Parks get 10,000-hectare expansion

VICTORIA’S network of parks and reserves will increase by more than 10,000 hectares under proposed legislation introduced to State Parliament this week.

Two new parks have been created in East Gippsland, the 8600-hectare Lake Tyers State Park and the 215-hectare Gippsland Lakes Reserve on Raymond Island. In addition, 1300 hectares will be added to 12 existing Victorian parks including the Alpine, Grampians, Mitchell River and Kinglake national parks.

Environment Minister Ryan Smith told Parliament that the extra parkland included ”ecological communities under-represented in the parks and reserves system”. Most of the land being added to parks was purchased ”as part of the conservation land purchase program or to offset clearing associated with the construction of strategic fuel breaks on public land elsewhere”, he said.

Some land was donated. Nearly 27 of the 35 hectares added to the Kinglake National Park was donated by Karma Hastwell, who died in the Black Saturday blaze as she tried to shelter with friends.

”These changes reflect the Victorian Coalition government’s support for protecting the state’s natural assets,” Mr Smith said. The Alpine National Park will grow 398 hectares, the Grampians National Park 91 hectares and Kinglake National Park 35 hectares.

The proposed legislation would also extend the time in which firewood can be collected from the Barmah and Gunbower national parks. The cut-off date would be pushed out four years to the end of June 2015.

The Victorian National Parks Association reacted angrily to the extension. Association spokesman Nick Roberts said the decision ”adds to a growing list of backward steps taken by the Baillieu government on the environment”.

He said the firewood move would have ”repercussions for animals such as the tree goanna and ground-dwelling birds like the bush curlew, which need fallen logs and debris for shelter and nesting”.

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