MEDIA RELEASE 31 August 2018 |
Conservation groups welcome the draft recommendations released by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s (VEAC) Central West Investigation, released today.
The additions would fill a number of significant gaps in Victoria’s national parks and conservation estate, and protect more than 350 threatened species. There are also significant increases proposed to regional parks, which will be a plus for tourism, recreation and nature in central Victoria.
The investigation looked at the condition, values and uses of public land in the central west of Victoria, including the Wombat (near Daylesford), Wellsford (near Bendigo), Mount Cole and Pyrenees Range forests (near Beaufort and Avoca).
“If the draft recommendations are implemented for new national parks and conservation areas, it will not only be a boon for threatened species and their habitats, but also a drawcard for tourism and recreation in central Victoria” said Matt Ruchel, Executive Director, Victoria National Parks Association.
“But not everything is rosy. Mount Cole and Mount Lonarch are the big losers in the draft recommendations, with much of the area left open to intensive logging, which is a concern for conservationists”. (see: vnpa.org.au/logging-to-impact-one-of-victorias-most-popular-bush-walks-at-mount-cole)
“VEAC recommendations fail to protect the amenity, atmosphere and ecology around the popular Beeripmo bush walk and the headwaters of the Wimmera River.”
Some of the key draft recommendations from VEAC include:
Wombat Forest to have significant additions, with an increase in size of 28,692 hectares, making a new Wombat-Lerderderg National Park, and a new regional park located in two parts, totalling 9,149 hectares.
Wellsford Forest to include an addition of 3,950 hectares to the Bendigo Regional Parks, and the creation of a 3,160 hectare Wellsford Nature Reserve, covering almost half of the Wellsford forest.
Pyrenees forest to be upgraded to a new Pyrenees National Park of 16,076 hectares, and a new Regional Park of 4,160 hectares.
Mount Cole/Mount Buangor – Mount Buangor National Park to be extended by 1,406 hectares, incorporating the under-represented EVC, Grassy Dry Forest, and to protect the endangered Mount Cole grevillea. Ben Nevis Nature Reserve (1,088 hectares) to be created on the northern flanks of the current Mount Cole State Forest.
New conservation parks – To create a new Cobaw Conservation Park (2,453 hectares); Hepburn Conservation Park (2,714 hectares); Ben Major Nature Conservation Reserve (3,229 hectares), combining the existing Flora Reserve with adjacent bush; Waterloo Nature Conservation Reserve (1,695 hectares); and dozens of other new and expanded bushland reserves.
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.
National and state parks are particularly important for tourism, as tourists spend $1.4 billion per year associated with visits to parks, and contribute more than 14,000 jobs to the state economy.
National parks alone attract 35 million visitors each year in Victoria. Including visitors to all of types of parks and reserves in Victoria, almost triples that, with 96 million visitors every year.
Parks contribute a further $330 million by supplying clean water.
“National Parks and reserves are great for people and nature. It’s a no-brainer why we need them.”
Submissions into VEAC’s Central West Investigation close on 31 October 2018: www.veac.vic.gov.au/investigation/central-west-investigation
The next Victorian government will consider the final report recommendations in March 2019.