Foot­loose

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - RON MOON

ON THE south coast of New South Wales be­tween Tathra and Ber­magui, four state forests were re­cently con­verted to flora re­serves, so they’ll now have sim­i­lar pro­tec­tion to a na­tional park. In all, more than 250km² of land will be in­cluded in the flora re­serves and, while it will still be owned by the Forestry Cor­po­ra­tion of NSW, it will be man­aged by the Na­tional Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice.

This has sup­pos­edly been done to pro­tect the habi­tat of the last colony of koalas on the far south coast of NSW, where it is es­ti­mated that only 30 to 60 of the an­i­mals re­main.

It got me won­der­ing why the sur­round­ing na­tional parks on the south coast of NSW, some of which were es­tab­lished in the 1970s, aren’t pro­vid­ing the habi­tat pro­tec­tion the an­i­mals re­quire. Is it an­other ex­am­ple of poor man­age­ment of our na­tional park es­tate?

No one is ad­mit­ting poor man­age­ment of our na­tional parks is re­sult­ing in a de­cline of na­tive an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions, but there’s a re­al­i­sa­tion that wildlife – rep­tiles, birds and mam­mals – is de­creas­ing Aus­tralia-wide in both num­ber and range, while the na­tional park es­tate has been in­creas­ing at a seem­ingly ex­po­nen­tial rate.

Pro­fes­sor Hugh Poss­ing­ham, a con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Queens­land, has been quoted in Na­ture mag­a­zine say­ing there were too many parks of lit­tle value in Aus­tralia. He men­tioned th­ese should be sold off and the money used to buy land of higher eco­log­i­cal value. He went on to say that no one has done any re­search to prove that na­tional parks are the best way of pro­tect­ing an area. What an in­ter­est­ing point of view. I’m haz­ard­ing a guess it didn’t go down too well with the green move­ment, or those push­ing for more na­tional parks.

Over the past 10 (or more) years, the Fed­eral Govern­ment has been fund­ing a num­ber of pri­vate groups, such as Aus­tralian Bush Her­itage and the Aus­tralian Wildlife Con­ser­vancy, in buy­ing land to in­clude in pri­vate na­ture re­serves. The rea­son­ing for this is that th­ese pri­vate groups can do things for the bet­ter­ment of wildlife that can’t be done in our govern­ment-funded, con­trolled and man­aged na­tional parks… what the?

Mean­while, in Victoria, an­other fight is de­vel­op­ing over a large swathe of state for­est that the Greens, the Vic­to­rian Na­tional Parks As­so­ci­a­tion (VNPA) and the La­bor Govern­ment want to de­clare as the Great For­est Na­tional Park (GFNP). The area stretches from Erica and Noo­jee (in the south-east) to Woods Point and Eil­don (in the north-east), across to Toolangi and Kinglake, and through to just north of Whit­tle­sea (in the west). The park will take in some of the most used and vis­ited ar­eas by four-wheel drivers, campers, mo­tor­bike rid­ers, hun­ters and an­glers in the state.

You can ex­pect a lot more re­stric­tions and job losses if the GFNP comes about, but what about the per­ceived ma­jor ben­e­fit that it will pro­tect the last great habi­tat of the Lead­beater’s pos­sum? It seems the vast ar­eas of sur­round­ing na­tional park and highly pro­tected wa­ter catch­ment ar­eas, in­clud­ing the Alpine NP (6474km²), Baw Baw NP (135.3km²), Eil­don NP (277.5km²), Yarra Ranges NP (760km²) and Mt Buf­falo NP (310km²), hasn’t been enough to en­sure the con­tin­ual ex­is­tence of the de­light­ful Lead­beater’s. And now the last strong­hold of th­ese crea­tures is in a work­ing for­est that has been logged for more than 100 years. Ironic, you’ve got to say! Maybe even a co­in­ci­dence?

So, for th­ese and other rea­sons, you can see why I’m not in favour of an­other na­tional park. More re­stric­tions, more job losses in our forestry in­dus­try and, it seems with cur­rent man­age­ment prac­tices, the con­tin­u­ing loss of wildlife in our na­tional park es­tate.

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