PARK WATCH Article June 2024 |

Now is the perfect time to expand and improve our national park network, explains Matt Ruchel, Executive Director

National parks are the cornerstone of efforts to protect nature. They support the web of life and they benefit our mental and physical health.

Due to decades of tireless advocacy and action, Victoria has a fantastic network of national parks and reserves covering about 18 percent of the state. When a passionate community defends parks, they protect whole habitats forever. This is true protection – for life!

But there are still important gaps to fill. It’s 14 years since Victoria last established large new national parks, the River Red Gum national parks in northern Victoria in 2010. It’s vitally important we improve this record.

The Victorian Government has acknowledged the need to repair decades of damage caused by extractive industries and short-sighted policies. They recently announced the establishment of the Great Outdoors Taskforce to help decide the future of the state’s public land estate, including more than 1.8 million hectares of forest previously used for logging.   

The taskforce committee will explore which areas qualify for genuine protection as national parks, and which areas are suitable for activities such as hunting. While committees on their own can’t deliver the outcomes nature needs, it is a unique opportunity to reinforce the case for new and expanded national parks and protected areas. Now is the time to increase the pressure on our elected representatives to live up to their responsibilities to protect nature and wildlife by completing the national park network.

Opportunities for new and better parks

Central west

The forests of Victoria’s central west are extraordinary refuges for wildlife and people. They’re not only scenic wonders, they’re also critical for climate resilience.

These forests and woodlands are fragmented remnants of bush, surrounded by a sea of cleared farmland. An incredible variety of life exists here – including over 370 rare and threatened plants and animals, such as Brush-tailed Phascogales, Barking Owls, Swift Parrots and Mt Cole Grevilleas.

In June 2021, after decades of community pressure, the Victorian Government committed to three new national parks in the central west. They agreed to protect 60,000 hectares of forest in the Wombat and Wellsford forests, the Pyrenees and Mt Cole.

Three years on, the parks have still not been legislated. This has taken two to three times longer than any previous new park in the last 25 years. There’s no reason to delay. These parks need to be established now!

East Gippsland’s forests

Walking through the lush Cool and Warm Temperate Rainforests of East Gippsland, with ancient Shining Gums and Mountain Ash, is awe-inspiring.

Numerous assessments have confirmed the extraordinary natural values of East Gippsland’s forests. They are critical habitat for unique plants and animals including large forest owls, Greater Gliders, Spotted-tailed Quolls and Long-footed Potoroos.

British botanist David Bellamy described these forests as ‘the most diverse range of temperate forest ecosystems on Earth’. Along with local allies, we are continuing to survey key areas and advocate for the greatest level of protection possible to protect these unique forests.

Central Highlands forests

The Great Forest National Park will be the largest national park close to Melbourne. With towering trees above and lush ferns below, it’s a spectacular place to visit.

It will protect some of the largest trees in Victoria and safeguard unique animals and plants like Leadbeater’s Possums, Greater Gliders, Tree Geebungs, Gully Grevilleas and Tall Astelias.

For decades community has pushed for the area to become the Great Forest National Park. With the end of native forest logging, it’s time to get on with it!

Victorian Alps

Our alpine landscapes are iconic. Twisted Snow Gums and wet sphagnum bogs hold a special place in our hearts.

The Victorian Alps are home to many endangered wildlife like Greater Gliders, Sooty Owls, Royal Grevilleas and Hairy Eyebrights.

Expanding the Alpine National Park to include areas previously set aside for logging, will protect important habitat for rare alpine wildlife.

The proposed Stirling-Alpine Link will increase connectivity, improve tourism values, and build climate resilience. This area must be included in the Alpine National Park to improve outcomes for nature, recreational experiences, and the overall integrity of Victoria’s Alpine regions.   

Western Port Woodlands

The Western Port Woodlands are a remarkable oasis of important habitat in one of the most cleared regions of Victoria. There are grass-tree forests, creeks, woodlands and heathlands, all providing precious homes for a wealth of wildlife. They’re a refuge for wildlife at the fringes of Melbourne, like Southern Brown Bandicoots, Powerful Owls, Tea-tree Fingers, Mountain Brushtail Possums, Lace Monitors and Koalas.

These amazing woodlands continue to be threatened by sand mining and urban sprawl. We must unite the surviving patches of woodland and protect them into the future.

A Bass Coast National Park would protect the irreplaceable natural values of the woodlands, stimulating tourism and providing areas for recreation.

Marine parks

Victoria’s marine habitats are amazingly diverse. They include seagrass, kelp forests, mangroves and bays. About 70 per cent of all marine wildlife in southern Australian waters are found nowhere else on Earth, including Australian Sea Lions, Golden Decorator Crabs, Giant Australian Cuttlefish and Southern Bull Kelp.

But inappropriate developments, climate change and overfishing are threatening the balance.

Victoria has gone from being world leaders in marine protection to laggards. We created the world’s first network of marine parks in 2002, but since then we’ve fallen behind other states, with no new marine protected areas in decades. Marine parks are proven to be the most effective way of making sure our marine life thrives, but Victoria has the lowest percentage of any Australian state, with a mere 5.3 per cent of our waters in protected ‘no take’ areas.

A team of marine experts identified 20 marine conservation priority areas that should be protected as part of our marine national parks network. They include extraordinary places like Bridgewater Bay, Cape Otway, Anderson Inlet, the Gippsland Lakes and Gabo Island.


There was once a million hectares of grassy meadow stretching across Victoria. In the rush for agricultural land and development, we cleared 99 per cent of native grasslands in Victoria.

Our remaining grasslands are home to amazing, rare and threatened wildlife, like Earless Dragons, Fat-tailed Dunnarts, Golden Sun Moths and Small Golden Moth orchids.

Grasslands continue to decline, despite being listed as endangered under our national and state nature laws.

We urgently need to protect and restore these iconic grassy meadows so they can continue to shelter our unique wildlife and thrive into the future.

Support the push for parks for life

National parks are not created until they are signed into law. For all the Victorian Government’s promises, so far, they have under-delivered. We must seize the current opportunity to make our reserve system bigger and better.   

Now is the time to redouble our efforts in each of these areas. Thanks to generous supporters, we will continue to play a leading role in making the case for new and better national parks and protected areas.

We’ll work with local groups on the ground to mobilise community support. We’ll campaign for adequate funding to keep our parks thriving. We’ll survey priority areas to discover natural values that help make the case for protection. And we will endeavour to engage and inspire more people to join the push for new and better parks.

Now is the time.

Help seize this chance to expand our precious national park network by making a tax-deductible donation