MEDIA RELEASE 20 October 2020 |

Nature-starved Melburnians yearn for the bush and new national parks, according to new opinion poll results.

A new opinion poll of 1,009 Melburnians over the age of 18, commissioned by the Victorian National Parks Association and conducted by Lonergan Research, highlights that the COVID-19 lock downs across metro Melbourne have enhanced the value of nature and national parks for many.

The results highlight wide spread support for new national parks such as the currently stalled and overdue proposal for the creation of 60,000 hectares of new parks in Victoria’s central west. A decision is now seven months overdue of its legal deadline, and over 12 month since it’s tabling in parliament. See more here.

“COVID-19 restrictions have estranged Melbourne nature-lovers from their favourite conservation areas“ said Matt Ruchel Executive Director of the Victorian National Parks Association.

“These results reinforce what we’ve been hearing across the community over the last few difficult months – people miss the bush. It’s good for their physical and mental health.”

“They want to spend more time in nature and they want more of Victoria’s natural places protected”.

The poll highlights the importance for any recovery plans from COVID-19 impacts to consider the broader community benefits of, and access to, nature in and around Melbourne.

“We need to better protect places like the Wombat forest in National Parks and make sure they are managed to a high standard, so we have more places, both for wildlife but also for nature-starved residents and visitors to safely enjoy when restriction are eventually lifted“, said Matt Ruchel.

Key points from the poll include:

  • More than half of Melburnians say COVID-19 restrictions have made them value access to natural areas (56%), and national parks (52%), across Victoria more.  Nearly half (46%), of those in Melbourne say the COVID-19 restrictions made them visit bushland and parks in their local area.
  • Four in five (81%) Melburnians support the proposals to expand national parks in Victoria around Daylesford, Woodend, Bendigo and Ballarat. One in seven (14%), are undecided, only 4% oppose.
  • Two in five (39%) of those in Melbourne say the creation of new national parks in the central west would make them more likely to vote for a political party , while only 4% say it would make them less likely.
  • Six in seven (86%) of Melburnians support Victoria having a comprehensive network of National Parks and conservation reserves across land and sea, and when asked even with the impact of COVID-19, three quarters (77%) of Melbournians support the Victorian Andrews Government creating new national parks in Victoria. 86% of ALP voters and 66% of Coalition voters support new parks even with COVID-19 impacts.
  • Distance is a factor for half of Melburnians, with 51% saying having parks less than 90 minutes drive (such as new Central West Parks, like wombat forest, near Woodend) would make them visit national parks more often.
  • Two thirds (67%) of Melburnians say walking tracks and trails would make difference (there are well established but under utilized walking tracks at Mt Cole and Wombat Forest, which are part of the proposed new parks in the central west). 55% highlight the value of natural features and 41% just liked being in the bush.
  • Most (58%) Melburnians believe the best use for Victoria’s three million hectares of publicly owned state forests is for the protection of wildlife, trees and nature, only 2% support native forest logging.

The Victorian National Parks Association are calling on the Andrews Government to support the creation of new national park in Central West Victoria, as recommended by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC). New parks in central west would be the largest addition to national parks estate in a decade. The Association continues to call for greater investment in ecological management of national parks and conservation areas.

Media Resources:

Download polling results here

Photos of Central West forests 

Drone Footage for Mt Cole and Wombat Forest 

Information on missed legal deadline for parks in Victoria

Notes:

  • In contrast with Sydney, there is a significant shortage of national parks and reserves within a short drive (90 min – 120 min) of metropolitan Melbourne. The protected area network surrounding Sydney consists of eight national parks and reserves in two connecting blocks that are separated by a transportation and urban development corridor. Collectively, they cover 1 million hectares of land. This far exceeds the formal national and state park network surrounding Melbourne, which is less than 185,000 hectares (a large chunk of which is in closed water catchments in the Yarra Ranges National Park).
  • National parks are the key mechanism to permanently protect natural areas, while encouraging appropriate recreational use. Tourists spend $2.1 billion per year associated with their visits to parks, and add 20,400 jobs to the state’s economy, including many regional jobs. They are the foundation of our efforts to protect threatened species and play a key role in combating the impacts of climate change.