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Help save our Great Ocean Road national parks
The proposal to hand over planning and management control for some of our most iconic national parks along the Great Ocean Road to a tourism-focused Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks (GOR) Authority is an alarming backwards step in nature conservation.
While there are significant issues with the management of increasing tourism along the road, and an assortment of small reserves and campgrounds other public land could do with better coordination, the last thing our great national parks need is a new management authority. Our national parks have been successfully protecting 80 per cent of the Great Ocean Road for decades.
New legislation currently before the Victorian Parliament’s upper house inserts some dangerous clauses into Victoria’s long-standing National Parks Act. The new law changes the aim of park management from primarily protecting our native plants and animals and the landscape, to managing the national parks as a ‘compromise’ between environmental management and the economy.
The new GOR Authority, essentially a tourism-driven organisation, will take control of the management of national parks. The claim has been made that this is the same management model as for the Great Barrier Reef, but it’s quite different. With the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service manages the reef in Commonwealth waters, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. However the proposed Great Ocean Road Authority would be a new state agency, overseeing an existing state agency, and setting different management objectives. There is no precedent for this in Australia.
The new authority will be largely funded by public land leases, licences and fees, opening our national parks to exploitation.
There are other problems with the proposed legislation currently before our Parliament’s upper house:
- The new GOR authority will reduce local (including local council) input into planning and management decisions
- It will effectively mean two government agencies managing national parks – an unnecessary duplication of bureaucracy
- There is no funding model for the new GOR Authority – no-one knows if it will rely entirely on leases and licences, or have extra government funding
- While there have been three rounds of “public consultation”, most of the questions put to the public have been trivial. Victorians have never been asked if they want national parks management to be taken over by a new authority – there is no social licence for this legislation.