The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation welcome the $28.6 million for improving Victoria’s parks and reserves estate earmarked in today’s state budget, as well as the $110 million to establish new tree plantations in the Latrobe Valley ‑ notably to increase the proportion of plantation-grown wood available to the industry.
The Andrews Government must also create the Great Forest National Park, and substantially reduce logging in our precious native forests.
“The $28.6 million for improving the parks and reserves estate and unlocking the benefits of parks is welcome,” said Wilderness Society Victorian Campaigns Manager Amelia Young. “The Andrews Government should be confident it has the $8.1 million needed to create the Great Forest National Park in 2017-18.
“Simply establishing the Great Forest National Park, without any investment in infrastructure, would create 80 jobs and add another $7.5 million to the the local economy every year in a decade’s time, according to an independent report by the Nous Group.*
“It would also help save the state’s animal emblem, the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, and protect Melbourne’s drinking water supplies.
“This long-overdue plantation investment is critical to complete the transition of the industry out of native forests; now the government needs to protect forests immediately.”
Australian Conservation Foundation Healthy Ecosystems Campaigner Jess Abrahams said: “This investment provides certainty for industry, but this budget does not do enough for forest dependent threatened wildlife, including the Leadbeater’s Possum, which desperately need protection in new national parks.
“Unlocking the benefits of national parks for all Victorians is commendable, as is the short-term funding of $31.8 million for 60 new rangers in our parks.
“The $86.3 million for implementing the new biodiversity strategy should support the protection and recovery of our state’s flora and fauna, however new national parks are needed to protect existing habitat, as well as deliver revegetation projects, and pest controls.”
Ms Young said: “With state government logging agency VicForests consistently breaching logging regulations and threatened species protections, the money earmarked for better enforcement and compliance is positive. The logging regulator, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, needs resources to ensure logging is at least compliant with the laws that exist.”
Funding for regional Victoria is a centerpiece of the budget, but East Gippsland is a noticeable void when it comes to investing in businesses and communities in that region (see pp.4-5 of Rural and Regional Budget Information Paper). Protection of the public forest asset in East Gippsland would deliver social and economic benefits for local people and communities, where investment across the spectrum is clearly lacking in this budget.
Plantations must responsibly established and well-managed, especially in regards to best use of agricultural land and good stewardship of water resources. These new plantations are being funded out of the Sustainability Fund, which is concerning given the plantations are in all likelihood being grown to supply the Australian Paper mill.
Other features in the state budget include:
* With added investment in improved visitor infrastructure, establishment of the Healesville to Eildon hiking trail, eco-lodges, tree-top walks, and zip-lines, the Great Forest National Park would create 760 new jobs, attract an additional 400,000 visitors annually, and return more than $71million to the economy annually.
For further comment contact:
Wilderness Society Victoria Campaign Manager Amelia Young on 0404 074 577
For more information, contact Wilderness Society media adviser Alex Tibbitts on 0416 420 168