MEDIA RELEASE Tuesday 1 May 2018 |
Environment conservation and valuing Victoria’s unique natural areas and threatened species appears a low priority on the Andrews Government agenda, with few significant announcements in today’s election year state budget.
“National park funding has improved with an allocation of $70.6 million over four years (between $14 and $20 million per year increase), including 130 extra regional ranger positions, which is a welcome boost. But the amount only brings the allocation back up to historical funding levels,” said Matt Ruchel, Executive Director of the Victorian National Parks Association.
“Far higher core funding is needed to manage our prime national parks and reserves. Compared to big ticket multi-billion dollar items like health and education, the amount needed is still fairly small and should be easily achievable,” Mr Ruchel said.
The Victorian National Parks Association estimates that core funding for national parks needs to increase by at least $50-$65 million per year to ensure that management of our national parks and conservation estate approaches world’s best practice, and deals effectively with many threats such as pest plants and animals, population growth and climate change.
“Total expenditure on parks and reserve management is still less than half a percent of total state government expenditure. A modest but significant ongoing increase in expenditure would make a huge difference to the ecological health of our parks and improve visitor experiences,” said Mr Ruchel.
In addition to parks funding, an additional allocation of $1.3 million to tackle specific weeds and pests, including feral horses in the Alpine National Park, is very welcome.
Other features include almost $36 million to modernise the obsolete and outdated Regional Forest Agreements, but there is little detail on the proposed process. The outcome of this review process will confirm if this is money will be well spent. $3 million over two years is also provided for ongoing implementation of work in the Yellingbo forest to protect Victoria’s faunal emblems including the Helmeted Honeyeater.
Large gaps remain in Victoria’s nature conservation budget:
- No specific funding for marine and coastal management, other than beach re-nourishment in Port Phillip Bay.
- As much as $2 million has been allocated to the Alpine National Park’s controversial Falls to Hotham Track, which will have a considerable adverse impact but serve only a small number of people.
- No investment in the management of climate impacts on our natural areas.
- No new funding to control rampant deer populations, or other damaging pest such as pigs, goats, cats etc.
- No further expenditure on the management of many threatened species.
- No investment in the creation of new national parks, such as the Great Forest National Park.
- No investment in private land conservation such as the Trust for Nature Revolving Fund, an extremely cost-effective scheme for protecting high conservation land.