VEAC has released its final recommendations on the Central West forest. The full report with the executive summary and related documents can be found here.
The final recommendations take account of responses to the draft, issued last year: but the changes made in this document do not alter the main thrust of the draft. A significant increase in protected areas is recommended by VEAC, including a new national park in the Wombat, and inclusion of part of the Wellsford forest in the Greater Bendigo National Park.
This summary of the recommendations is taken from the VNPA:
Overall, the final recommendations propose an increase of 58,115 hectares in protected areas (national park, conservation park, nature reserve, bushland reserve, heritage river).
This includes additional 50,146 hectares of area protected under the National Parks Act 1975, which includes new or additions to national or state parks, including:
- Wombat–Lerderderg National Park – establishment of a large new national park from existing state park and state forest capturing a significant amount of the largely-intact landscape and high strategic biodiversity values of the Wombat forest (addition of 29,079 ha, combined with existing park of to be total of 49,553 ha).
- Pyrenees National Park – establishment of a new national park from existing nature reserves and state forest over the southern flanks of the Pyrenees range (15,126 ha).
- Mount Buangor National Park – establishment of a new national park from existing state park and some adjoining state forest (addition of 2784 ha).
- Greater Bendigo National Park – addition of a substantial proportion of the Wellsford forest to the existing national park nearby but outside the investigation area (addition of 3152 ha) and addition of 3950 ha to the Bendigo regional park.
- Hepburn (2714 ha) and Cobaw (2532ha) Conservation Parks – establishment of two new conservation parks from state forest northwest of Daylesford and at Cobaw.
- Thirty new smaller conservation reserves (5246 ha), nature reserves (1348 ha) bushland reserves (1761 ha)
- New heritage river designation upper reaches of the Wimmera River in Mount Cole.
- Additional 19,728 ha of regional park public land being managed primarily for recreation, generally in the areas of highest recreational activity near towns.
The final report also notes that the economic benefits to the Victorian community from implementation of VEAC’s recommendations are likely to be high with net benefits conservatively estimated in the order of $247 million present value over 30 years.