MEDIA RELEASE 21 June 2019 |
The Andrews Government has been handed a fantastic opportunity today to create much-needed new national parks for Victoria.
Over 50,000 hectares of forest and woodlands in the central west of the state could be better protected if the Andrews Government agrees to final recommendations released today by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC).
These include the Wombat Forest (near Daylesford), Wellsford Forest (near Bendigo), Pyrenees Ranges Forest (near Avoca), and Mount Cole Forest (west of Ballarat, near Beaufort).
“It has been almost a decade since the last major additions to our national parks system in Victoria,” said Matt Ruchel, Executive Director of the Victorian National Parks Association.
“New national parks in our state’s central west would be an impressive Andrews Government legacy for future generations of Victorians, and show real leadership on nature conservation.”
“These central western forests have incredible natural value,” said Mr Ruchel.
“They include 380 threatened species, such as the Powerful Owl and the Greater Glider, and seven significant headwaters of important rivers including the Moorabool, Werribee, Lerderderg, Maribyrnong, and Wimmera rivers.”
“National parks are great for people and nature.”
“New national parks would be a drawcard for recreation and tourism to the central west of the state. They would be assets to the growing western suburbs, giving the community the opportunity to enjoy getting into nature in under hours drive.”
The final report released today by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) on its Central West Investigation follows an extensive community consultation on its previously released draft recommendations. The investigation looked into the condition, values and uses of public land in the central west of Victoria.
Overall, the final recommendations propose an increase of 58,115 hectares in protected areas (national park, conservation park, nature reserve, bushland reserve, heritage river).
This includes additional 50,146 hectares of area protected under the National Parks Act 1975, which includes new or additions to national or state parks, including:
- Wombat–Lerderderg National Park – establishment of a large new national park from existing state park and state forest capturing a significant amount of the largely-intact landscape and high strategic biodiversity values of the Wombat forest (addition of 29,079 ha, combined with existing park of to be total of 49,553 ha).
- Pyrenees National Park – establishment of a new national park from existing nature reserves and state forest over the southern flanks of the Pyrenees range (15,126 ha).
- Mount Buangor National Park – establishment of a new national park from existing state park and some adjoining state forest (addition of 2784 ha).
- Greater Bendigo National Park – addition of a substantial proportion of the Wellsford forest to the existing national park nearby but outside the investigation area (addition of 3152 ha) and addition of 3950 ha to the Bendigo regional park.
- Hepburn (2714 ha) and Cobaw (2532ha) Conservation Parks – establishment of two new conservation parks from state forest northwest of Daylesford and at Cobaw.
- Thirty new smaller conservation reserves (5246 ha), nature reserves (1348 ha) bushland reserves (1761 ha)
- New heritage river designation upper reaches of the Wimmera River in Mount Cole.
- Additional 19,728 ha of regional park public land being managed primarily for recreation, generally in the areas of highest recreational activity near towns.
The final report also notes that the economic benefits to the Victorian community from implementation of VEAC’s recommendations are likely to be high with net benefits conservatively estimated in the order of $247 million present value over 30 years.
“The detailed assessment work and consultation has finished, and it is now up to the Andrew Government to make a decision to go forward with what is recommended,” Mr Ruchel said.
The report will be tabled in Parliament and under legislation; the Andrews Government has to formally respond within six months. Until now, these forests have not been formally assessed for 30 years, and contain many ecosystems under-represented in the protected area estate.
“National parks would give protection to these forests and woodlands and the roughly 380 threatened species from threats of logging and mining, while allowing for a wide variety of recreational pursuits.”
Motor and trail bikes and 4WDs will continue to be allowed in national parks on declared roads and tracks, as will camping and many other recreational activities, which is noted in VEAC’s report.
Victoria’s parks attract 50 million visits per year and see tourists spend $2.1 billion annually, and generate 20,000 jobs.