appropriate funding from the government to do the job. The following numbers illustrate this:

  • Victoria’s parks network contains 4,728 of the state’s 5,145 native plant species (91.9%) and 1,102 of its 1,405 native animal species (78.4%).
  • Around 70 per cent of the Victorian coastline is managed as national or state parks, coastal reserves, or marine national parks or sanctuaries. These areas protect against storm damage, flooding and erosion.
  • More than one million hectares of our water catchments are located within Victoria’s national parks. The market value of water run-off supplied through just nine Victorian national parks is estimated at $244 million per year.
  • The 50 million visits to national, state and metropolitan parks see tourists spending $2.1 billion per year, and generating at least 20,000 jobs. Of course, this must be managed carefully.

Unfortunately, funding for our parks is grossly inadequate. Currently, Parks Victoria manages 18% of Victoria and approximately five per cent of our marine waters – yet it receives less than 0.5 per cent of state government expenditure. They must not be allowed to decline in condition due to inadequate resourcing. (See our call for at least 1% funding for parks here.)

Victoria’s marine national parks need our help to protect them too. Victoria has the lowest percentage – a mere 5.3% – of its waters in protected ‘no-take’ areas of any Australian state, well below international benchmarks for marine protected areas­. Nevertheless, Victoria’s network of 13 marine national parks and 11 smaller sanctuaries protects some of our most iconic and charismatic species such as Weedy Sea Dragons, Eastern Blue Devilfish, Southern Fiddler Rays and the Rastern Blue Groper. Marine national parks are also great places for people to connect with, explore, and learn about our marine environment. (For more info see our page on marine national parks and sanctuaries.)

Any new policies and strategies under the Marine and Coastal Act should be used to establish what’s called marine spatial plans, guides for planning regimes which protect high conservation marine areas from developments such as dredging or over fishing. These should be expanded in Victoria.

Currently the Andrews Government has a formal policy ban on creating new marine national parks and sanctuaries, even though expert bodies like VEAC have shown clear gaps in our network of marine national parks and sanctuaries, and recommended that they be filled. Please call for the government to create new marine national parks and sanctuaries.

In general, in order to have better and more informed management, there is also a need to significantly expand programs for ongoing biodiversity surveying and monitoring across Victoria’s various terrestrial, riparian, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, as well as expanded support for citizen science programs.

Key Submission Points:

In your submission you can ask the Parliamentary Inquiry to recommend that the Victorian Government:

  • National Parks are good for people and nature, including the economy.
  • A significant increase in funding (to at least 1% of state annual expenditure) be made, in addition to resources and expertise for habitat restoration programs and ecosystem management in national parks and conservation reserves.
  • Create a state-wide ecosystem based marine spatial plan.
  • Call for the Government to create new marine national parks and sanctuaries.
  • Significantly expand programs for ongoing biodiversity surveying and monitoring across Victoria’s various terrestrial, riparian, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems in national parks and reserves, as well as expanded support for citizen science programs.
  • Support community engagement, including ‘Friends’ groups to increase community connection to parks and reserves.
New national parks and nature reserves

Over the last 150 years (particularly the last 60 years) Victoria has developed an extensive network of national parks and conservation reserves, covering roughly 18% of the state (about 4.1 million hectares) including 70% of Victoria’s coastline and 5% of state marine waters. However, there are still significant gaps to be filled on both public and private land.

A detailed analysis by the VNPA in 2010 (see our Nature Conservation Review) identified the need to secure the permanent protection of around a further 3.1 million hectares of both public land (1.5 million hectares) and private land (1.7 million hectares) in order to complete a minimally comprehensive reserve system, that is, one that gives the necessary protection to all habitat types. The state environment department acknowledged in its biodiversity strategy that the extent of additional protected areas required to meet Australia’s criteria for a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system is 2.1 million hectares. (See Victoria’s Biodiversity 2037 strategy here). That is without taking into account the needs of specific threatened species, the implications of climate change, or other management factors such as fire impacts.

Various government reports have highlight gaps. The top three Victorian areas with poor habitat representation include South West Victoria, and Central Victorian Uplands (this include the current central west proposals for new parks near Daylesford, Beaufort, Avoca and Bendigo) Strzelecki Ranges and Gippsland Plains. (See: www.ces.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/SoE2018ScientificAssessment_B.pdf)

This does not include areas with high numbers of threatened species such as the Central Highlands or East Gippsland or areas vulnerable to climate change and other threats like logging, which deserve better protection.

The last decade has been a low point in the creation of parks, with few areas being formally added to the park estate by either side of politics (read the national parks by premier op-ed). The current Andrews Government has struggled to make a decision about proposals for 60,000 hectares of new national parks in Victoria’s central west, in the Wombat, Wellsford, Mount Cole and Pyrenees Forests which is seeing currently logging and mining exploration in the Wombat and Mount Cole Forests, see here. After four years of government-sponsored investigation and consultation, by the Victorian Environment Assessment Council, the government missed its statutory deadline to make a decision in late February 2020. (Read: ''Andrews Government late for an important date')

The central west forests are within the Central Victoria Uplands bioregion, which only has approximately 10% of the Ecological vegetation classes (EVC’s) (units for assessing ecosystem representation) targets met. Of the 107 important EVC’s identified in the central west investigation area, implementation of VEAC’s proposals will significantly improve representation in the Comprehensive Adequate Reserves system (CAR) system, for 43 of these important EVC’s. This will add up to 16,000 hectares of particular EVC’s, either meeting or significantly adding to ecosystem representation targets.

The forests of the central west are home to 380 threatened species, and the Wombat Forest, near Daylesford, is a vital refuge for the Greater Glider, with a regionally significant population, in which a new national park here would secure long-term protection for this species that is in decline across much of the state. (Read the report released by the Victorian National Parks Association and local group Wombat Forestcare here). This is now increasingly important with at least a quarter of Greater Glider habitat in eastern Victoria has been impacted by the landscape scale fires.

The forests are also significant for many headwaters of many rivers providing water supply to northern and western Melbourne and will be important climate change refuges as species shift in a changing climate.

For more info on the proposed new national parks in Victoria’s central west, read our following recent Park Watch articles: 'A dozen good reasons for new national parks in the central west of Victoria', and 'Mount Cole still on the chopping block' which is still seeing clear fell logging.

Key Submission Points:

In your submission you can ask the Parliamentary Inquiry to recommend that the Victorian Government:

  • Call on the government to make a decision on the proposals to create much needed 60,000 hectares of new national parks in Victoria’s central west Wombat, Wellsford, Mount Cole and Pyrenees Forests to help better secure the future of threatened species such as the Greater Glider, Brush-tailed Phascogale and Mount Cole Grevillea.
  • Highlight that Victoria was once a leader in the creation of national parks, but is now had one of lowest levels on new parks in a decade.
  • There are still significant gaps in the reserve system which need to be filled and the government should initiate new Victorian Environmental Assessment Council Investigations or similar to fill those gaps, including underrepresented habitat areas, areas with high numbers of threatened species and areas under threat.
Seas and shores – need greater protection

Australia’s southern waters, particularly in the southeast, are more species-rich than most other temperate seas worldwide – it hosts many more unique species than the more celebrated Great Barrier Reef. The level of endemicity (uniqueness) in many marine groups is close to 90%, with at least 12,000 marine species calling Victoria home.

In the coastal realm, of the 300 ecological vegetation classes described for Victoria’s bioregions, 95 occur within 500 metres of the state’s shoreline, with 34 found only on the coast. Almost two-thirds (62%) of ecological vegetation classes within 500 metres of the shoreline are threatened within at least one subregion in which they occur.

Our marine and coastal environments, are often our protectors for our way of life by the coast, acting as buffers, protecting against erosion and weather events, controlling our climate and sequestering carbon, as well as providing food, and enjoyment by many.

We know that national parks are one of the best ways to protect biodiversity, but we still have a long way to go to achieving adequate protection for our marine and coasts in Victoria.

90% of our coastline is in public ownership, of which 70% is protected under the National Parks Act as national, marine or coastal parks. Almost 30% of the coastline are in areas known as coastal reserves.

For our marine areas the level of protection is much worse. Although we have a network of 13 marine national parks and 11 smaller sanctuaries, a mere 5.3% of our waters in Victoria are covered in no-take areas – the lowest of any Australian state, well below international benchmarks for marine protected areas­. (More information  here.)

But a lack of protection is not the only problem – development pressures, pollution, industrialization, habitat loss, overexploitation (fishing), and a changing climate all threaten our coastal and marine environment.

Marine spatial planning, a tool for proper planning of our marine and coasts needs to be prioritised to holistically plan for and manage threats across the board, as well as stopping inappropriate developments and uses along our coast.

Currently the Andrews Government has a formal policy ban on creating new marine national parks and sanctuaries, even though expert bodies like the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council have shown clear gaps in our network of marine national parks and sanctuaries –and recommended that these gaps be filled. Please call for the state government to create new marine national parks and sanctuaries.

Key Submission Points:

  • Ask the Victorian Government to remove the ban on new marine national parks, and call for the Government to create new marine national parks and sanctuaries.
  • An independent review of current Victorian marine national parks and sanctuaries (and other marine protected areas) against the NRSMPA’s key principles of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness, as recommended by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s Statewide Assessment of Public Land Assessment 2017.
  • Victoria’s marine national parks and sanctuaries be considered as a key conservation pillar in the current Victorian process of marine spatial planning.
  • Invest adequate funding into the management of marine science and management of our marine national parks and sanctuaries.
  • Stop large-scale development in Ramsar wetland, such as the proposed AGL Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Import Terminal Facility (i.e. an LNG port) in Westernport Bay.
  • Do not allow commercial racehorse training along any of Victoria’s beaches, including the Belfast Coastal Reserve.
    • The Victorian Government should implement either the accepted or proposed recommendations from the Victorian Environment Assessment Council in relation to the planning and management of marine parks (the VEAC Coastal Reserves Assessment 2020, VEAC Public Lands Assessment 2017, and the VEAC Marine Investigation, 2014).
Victoria the feral state

Invasive species have major impacts on Victoria’s native flora and fauna and are a serious conservation concern. Species of animals can be declared as an established pest animal in Victoria under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994. The Act requires all landowners to prevent the spread of, and as far as possible eradicate, established pest animals. The Act applies to both public and private land.

In Victoria foxes and cats have already contributed to the extinction of a number of small native marsupials and are threat to many remaining threatened species. Australia’s native wildlife has not evolved to survive alongside predation by cats and foxes and many birds and mammals are vulnerable particularly if they have small populations in fragmented areas.

It was only in 2018 that feral cats were listed as an established pest animal (on specified Crown Land). The control of feral cats and foxes is currently an urgent land management priority to protect fragile populations of various mammals and birds that are recovering from fire.

Introduced herbivores can also be highly destructive to ecosystems. Grazing by pest animals such as rabbits, deer and horses can limit the regeneration of trees, shrubs and grasses, alter the composition of plant communities, and allow weeds to establish in disturbed areas. They also compete with native mammals and birds for food and alter, trample and destroy habitats. The European Rabbit is declared as an established pest animal, mandating its control. However, there are other significant pest grazing animals, such as deer and horses that are not declared.

Over a million deer are wreaking havoc in Victoria’s state forests and national parks, and instead of being managed as a serious pest, deer are oddly protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 in order to support hunting interests. (See the VNPA’s submission on the Victorian Government’s yet to be released deer management strategy.) The government released a poorly written draft deer strategy in late 2018, and a final has yet to be released, well over year later. Meanwhile deer are creating havoc. See our joint statement from over 100 individuals and groups calling for decisive action here.

Feral horses are also trampling and exerting grazing pressure on critical habitats in the Australian Alps and “degradation and loss of habitats caused by feral horses” is listed as a threatening process under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Recent plans to cull the horses have been slowed by interest groups seeking to protect Brumbies for their cultural heritage value. See our recent FAQ on feral horse management in Barmah National Park and the Alpine National Park here.

Key Submission Points:

Introduced pest animals and plants are one of the top contributors to the decline and extinction of Victoria’s threatened species. In your submission you can ask the Parliamentary Inquiry to recommend that the Victorian Government:

  • Adequately declare invasive pest animals and plants in legislation.
  • Specifically declare deer a pest species, and release a detailed state-wide deer control strategy.
  • Significantly expand funding and planning for control measures and mitigating impacts.
Protect our native forests – transition now

In November 2019 the Victorian Government announced it would immediately cease logging of old growth native forests in Victoria, immediately protect threatened species habitat, and end native forest logging by 2030 (Details of Andrews government forest announcement here).

In the months since the announcement, Victoria has had a devastating fire season in East Gippsland that impacted significantly on threatened species habitats, on proposed immediate protection areas and on areas marked for logging. After community-led litigation the Victorian Supreme Court ordered that logging be temporarily halted in 26 unburnt areas of public native forest.

Despite the enormous environmental impacts of the fires, the Victorian Government renewed all of its Regional Forest Agreements for another 10 years in order to allow the government-backed logging enterprise, VicForests, to be exempt from national environmental protection laws while it continues its unnecessary environmental destruction. (Discussion of RFAs in Park Watch article 'Another decade').

This included the renewal of the completely obsolete West RFA which allows logging operations in what is left of Victoria’s highly fragmented, high-conservation value native forests in the west of the state. In 2014 the Victorian Government’s logging agency VicForests was given management of forestry in the west, and received a $3.3 million grant in advance to run its so-called “Western Community Forestry”. In their 2018–19 Annual Report, VicForests reported total revenue from western native forests was around $700,000. State government funding to VicForests’ “Western Community Forestry” in that same period was $678,000. That’s a surplus of only $22,000 – the price of a small car – for Victorian taxpayers for the logging of our publicly-owned native forests. The $3.3 million grant is due to expire this year, and should most certainly not be renewed to prop up the logging industry in the region (Read recent Park Watch article 'Wicked Regional Forest Agreement of the west').

In May 2020, the federal court ruled that VicForests had breached national environmental protection laws when it logged the habitat of Leadbeater’s Possums and Greater Gliders. VicForests has not been complying with the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014 in respect of threatened species, particularly in applying the precautionary principle, and as a result has not been acting in accordance with their Regional Forest Agreement.

Logging regimes have not only significantly impacted on biodiversity and threatened species but have made many Australian forests more fire-prone and have contributed to increased fire severity and flammability. Fire ecologists have been increasingly pointing out that impacts of logging include changes in forest composition and structure, such as the creation of extensive, dense stands of young trees with a scarcity of elements such as tree ferns and rainforest plants, which in turn can influence fire dynamics and the spread of wildfire; that is, fire can spread from logged areas and burn into adjacent old growth eucalypts and rainforests.

Most native forest logging in Victoria now occurs to supply pulplogs for paper mills in Maryvale, but this demand could easily be covered by the plantation timber industry which exports high volumes of woodchips.

Key Submission Points:

In your submission you can ask the Parliamentary Inquiry to recommend:

  • The transition of the native forest logging industry to plantation only timber production by 2030 to be brought forward.
  • Abandon the West Regional Forest Agreement and conduct a review of all Regional Forest Agreements in wake of the landscape-scale fire.
  • VicForests to stop using your tax dollars to subsidize the logging and destruction of public native forests and threatened species habitat.
  • That the $3.3 million grant that is due to expire this year for “Western Community Forestry”, should not be renewed to prop up the damaging logging industry in the region.
Victoria playing with fire

Under climate change, we have to radically re-think the management of fire. Doing what we used to do just isn’t working.

Last summer’s fires had a devastating impact on Victoria’s natural heritage, especially in East Gippsland which saw the roasting of ancient rainforests and old growth eucalypt forests. In addition, inappropriate response measures such as deliberate burning or “blacking out” of patches of unburnt vegetation, and cases of wholesale clearing of trees along roads and tracks have added to the impacts. However, the increased frequency and severity of fire, and its unseasonality, is the most pressing concern.

In 2019 about 50% of public land in Victoria was already below its minimum tolerable fire interval and much of the vegetation in Victoria is currently in an adolescent of younger growth stage due to excessive recent fire both planned and wild. If fire occurs too frequently it can replace the vegetation with more fire loving species and can wipe out species before they get a chance to grow to reproductive maturity, killing young trees and potentially causing ecosystem collapse. Frequent fire is a critical threatening process to many ecosystems in Victoria.

The 2019-20 wildfires had a profound impact across Australia’s south-eastern temperate forests and there is a potential for post-fire young regrowth to significantly increase wildfire risk in the near future. There is an urgent need to strategically counter rising challenges by shifting focus from fire-based fuel management to other methods of reducing wildfire risk.

For more info see the VNPA’s recent submission to the Senate’s bushfire inquiry here and our FAQ on fire management here.

Key Submission Points:

If you would like to address the impacts of fire in your submission ask the Parliamentary Inquiry to recommend:

  • The ramping up of point of ignition control, including developing landscape-wide aerial firefighting capabilities to suppress ignition points in both urban and remote landscapes.
  • Improved funding arrangements between the Federal and State governments in order to support aerial operational responses to wildfires in remote areas and to support the protection of environmental and cultural assets.  Currently, federal funding is only available for aerial intervention if a fire is clearly threatening lives and infrastructure. This discourages critical point-of-ignition control in remote areas.
  • The improvement of wildfire preparedness for citizens in towns and cities, including improved evacuation planning and procedures, and support for private bushfire shelters.
  • Emphasis on strategic and regulated fuel reduction of understorey vegetation close to assets
  • Evidence-based and strategically planned fuel reduction burn programs with follow up monitoring of post-fire regrowth and fuel loads.
  • The incorporation of the ecological and associated flammability outcomes of planned burns and wildfires in different forest types into wildfire risk modelling.
  • Reducing the long-term flammability of the landscape by setting targets to protect and promote the growth of older vegetation in those forest types where older growth is historically less flammable than younger post-fire growth.
  • Protection of critical habitat features, such as (but not only) hollows in trees and coarse woody debris.
Addressing habitat fragmentation – key steps to recovery

One of the oldest, most pressing and often neglected legacy issues is that of habitat fragmentation. Centuries of land clearing, particularly beginning during waves of agricultural expansion and in the gold rush era of the mid 1800s, has left Victoria as the most cleared state in Australia. Many of our remaining natural areas, especially in western and central Victoria, are now in isolated fragments of vegetation often in rugged terrain and sandy soils that were undesirable for agriculture. Habitat fragmentation can make a whole array of threatening processes worse, due to the flora and fauna being confined to small and isolated populations.

Fragmented habitats and isolated populations are more vulnerable to the impacts of weed invasion, fires (planned and wild), predation by foxes and cats, and to changes in climate, vegetation and habitat. Furthermore, pollination and seed dispersal is limited, animals are isolated, and the population genetics of flora and fauna can be vulnerable to genetic bottlenecks.

Native vegetation continues to be lost in Victoria at approximately 4,000 habitat hectares per year (which is roughly equivalent to 8,000 -10,00 hectares of varying quality, this includes counting alleged gains made up through the management of other areas).

There have been decreases for the following habitats in Victoria between the years 1990 and 2015:

  • native grasslands and herblands from 2,282,992 hectares to 1,820,093 hectares (20% decrease)
  • native scattered trees from 542,201 hectares to 393,147 hectares (27% decrease)
  • native shrubs from 165,262 hectares to 116,620 hectares (29% decrease)
  • intermittent wetlands 47,286 hectares to 42,133 hectares 2015 (11% decrease)
  • seasonal wetlands 418,611 hectares to 342,955 hectares (18% decrease) respectively (See www.ces.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/SoE2018ScientificAssessment_B.pdf)

To address habitat fragmentation, we need stronger native vegetation laws and regulations plus well-funded, strategic revegetation and land care programs. Stopping clearing, while linking and restoring habitats, is one of the top things Victorians can do to restore the health of our vulnerable ecosystems and assist with threatened species recovery. We also need to understand the implications of climate change on ecosystems, and detailed assessment at fine-scale (e.g 5-kilometre blocks) should be undertaken to model in detail, the potential changes for key natural areas.

Protection of habitats on private land is also critical, and one of the key mechanism for this is through Trust for Nature covenants. The state biodiversity strategy, Protecting Victoria's Environment – Biodiversity 2037 states that “The estimated gap in additional protected areas required to meet Australia’s criteria for a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system is 2.1 million hectares. In some bioregions … this can only be achieved by land purchase or additional formal protection of habitat on private land.” Yet little of the money provided to implement the state biodiversity strategy has been spent on supporting land stewardship or expanding the number of Trust for Nature covenants.

Key Submission Points:

In your submission you can ask the Inquiry to recommend that the Victorian Government:

  • Develop stronger native vegetation laws and regulations plus well-funded, and on-going strategic revegetation and land care programs.
  • Develop a detailed understanding on the implications of climate change on ecosystems, and a detailed assessment at fine-scale (e.g at least 5-kilometre blocks) should be undertaken to model in detail, the potential changes for key natural areas.
  • Dramatically increase funding for private land conservation through the Trust for Nature, including the establishment of $20 million revolving fund.

Further Resources

  1. VNPA’s most recent Nature Conservation Review for a detailed review of priorities and key drivers.
  2. Our recent submission to the Senate’s bushfire inquiry here.
  3. Our most recent media releases on feral deer and feral horses.
  4. Our submission on Victoria’s draft feral deer management strategy.
  5. See the CSIRO’s Australian climate predictions here and the Bureau of Meteorology’s trend maps for Australian climatic extremes here.
  6. Read some of our recent Park Watch articles regarding logging:
    ‘An end to logging of Victoria’s native forests’
    ‘A greater refuge for gliders’
    ‘Forgotten forests’
    ‘Save or salvage’
  1. See the VNPA’s call for increased funding for parks here.

Thank you for taking the time to write a submission.

Make your submission

Submissions accepted until Monday 31 August 2020.