A ‘national park trigger’ in Australia’s environment law, as proposed today by Labor, would subject commercial proposals in national parks to stronger national oversight and would be a welcome improvement, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.
At present potentially damaging projects proposed for national parks may be assessed by the federal government, but only if they might affect ‘matters of national significance’.
Labor proposes that any commercial development proposal in a national park would require federal approval before occurring.
The everyday management and operation of national parks would remain a matter for state and territory governments.
“ACF has been calling for national protection for our national reserve system for a number of years,” said ACF campaigns director Paul Sinclair.
“Today’s commitment by Labor is an important move in the right direction.
“Proposals for activities that would damage our land, air and water, like grazing stock and logging, should be subject to rigorous environmental assessment, yet in recent years we’ve seen numerous examples of a cavalier and reckless approach to protected areas.
“The previous Victorian Liberal government reintroducing commercial cattle grazing in the sensitive Alpine National Park and the Newman government in Queensland allowed cattle to graze in protected areas, while the current NSW government has given the green light to redgum logging in the Murray Valley National Park.
“Labor’s proposed trigger would not cover the broader national reserve system or private conservation areas, which is disappointing, as these tend to be the areas most at risk from damaging commercial projects – like the China First coal mine, which is likely to wipe out the Bimblebox Nature Refuge in central Queensland.
“Neither would Labor’s trigger commit the federal government to re-establish funding for reserve system expansion – something that is critically needed to protect threatened species and water catchments,” Dr Sinclair said.