NEWS 20 Dec 2023 |

Today’s Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) Central Highlands Interim report is welcome progress in efforts to safeguard Victoria’s remaining native forests. The report recommends expanded and new national parks between Toolangi and Marysville, and Warburton and Mt Baw Baw.

VEAC’s report reflects up to date science and strong community sentiment for greater protections for Central Highlands forests, and endangered forest-dependent wildlife like Leadbeater’s Possums and Greater Gliders.

The region’s significance is heightened as Melbourne’s population burgeons, emphasizing the need for new national parks as the cornerstone for the sustained care and management of these invaluable forests.

National park protection sets out clear objectives for the lands management and conservation and is supported by a majority of Victorians.

The Central Highlands forests, were assessed as crucial for securing Melbourne’s water supply and quality. They also serve as formidable carbon sinks, combating climate change. Notably, the globally endangered Mountain Ash ecosystem, with their imposing stature, add to the importance of a clear plan to protect these threatened landscapes.

Caption: Leadbeater’s Possum

The Central Highlands forests bear the scars of years of logging and extraction activities, necessitating ecological restoration to rebuild their resilience.

The government must not drag their feet on formal protections for these forests like they have with the Central West parks. We expect to see clear timelines for legislating these parks and adequate funding for their establishment and ongoing management.

The report will play a pivotal role in guiding the Eminent Panel for Community Engagement (EPCE) processes, leading to recommendations for the Minister. The community anticipates a swift and decisive timeline for the establishment of these parks, akin to previous processes such as the Box-ironbark (9 months), Great Otways (12 months), and Redgum park (15 months).

Looking ahead, the Interim Report for East Gippsland Immediate Protection Areas (IPAs) and adjacent areas is anticipated in 2024, underscoring the ongoing need to safeguard and preserve Victoria’s rich natural heritage.

Read the Central Highlands Interim Report

 Subscribe to stay up to date with nature issues in Victoria.