Recent polls have found that 81% of Victorian voters support more funding for the protection of nature, 57% oppose private developments in National Parks, and the environment is a bigger issue of concern than law-and-order and roads.
There are polls and polls, of course, but these findings look pretty reasonable from here. In any case, FOBIF believes that candidates in the upcoming election should be put on the spot about what they think about issues to do with the management of nature. We’ve circulated to members a list of questions it might be worth putting to candidates nominated so far. We hope lots of people will take the opportunity to ask the questions–and that they make it clear they don’t want pre packaged party responses. Let’s find out whether the candidates really have thought about the issues [and have serious convictions about them], or whether they’re just regurgitating the Party line.
Here are some questions we think are worth a run:
1. In 2012-13 the State Government embarked on a program of cutting 10% of Parks Victoria’s staff, continuing a process of cuts begun under the previous government. Do you support these cuts? Can you tell me how many Park Rangers are looking after parks in the Bendigo region? Do you think MPs would be more efficient if their funding was cut by 10%?
2. Since coming to office the Coalition Government has cut more than a quarter of Government animal health and biosecurity jobs. The number of scientific and technical reports by DEPI officers supporting agriculture has fallen by 33% over the same period. More than 500 jobs related to agriculture have been cut from DEPI since 2011. Is the Farmers Federation right in expressing lack of confidence in the Department’s ability to manage agriculture, particularly disease outbreaks?
3. The Royal Commission Implementation Monitor has said that the Government’s policy of burning 5% of public land every year ‘may not be achievable, affordable or sustainable’. He’s also suggested it may be environmentally damaging, and that it does not make communities safer. What’s your view?
4. Past experience overseas shows that commercial development in National Parks benefits the private developer, but not the Park or the public. Do you support commercial development s in National Parks? What effect do you think these might have on eco tourism businesses near Parks?
5. Victoria’s recent Waterways Strategy did not mention ‘climate change’, referring instead to ‘natural climate variation’. The Environment commissioner has claimed that the State Government has instructed employees to avoid saying ‘climate change’, and instead to refer to ‘natural climate variation.’ Which one do you prefer? Do you think experts should be dictated to by politicians on this matter?
6. This year the State Government introduced prospecting into National Parks, promising that the activity would be monitored. Can you tell me how the monitoring is going, and how many staff are allocated to doing it?
7. What’s your position on the continued funding of Landcare? Can you supply details?
Q.2 I think it is very shortsighted to reduce spending on animal health but especially on biosecurity. But like many people I believe that there are far too many shiny bums on seats and not enough out in the field. Less bureacracy and red tape and more hands in the field.
Q.3 To prevent devastations like Black Saturday it is IMPERATIVE to have an ongoing regime of slow cool burns. Our bush requires constant burning to reduce fuel loads and for regeneration. You only have to read early exploreres and setttlers accounts of what it looked like, pre white settlement – very different to the overgrown and or scrubby bush of today. I have watched my area change from open grassland dotted with trees, grasslands with spring flowers, to an impassible jungle fire hazard because no-one will touch it. The kangaroos now have to graze on the side of the roads and on private properties that have pasture. That’s what landcare and the national park have created – deprivation.
Q.4 Some commercial development but it has to carefully done.
Q.5 I prefer ‘natural climate variation’
Q.6 I think prospecting should be allowed – after all the National Parks are supposed to belong to everybody for their use not just an elite select few. As it is access to parks is severely restricted for those who are not ablebodied ie there are not enough roads and carparks. I disagree with the policy of ripping up roads in parks which I know has been occurring. At the very least there need to be maintained fire tracks.
Q.7 Landcare is a very good program – providing it keeps its nose out of politics and sticks to its ORIGINAL remit on this basis I would like to see it continue to get funding.
It’s amazing that two people can look at the same landscape and see completely different things [I assume that Anne White’s talking about Box Ironbark forests, since that’s what this website is all about].
Readers might want to consider this, and make their own decisions about who’s seeing the real world:
Q 3: ‘Impassable jungle fire hazard’. Anne White might like to point out where these are in our region. I’ve walked most of the country from Mount Franklin to Mount Alexander. Apart from a few isolated patches the only impassable jungles I’ve seen are areas of dense gorse [definitely needs clearing], and dense regrowth around the Loop track, entirely caused by DSE fire—it was grassland before the ‘fuel reduction’!
Q 6: Anne could also point out where roads have been ‘ripped up’. As far as I can see, DEPI and Parks have spent an enormous amount of money ‘upgrading’ roads in recent years. Here’s a simple exercise: look at a good map—say, Hayman’s Forest Activities map of the area—and see if any of the roads marked on it have been ‘ripped up’. How many roads does Anne want? There’d scarcely be an inch of bush in this region more than 500 metres from a track.
On prospecting, the question is: where’s the monitoring the Government has promised us?
On the other questions, it’s a matter who you believe: botanists tell us box ironbark bushlands don’t need constant fire to regenerate, for example. And as for ‘shiny bums on seats’, I’d like Anne to offer some hard info on this, but I’d bet none of them are scientists. These are being laid off, as Governments of both sides prefer to accept ‘advice’ from people who only tell them what they want to know.
According to Tourism Victoria, by the way, Victoria’s national parks have nearly 30 million visitors a year. I don’t think they’re just for ‘elites’.