The State Government has directed the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council to nominate areas in six National and State Parks where recreational prospecting will be allowed. Details of the brief are here.
FOBIF has made a submission to VEAC, which reads partly as follows:
It is hard to believe that VEAC has been given such a brief without prior authority to investigate first the question, ‘should any additional areas be made available for recreational prospecting in our National and State Parks.’
Prospecting has been permitted in the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park for about ten years. The Park’s Management Plan [2005-7] specifies that management ‘monitor the impacts of prospecting on cultural and natural values of the park’ and work with relevant groups to address the causes.’ [page 42]
It would seem logical that no decision about additional areas for prospecting should be made without first checking on the experience with the practice in this park.
What is the status of the monitoring of prospecting in the Castlemaine Diggings NHP? What conclusions can be drawn from it about potentially damaging practices?
We strongly suspect that no monitoring has in fact taken place—and that opinions about the effects of the practice will be chancy, anecdotal and dependent on the preconceptions of the observer. We are extremely cynical about any proposal, surrounded by impressive but empty clauses about monitoring and management, to extend prospecting.
Ranger resources are so low that supervision of prospecting in the Park is virtually zero; we have no evidence that the prospectors’ code of practice has any influence over the significant minority of prospectors who are either not members of the PMAV or who pay no attention to code requirements.
Most of the parks listed for additional prospecting areas are so remote that supervision would be, if anything, even less effective.
VEAC should make no decision about extension of prospecting without evidence as to its effects. To do otherwise would be grossly irresponsible. VEAC should not be used as a cover for decisions the Government has made, apparently in advance…
Prospecting is already permitted in State Forests and other areas. In the absence of any reliable information about its environmental effects, it should not be allowed in any more National or State Parks.