I rise to speak in support of the National Parks and Crown Land (Reserves) Acts
Amendment Bill 2008. In doing so, I will be speaking in opposition to the
amendment proposed by Mr David Davis.
In speaking to the bill, firstly, I would like to pay
particular attention to the actual creation of the Cobboboonee National Park and
the Cobboboonee Forest Park. These parks are approximately 27 000 hectares of
Western Victoria Region, the electorate that I represent. It is a significant
area of lowland forest near Portland and Heyward in the south-west part of my
Since 2000 the Labor government has added more than 260 000
hectares to the parks and reserves system. That includes the creation of the
Great Otway National Park and a chain of marine parks along our coastline. I
particularly wanted to mention those two elements, because they have proven to
be a significant and major contribution to the protection of our environment in
Tonight, if the bill is passed, we will have taken the first
step towards creating real ecosystem protection and conservation in the
This will permanently protect what is a really beautiful area
of this state. I know that a number of schoolchildren visit the area on school
excursions and sometimes spend quite some time in the area. They come back and
demonstrate their appreciation of an area of this state that they would not
necessarily have gone to or considered to be so beautiful. The area has a
significant natural element to it, for obvious reasons, but it also has a
significant cultural heritage. This bill we are debating tonight will
essentially guarantee the public’s enjoyment of these special areas through
recreational activities as well.
I am quite concerned about the proposed amendment which
essentially claims there has not been significant consultation with various
groups involved in the area. That is just not true. The Gunditjmara people —
and we have already heard from Mr Barber about this — have been involved in the
process right from the beginning and early last year formally agreed to go down
They will play a vital role in the future management of the
park and, along with other members of the wider community, will be involved in
future planning in the area. We as a state government are looking forward very
much to making sure we encourage the communities in south-western Victoria to be
heavily involved in the area.
I have been paying some close attention to remarks reported in
local newspapers in the south-west, such as the Portland Observer, particularly
the comments that have been made by Dr Napthine, the member for South-West Coast
in the Assembly. One comment that springs to mind was a relatively recent
comment that Dr Napthine made, claiming that this government has not properly
consulted those affected by this legislation. He said:
- They have not talked to the neighbours … have not talked to the firewood
collectors … have not talked to the trail bike riders; and …
- the campers and the walkers.
I am not particularly sure where the member for South-West
Coast has been, because if he were in the south-west he would know that the
consultation process period with key recreational users and conservation and
indigenous stakeholder groups in the region began in early June 2007. There were
— and I have counted — 50 local recreational and environmental groups invited
to be involved in every step of the consultation process. I know from counting
those on the list that 25, which is 50 per cent, who were invited were involved
in the consultation process all the way through.
To give members a sense of the groupings of stakeholders who
were involved, they were quite broad. Obviously the Gunditjmara people were key
stakeholders, but there were also neighbouring and adjoining land-holders.
The conservation and biodiversity groups were involved and the
range of representatives from those groups were from the Wimmera right through
to Warrnambool. There were obviously individual recreational users and there was
a range of local service clubs as well.
The formal submission period was open for six weeks. More than
600 submission forms were actually posted to land-holders adjoining the forest
and stakeholders who had previously expressed interest in being involved in the
process. There were also open houses in Portland and Heywood, and Department of Sustainability and Environment staff were
present to inform people and answer questions.
It is difficult to get some sense of where the member for
South-West Coast in the Assembly is coming from. The people in the south-west
were keen enough to be involved in the process, and 1075 submissions were
received and obviously considered. Further to this, I know the Minister for
Environment and Climate Change, who is in the chamber with us tonight,
personally met with the stakeholders in the proposed park from both sides. As we
know, the Cobboboonee National Park has been an issue in western Victoria for
some time, so when he became the Minister for Environment and Climate Change
there were quite polarised views amongst the stakeholders. He understood that
and so he went down to the south-west and met with the stakeholders, outlined
what the process was from his perspective, and then went back and talked to them
He wanted them to have a chance to talk to him about the
decision that he had made and to get their reaction.
It is clear that the government has made sure that it consulted
widely and had direct ministerial interaction with the key stakeholders in this
important exercise. I just do not know where the member for South-West Coast is
coming from in relation to this exercise. As we have also heard, when the
Liberal Party walked into the 2006 state election it said in its policy
- Recognise the creation of a further national park in south-west Victoria to
be known as the Cobboboonee National Park, which will adjoin the Glenelg
I note that just a few days prior to the state election Dr
Napthine was quoted in the Age — and I see from the reaction on the other side
of the chamber that the members on that side are quite aware of this quote. It
is important that I get it on the record. In describing the idea of the creation
of the Cobboboonee National Park he is quoted as saying that it was a barefaced
grab for votes amongst the ‘latte-swilling, chardonnay socialist,
crystal-gazing, New-Age tree huggers of inner suburban Melbourne’. If creating a
national park is about protecting the environment and making sure that we have
conservation in this state for all Victorians to enjoy, it is ridiculous to make
a claim about the choice of what one drinks — whether it be alcohol in the form
of chardonnay or some form of coffee or other vices, not to mention the
Leaving that to one side, part of the ALP’s commitment to this
exercise is the desire to pursue increasing the hectares of protected parks and
reserves. We are extremely proud of what has been achieved, particularly in the
Thank goodness for that. After having seen this amendment and
the comments made in the Portland Observer in recent times, and given what I
suspect will be a commentary from the other side tonight, I thank God that we
are the government and want to protect our natural environment.
The Cobboboonee National Park and the Cobboboonee Forest Park
complement each other in that they ensure that the forest is managed for the
best mix between conservation and recreation while providing for the protection
of cultural values as well. As I mentioned before, the stakeholder groups were
at different points — it was a fairly polarised argument that had been going on
for some time. What we have ended up with is a fair balance of the competing
interests while keeping the principles held close to the soul of protecting the
A number of vulnerable species and vegetation in the
Cobboboonee are endangered, and they will be protected if this bill is passed.
We have already heard that the red-tailed black cockatoo, which was one of the
mascots of the Commonwealth Games, the spotted-tail quoll, the southern brown
bandicoot and the grey-headed flying fox are all species that will be protected
under this bill, and their habitat can be enjoyed by recreational users of the
parks at the same time.
A number of organisations have come out in support of this
bill. One is the Wilderness Society. I thank the Wilderness Society for its
involvement in this exercise. When I was a newly identified candidate for the
2006 state election I had a number of key players involved in this issue make
representations to me. Geraldine Ryan from the Wilderness Society was one. She
gave a very comprehensive and powerful presentation to me about the need for
such a bill. On 30 March this year the society put out a media release, which I
- The creation of a new … national park in south-west Victoria will provide
vital protection for biodiversity and a boost for local economies.
Both the Victorian National Parks Association and the
Wilderness Society have congratulated the state government on this bill.
As well as ensuring the protection of the Cobboboonee, the bill
will also ensure that there is a range of uses of the land. These were
identified during the consultation process and have been addressed in the bill.
The establishment of the forest park recognises that the great majority of the
community wants an area to also cater for recreational activities. These
activities include motorbike riding, horseriding, camping, four-wheel driving and dog walking, just to name a few.
During a time of climate change and harsh environmental conditions it is
apparently imperative to protect the flora and fauna of this great state. I am
proud of the government’s attitude to the conservation of natural beauty and
that it has been able to work with the stakeholders for a multi-use arrangement
I would like to congratulate the Minister for Environment and
Climate Change on this bill and his deep involvement in this project. I also
wish to congratulate departmental staff for bringing together what were, as I
have mentioned, various disparate groupings and formulating an outcome that is
acceptable to the community. I believe this bill is the embodiment of a
significant election promise made by the Labor Party at the last state election.
Unlike the Liberal Party, this government is delivering on its election
commitments and delivering for the environment.
I also want to thank a number of people in particular. I have
mentioned Geraldine Ryan. I would like to mention Doug Phillips from the
Portland Field Naturalists Club who has been quite consistent in providing me
with information on the stages of the consultation process. Many local
recreational users provided extremely powerful presentations to me in what has
been a just-over-two-year period. I call on the house to reject the reasoned
amendment and support this bill.