Speeches Environment and Water | August 22, 2017

Parks And Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2017

Victorian Parliament - 22 August 2017 - Ms KEALY (Lowan) — It is a privilege today to make my contribution to the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 because, firstly, it is always a fantastic honour and privilege to be able to add to debate about upcoming legislation and best represent the views of my local electorate, but today is additionally special because we have the fantastic grade 6 students from Kaniva College in the chamber. I would like to acknowledge all of the students who are here. It is a fantastic school community. I had the great fortune of handing out the school badges this year, which I enjoyed doing — I have done that for the last few years — and it is great to see that younger people are involved in parliamentary processes and have the opportunity to travel all the way from Kaniva to hear their local member speak. I appreciate that they are able to come in here and learn a little bit more about how laws are made and about democracy in our state.

In reference to the contents of the bill, this is a wideranging bill and there are elements which are obviously of great interest to people in my electorate. There is a reference in this bill to change the name of Mount Eccles National Park to Budj Bim National Park. Budj Bim is just outside the Lowan electorate, in the south. However, this area is of great significance to our region because it is part of the volcanic trail which stretches through south‑west Victoria. In Penshurst we have the Volcanoes Discovery Centre. This is a fantastic community‑run centre, which goes through the history of how the volcano region was created over time and also some of the natural assets that people can go down and see as a tourism opportunity.

I highly recommend that any school groups go through the discovery centre at Penshurst. As I said, it is run by volunteers. They do an amazing job of keeping such a good facility open most of the time, particularly during school holidays. It is a credit to the Penshurst community that they wish to celebrate what is essentially their greatest natural asset in the region and to open up educational opportunities so people can learn about our region just by simply volunteering their time. Thank you very much to those volunteers.

We have a number of issues that have been raised in my office around national parks and Crown land. I would like to relay some of these as part of my contribution on this bill. There is certainly a great opportunity to better build on our tourism in western Victoria, particularly around our natural assets and national parks. We have the Grampians Peaks Trail. I was very proud to be part of the very first pre‑election commitment in 2014 to build the first stage of the peaks trail. It is very good that the government has also conceded to building the Grampian Peaks Trail. The development is underway. I was traversing a section of the trail only a few weeks ago. It is absolutely fantastic, but we need to make sure there is wider investment so that we can not only better promote those tourism assets but also show that there are connections between these natural attractions in western Victoria. We need to make sure we bring people from the Great Ocean Road through the Grampians National Park to ensure they can touch on some of that volcanic region, which is very, very important.

Then of course we have the West Wimmera wetlands, some of the best wetlands in the entire world, which are completely underrated when it comes to promotion and tourism. We also have the Little Desert National Park and the Big Desert National Park. I note Little Desert is Victoria’s noted dark sky site. For anybody who has an interest in astronomy, it is a fantastic spot and of course home to the Little Desert Nature Lodge. Then we have Wyperfeld National Park. These are all fantastic assets in our region, but we need to make sure that they are better promoted. We need to see government investment in that.

We also need to see better connectivity from a public transport perspective so we can ensure that people who are travelling to Victoria have the opportunity to see these natural highlights of our region. When it comes to public transport obviously local people get great benefit in having that as well. I spoke in Parliament earlier today about how very, very disappointed I am that this Labor government is actually cutting public transport services in our part of the state. We have seen a cut to services to Warracknabeal. This is not in line with what we should be trying to achieve when it comes to looking after western Victoria. When we are looking after all Victorians we need to improve access to public transport, not shut it down. There is an enormous opportunity to build on our region as a tourism destination through better promoting our national parks and making sure that we do have those improved linkages through our region to get the best economic benefit for our local businesses.

The other matter that I would like to raise in regard to parks and Crown land is in relation to the management of pests. I have received a number of complaints from landholders who own land adjacent to Crown land or national parks. Often you find that the worst neighbours are the national parks, state parks or Crown land. I note that Murray Davis of Dergholm recently contacted me. He also raised a matter at a community meeting I had at Dergholm in a mobile office in regard to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) not undertaking fox baiting in the parks in that region.

As a result we have foxes which are breeding out of control within those parkland areas. They then get on private land and cause an incredible amount of carnage, particularly to the land and other animals; it can even be domestic animals, not necessarily stock. With DELWP not appropriately managing our fox population, they are breeding out of control in preserved areas that are operated and managed by the state and are causing damage on private land. This is something that needs to be addressed by this government. We need to ensure that these pests are appropriately managed.

I will note that pests are not just limited to foxes. We also have an issue around the south‑western region in particular, and again I note this issue has been raised by the Dergholm community. It is around the management of kangaroos through that region. The government has extended the kangaroo pet‑food trial, which means there is a licence that is available for kangaroos to be harvested and those carcasses to be used as pet food rather than the alternate permit that is available, where you must leave the carcasses to rot.

This is working in our region. We have seen about 15 jobs created in south‑west Victoria through the shooters and through the operation of a pet‑food abattoir, and there is also a pet‑food shop which has opened in Hamilton as well. So we are providing local jobs and we have got additional services to the region in that people can buy fresh pet food for their beloved pets in the region, but we are also looking at sustainably harvesting our kangaroo population.

Of course when you get kangaroos in their thousands on farmland, they can cause enormous amounts of damage to fence lines, and they do consume a lot of grasses, which has an impact on stock as well. But within the park lands, and our national parks in particular, having kangaroos by the thousands bounding through can damage the habitat and ecological systems, which puts other native animals at risk.

It is something you have to see firsthand — to see a mob of thousands of kangaroos in one area at a time. I think it is exceptionally difficult for people who live in Melbourne to understand exactly the devastation that is caused by kangaroos. However, the kangaroo pet‑food trial is working. It ceases in March of next year, and I would call on the government to either continue the trial or, preferably, realise that this has worked and change it from a trial into a permanent system so that we can better manage our kangaroos in rural and regional Victoria.

In closing I would just like to summarise and put on the record the two points that I really would like to see addressed in terms of the government and parks and Crown land legislation in this state. We need to make sure that we do better manage pests and weeds, particularly in those publicly operated areas, but we also need to see greater investment in tourism to best promote our natural assets and build economic growth in western Victoria.


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