Your support and generous gifts this past year have powered the Victorian National Parks Association through its 67th year.

Thanks to the generosity of supporters, we’ve kept up the good fight, being the voice for Victoria’s national parks, natural areas and the species that rely upon them – often against the odds. And you were right there with us, making it possible.

We are pleased to bring you an update on what your support has made enabled. Some of the achievements you’ve made possible during 2018-19 include:

Standing up to private interests
Our Campaigns Team – Matt Ruchel, Shannon Hurley and Phil Ingamells – have continued working to stop inappropriate private and commercial use of national parks and conservation reserves.

Belfast Coastal Reserve and the Hooded Plover

Our work with the local community and other groups at Belfast Coastal Reserve (between Port Fairy and Warrnambool) has seen the racehorse industry challenged as we stand up for the vulnerable Hooded Plover and our public beaches.

Many within the Victorian National Parks Association community have petitioned the state environment and racing ministers – thank you for taking action! As a result of this persistent campaign, no commercial racehorse training has taken place at Belfast Coastal Reserve since September 2018. Though creative campaigning has stalled the re-issuing of licences to horse trainers, we have not yet stopped them permanently. But we will not stop until those beaches are returned to Hooded Plovers and the general public for their quiet enjoyment.

Great Ocean Road land-grab
The proposal to hand planning control for some of our most iconic national parks along the Great Ocean Road to a tourism-focused management authority is an alarming backwards step in nature conservation. We’ve called for the Andrews Government to rule out changing control of national parks – and we’re bringing this important issue to public attention.

AGL’s proposed Gas Import Terminal
The energy provider’s proposed Gas Import Terminal at Crib Point, in Westernport Bay, is a threat to the Bay, its Ramsar-listed wetland, and the diversity of life it sustains. We’ve been working with fellow environment groups to oppose this inappropriate and potentially toxic development.

Growing the NatureWatch citizen science program
Our NatureWatch Coordinator, Dr Sera Blair, has introduced ‘stagwatching’ to the program, leading teams of volunteers to observe the night time comings and goings of possums and gliders amongst big old ‘stag’ trees. This work also supports the campaign for the Great Forest National Park. A series of successful ‘Caught on Camera’ wildlife monitoring seasons has resulted in lots of important data for the Bunyip State Park and Wombat State Forest – and has been integral to our campaign for new parks in the Wombat region.

And with a team of volunteers, Sera completed the ‘Communities Listening for Nature’ project. The soundscapes created have been important to understanding the diversity of often unseen bird species across Victoria, and contribute to the body of knowledge held by Museums Victoria.

Tackling the feral problem of environmental pests
As you are no doubt aware, populations of feral deer in Victoria are ballooning: it’s estimated there are 1 million deer in Victoria!

Victoria’s Draft Deer Management Strategy, released in September 2018, pandered to the recreational hunting fraternity – currently, deer are still protected as a game species. But Phil Ingamells has ably led our response to this issue, which impacts our natural landscape, agriculture, and the safety of those driving on peri-urban and rural roads.

We made an official submission to the government on this draft plan, as did many within our community of supporters. We have, and will continue to, raise the problem of deer in the media and with key decision-makers in government. We believe that this work is paying dividends, and look forward to seeing a much stronger Management Plan with proper funding when it is released in the coming months. Watch this space!

Unfortunately, feral horses remain a problem, especially in the sensitive Alpine and Barmah National Parks. The government has released a plan for control of some horses in the Alpine National Park and has developed a draft plan for Barmah. We need implementation of both. Feral horse control can be unpopular, yet the Victorian National Parks Association has continued to campaign for a scientifically rigorous approach to feral horse control.

Championing the parks service
This year we have continued to campaign for increased funding for Parks Victoria to manage the parks estate. A tiny 0.5% of the state’s budget is allocated to managing the parks estate, which covers 18% of Victoria.

And while we welcomed a government commitment made in May 2018 for additional funding to ‘manage and improve parks’, it is still not nearly enough. We are now calling for Parks Victoria to receive 1% of the state budget through the ‘Demand 1% for Parks’ campaign. This campaign will ramp up over the coming months – our many thanks to all those who invested in this campaign, which we have recently been seeking funds for.

Establishing new national parks and conservation reserves
Over 58,000 hectares of forest and woodlands in the central west of the state (and the 380 threatened species that live in them, such as the Powerful Owl) could be better protected in new national parks if the Andrews Government agrees to Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) recommendations released in June 2019. Recommendations include the creation of new Wombat-Lerderderg, Pyrenees and Mount Cole/Buangor national parks, additions to existing parks, and the creation of more than 30 conservation reserves. It’s been almost a decade since the last major additions to our national parks system in Victoria, so we’re really excited!

Thanks to your support, we campaigned for many years for this VEAC Investigation; we supported the Investigation with expert advice; we made submissions to the draft report, which saw improvements to the final report; and we’re running a strong campaign to encourage the Andrews Government to commit to creating these new parks.

When new parks are proposed, there are always some who, for one reason or another, voice their opposition – so it is essential we keep the pressure up. As are many within our community – thank you!

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Little Desert National Park
December 2018 marked the fifty-year anniversary since the declaration of the Little Desert National Park, after a historic environmental campaign. It is a significant part of Victoria’s environmental history, ultimately leading to changes in political processes and a rise in environmental consciousness, which still has an impact today.

To mark the milestone, the Victorian National Parks Association created a podcast series documenting the 1960s political dispute that ended in the permanent protection of this precious area in the north-west of our state – at the same time as putting nature conservation and community consultation on the political agenda in Victoria.

Challenging logging
State and federal governments are attempting to renew agreements to lock in a further 20 years of logging in our native forests – exempt from national environmental protection laws. The Victorian Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs), set up almost 20 years ago, are agreements between the Victorian and Australian governments to log our native forests, without the need for assessment of threatened species or natural heritage under national environmental protection laws.

We have been assessing the results of RFAs over the recent years and, along with colleagues, have found that none of the five RFAs met their objectives – our native forests and wildlife are worse off, and the logging industry is in decline. We have published extensive background documents on the RFAs, and we are leading a response to government.

Regional Forest Agreements are propping up a failing industry that provides few jobs and negligible financial returns. Last year the western forests generated a surplus of just $22,000 for VicForests, our state government-funded logging agency – just $22,000!

Riding the rising tide of ReefWatch – counting fish and surveying sea slugs
Under the careful stewardship of Kade Mills and Dr Nicole Mertens, our ReefWatch citizen science program is surging!

A further three Melbourne Sea Slug Census events have been held since the inaugural Census in April 2018. Our citizen scientists are impressing the experts with the diversity of species that they’re finding, and together we’re consolidating the knowledge of sea slug distribution and abundance in Victoria with input from dive clubs, community groups, underwater photographers, commercial divers and researchers.

Getting families out into nature
Our Wild Families Program, led by Caitlin Griffith, supports families to get out and have adventures in nature where both children and adults are learning and experiencing together. This year, we’ve added citizen science activities to the schedule of events – counting fish for the Great Victorian Fish Count and participating in mammal research in the Wombat State Forest with the Caught on Camera project.

Influencing strategic and legislative reform
The Victorian National Parks Association successfully advocated for strategic reform that resulted in the establishment of a new Marine and Coastal Act 2018. While the new legislation is not quite as strong as we would like, there are positives. We are pleased to be engaged in the process of developing the relevant marine and coastal policies that are a requirement of the Act, and will work to make them as strong as we possibly can.

Welcoming new Members
Members are the backbone of the Victorian National Parks Association – we quite simply wouldn’t exist without our Members.

In September-October 2018 we ran a Membership Drive to provide a much-needed boost to our number – and we were delighted to welcome more than 150 new and returned Members to our community. We’re grateful that these new Members chose to make a statement about their values and declared what kind of world they want to live in.

This is just a fraction of the work that your investment makes possible – thank you!

But most of all, thank you for sharing in the vision of the Victorian National Parks Association, where Victoria will be a place with a diverse and healthy natural environment protected, respected and enjoyed by all.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the team via [email protected] or on (03) 9341 6500 with any questions about our work.

Thank you once again for all that you have done and continue to do for Victoria’s national parks, natural areas and the species that rely upon them.