Your support and generosity has powered the VNPA through its 68th year.

Despite the challenges brought about by the bushfires and coronavirus, we have none the less achieved so much together this past year.

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

We are delighted to bring you an update on what your support means. Some of the achievements you’ve made possible during 2019-20 include:

The campaign for new parks continues

Almost 60,000 hectares of forest and woodlands in Victoria’s central west could be protected in new national parks if the Andrews Government agrees to Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) recommendations released in June 2019.

Thanks to your support, we campaigned for many years for this VEAC Investigation; we supported the Investigation with expert advice; and we made submissions to the draft report, which saw improvements to the final recommendations.

And while we impatiently await an announcement from government, the team has run an increasingly vocal campaign to encourage the Andrews Government to commit to creating these new parks.

The Government should have made an announcement by the end of February of this year. It’s now more than 13 months since the report was publicly released and this lack of decision constitutes a breach of legislation and statutory duty.

We’re all rightly concerned about the coronavirus right now, but we will not let this drop off the government or public agenda. We continue to campaign decision-makers and find new ways of engaging the public.

This is only possible thanks to the generosity of our community of financial supporters.

Protecting the integrity of national parks and conservation estate

This year, our Campaigns Team has grown significantly. Our Executive Director Matt Ruchel, and Nature Conservation Campaigners Shannon Hurley, Phil Ingamells have been joined by Jordan Crook and John Kotsiaris as we work to stop inappropriate private and commercial use of national parks and conservation reserves, and speak to the value of the parks service, Parks Victoria, and their continued need for more funding.

Tackling the feral problem of environmental pests

Phil Ingamells has again ably led our response to deer and feral horse management.

More than a million deer are chewing up well over a million tonnes of native vegetation each year in Victoria. As deer numbers expand and their impact on habitats from the coast to the high country increases, many of our native animal species, which rely on those same habitats, are declining.

Though the government released a draft deer strategy more than a year ago, they are yet to deliver a final plan. VNPA therefore continues to push for an integrated, state-wide, adequately-resourced program to manage this out-of-control feral animal.

Great Ocean Road Coasts and Parks Authority

Despite our best efforts, the Andrews Government passed legislation to hand management of some of our most iconic national parks over to a new tourism-focused management authority. It’s an alarming step backwards in nature conservation.

With a proposed second-wave of legislation coming up, we will continue to keep a sharp eye on the fine details of the proposals being made.

Responding to the Summer Bushfires

The summer bushfires in Victoria burnt over 1 million hectares: 104 parks and reserves were affected, with 34 of these parks completely burnt-out. The habitat of over 300 threatened species has been impacted. Thanks to your support, VNPA provided detailed briefings to government and community on the impact the bushfires have made on the plants, wildlife and parks in East Gippsland.

Our campaigners Phil Ingamells and John Kotsiaris have made submissions to both the state and national bushfire inquiries, including the national Bushfires Royal Commission – and we’ll continue to engage in these inquiries as they progress. The damage caused by the fires makes protecting un-burnt areas across the state increasingly critical.

Nurturing citizen scientists through NatureWatch

Our NatureWatch Coordinator, Dr Sera Blair, has lead a series of successful ‘Caught on Camera’ wildlife monitoring seasons, compiling a mass of data for the Bunyip State Park and Wombat State Forest. This has been integral to our campaign for new parks in the Central West.

And with the support of Project Officer Kristen Agosta, Sera has again delivered a number of successful ‘stagwatches’, where teams of volunteers observe the night-time comings and goings of possums and gliders between big old ‘stag’ trees. This work also supports the campaign for the Great Forest National Park. While fieldwork with volunteers is still restricted, we continue to do what’s needed with small groups of staff, using strict protocols for essential monitoring.

Protecting our seas and shores

Inappropriate private and commercial interests threaten our marine and coastal environments as much as they do on land. Campaigner Shannon Hurley leads our marine conservation advocacy.

Belfast Coastal Reserve and the Hooded Plover

Our work with the local community and other groups at Belfast Coastal Reserve (near Port Fairy) has kept commercial racehorse training at bay since September 2018. We’re continuing to keep watch, to ensure the beaches stay safe.

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’re working with fellow environment organisations to oppose this inappropriate and potentially toxic development – many thanks to all those who have joined the campaign by emailing decision-makers and writing submissions. The campaign is at a critical point right now as we, together with partners and supporters, scrutinise the 600-page Environmental Effects Statement released by AGL.

Marine and Coastal Policy

The final Marine and Coastal Policy was released by the Victorian Government in March. After consistent input from VNPA over the last 12 months, the document looks promising with strong policies around protecting biodiversity and marine parks, responding to climate impacts, and managing sustainable uses across many sectors. However, the policy also has some weaker elements, so it is critical we remain vigilant to ensure the policy is properly interpreted by decision-makers.

Celebrating Marine National Parks

This year we created a podcast series to capture the 10-year community campaign that led to the creation of the world-first system of marine national parks and sanctuaries in Victoria in the early 2000s.

Bird song or Bulldozers? Challenging logging

Amid the COVID-19 shutdowns in April, the Victorian and Commonwealth governments signed Regional Forestry Agreements (RFAs), locking in a further ten years of native forest logging. We provided a detailed submission highlighting the flaws and attended a number of forums, unfortunately some of the key issues we raised were largely ignored.  It is very disappointing to see these outdated and ecologically damaging agreements continue for another decade.

While we welcomed the government announcement to end native forest logging by 2030, and the new so-called ‘Immediate Protected Areas’ and ‘Old Growth Protections’, implementation has stalled. We are continuing to strongly encourage the government to implement a faster transition to plantation, especially in the wake of the recent landscape-scale fires.

In Victoria’s west, the new RFA enables logging in the wildlife-rich forests of Mount Cole. These forests are home to Victoria’s newest threatened species, the unique and beautiful Mount Cole Grevillea, and the much-loved Beeripmo Walk.

In December we heard that VicForests was proposing to log Mount Cole, so under the guidance of campaigner Jordan Crook, we launched a Citizen Science Survey.

This resulted in the first-ever formal ‘Threatened Species Detection Report – Mt. Cole State Forest’, submitted in May. Thanks to the steadfast support of the VNPA community, Mount Cole Grevillea plants have been protected in roped-off areas in one of the logging coupes at Mount Cole!

Alarmingly, VicForests conduct their own forest surveys in the west, if they do any at all – without the oversight of independent ecologists. This is unacceptable and we continue to interrogate VicForests’ work and the RFAs.

Showcasing southern sea slugs

Under the careful stewardship of Kade Mills and Dr Nicole Mertens, our ReefWatch citizen science program is surging!

Seven Melbourne Sea Slug Census events have been held since the inaugural Census in April 2018, recording at least 170 species of Victorian sea slugs! Six of these sea slug species were ‘undescribed’ by science (as close to a ‘new’ species as we’ll get!).

The team are grateful to be working with a really enthusiastic group of citizen scientists as they jointly expand our knowledge and spread awareness of marine invertebrates that don’t always get a lot of the limelight.

This year, Nicole piloted a ‘Virtual Fish Count’ in her home town of Bendigo to showcase our marine environment to students that may not have the opportunity to experience it first-hand. We hope it may inspire some future marine biologists!

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 learn together.

This year, the Wild Families program teamed-up with the ReefWatch team to offer specially-tailored Great Victorian Fish Count activities for the Sudanese Australia Integrated Learning Program and the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre.

Influencing strategic and legislative reform

VNPA continues to work at a strategic level, ensuring that the interests of Victoria’s natural environment and parks system are heard by those in power.

Our critically endangered Grasslands

The Victorian Auditor-General recently released a scathing report on the Victorian Government’s delivery of the Melbourne Strategic Assessment, a scheme to streamline development approvals and ensure the survival of the remaining grasslands and grassy woodlands threatened by urban sprawl. New legislation has been passed to collect more money to fund the purchase of grasslands – but revenue alone will not solve this problem.

We are calling for an urgent examination of how to prioritise acquisition, protection and management of highest quality remaining conservation areas to protect this most threatened of ecosystems.

Cornerstone of Conservation

The team have also analysed recent amendments to Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Historically, the Act has been poorly implemented – but our analysis has enabled us to work with government to use the tools available in the Act to achieve more conservation action for threatened species.

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.