PARK WATCH June 2021 |
A lot of good things are flagged for Wilsons Promontory National Park, but without a current management plan there is no clear framework for decisions, writes Phil Ingamells.
The Prom is arguably Victoria’s most loved national park, and in 1898 was more or less equal first to be given protection in our state along with Mount Buffalo National Park.
Since that time, it has been variously cared for and abused. It has had to weather fire, logging and mining industries, military occupation, and development. But it has also long had the support of ecologists and the general community, keen to protect this magical pile of granite that projects from the Australian mainland into the wild waters of Bass Strait.
To handle the contested space that parks inevitably become, Victoria’s National Parks Act 1975 requires a management plan that clarifies the actions and priorities needed to ensure that the prime purpose of each national and state park – the protection of natural heritage – is not compromised.
The most recent management plan for the Prom was finalised in 2002, and it has served the park well, but as plans are generally considered relevant for only 10–15 years, it is seriously in need of revision.
One hold-up has been the lack of resolution of native title claims, but that may not happen for some time. Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park is in a similar situation, but in that case Parks Victoria consulted with those Aboriginal groups in the understanding that resolution will come. The new Greater Gariwerd Landscape Management Plan is now close to finalisation.
The Prom has been promised significant funding in a couple of important streams. One is a large capital works program that can potentially allow everything from toilet blocks and carparks to a new visitor centre, walking tracks and accommodation.
The other funding stream kicks off the Prom Sanctuary proposal, starting with the building of a long predator-proof fence across the Yanakie Isthmus that will allow effective pest animal control in the park, and then the reintroduction of lost native fauna.
Inevitably, all sorts of bids and proposals are being put forward and starting to be assessed outside the context and guidance of a well-considered management plan. That can lead to actions that park managers, and the people of Victoria, might come to regret.
Most contentious are likely to be proposals for greatly increased public access to the Prom. Vehicle numbers are already far above those proposed in the 2002 plan, and will inevitably grow even without pressure from tourism bodies to expand experiences for visitors.
There are plenty of projects the Prom can go ahead with that are consistent with the old plan: such as new walking tracks to Darby Saddle and Telegraph Saddle, the sanctuary fence, a new visitor centre, a revamped research facility, and upgrades to deteriorating tracks.
New proposals, however (and there are many), should wait for the planning process required by the National Parks Act. We need a plan that will protect the Prom and its unique experiences for the years to come.
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