PARK WATCH March 2020 |
Proposed Great Ocean Road legislation is still unclear, says Phil Ingamells.
Tiled boldly into the floor of Victoria’s Parliament House lobby are the words:
“Where no counsel is the people fall, but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
Since the 1850s, these words have reminded our parliamentarians that good decisions are made when proposed legislation is open to informed scrutiny by the public.
Unfortunately, the Great Ocean Road Environs and Protection Bill, due before the Legislative Council in May, has failed to honour that objective. The lengthy public “consultation” leading to the framing of this legislation has been marked by obfuscation and misinformation (see Park Watch December 2019).
Despite three rounds of so-called consultation, including meetings and online questionnaires, the public have never been told that the intention is to set up a Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority that will oversee, and override, Parks Victoria’s management of our national parks.
There has been no suggestion or discussion of a far better alternative, a coordinating agency that can simply plan and recommend consistent management options for the road.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has continued to tell anyone who asks (including our members of Parliament) that the new authority has a precedent in the management of the Great Barrier Reef, but that claim, as with most of the information in this process, is hogwash.
The Commonwealth Government, charged with managing the reef and islands in Commonwealth waters, contracts the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to do the on-ground management of the reef – avoiding a duplication of effort and expertise. The Great Ocean Road proposal is quite the opposite proposition. It sets up a new tourism-focussed state agency above the existing state agency Parks Victoria, effectively duplicating management planning and expertise for national park management along the Otway coast.
More worryingly, however, is that the new legislation actually inserts new clauses into Victoria’s tried and true National Parks Act 1975, weakening Parks Victoria’s focus on ecological management.
Those words tiled into our Parliament’s floor should be compulsory reading for the group in DELWP who are trying to lever this dangerous Bill through.
You might write to our Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, asking her to completely rethink the Great Ocean Road Environs and Protection Bill. Tell her she must not, in any way, compromise the conservation objectives of the National Parks Act.
The Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio,
Minster for Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
Level 16, 8 Nicholson Street,
East Melbourne, VIC 3002.
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