Ig­nor­ing the public

Field and Game - - NEWS -

In early Septem­ber the Victorian Govern­ment’s For­est In­dus­try Task­force re­leased its ‘state­ment of in­tent’, which made it clear this group was ac­tively work­ing to­wards the cre­ation of new Na­tional Parks in the Cen­tral High­lands.

Prior to the 2014 elec­tion, La­bor made a com­mit­ment that this Task­force would con­sist of ‘rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers’; when the Task­force was formed in late 2015 the most rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers — the public who use the land — were not in­cluded. In­ter­est­ingly the Task­force also has no rep­re­sen­ta­tion from foresters or any­one with a prac­ti­cal un­der­stand­ing of the re­al­i­ties of ad­min­is­ter­ing public land.

In re­sponse to con­cerns about the lack of con­sul­ta­tion, recre­ational land users were as­sured both that they would have ‘di­rect ac­cess’ for close and reg­u­lar con­sul­ta­tion with the Task­force and that the Task­force would be solely fo­cused on the tim­ber in­dus­try and would not be con­sid­er­ing the cre­ation of any new Na­tional Parks. No such con­sul­ta­tion has oc­curred with recre­ational users and the state­ment of in­tent clearly shows that ‘es­tab­lish­ing new parks and re­serves’ has been front and cen­tre in the Task­force’s dis­cus­sions.

The terms of ref­er­ence set out that the Task­force would com­plete its work with the de­liv­ery of rec­om­men­da­tions (now re­framed as a ‘State­ment of In­tent’) by the end of June 2016; it is now clear that the Task­force will con­tinue in­def­i­nitely.

Cen­tral to the re­luc­tant ac­cep­tance by recre­ational users of the al­ready com­pro­mised Task­force process was the un­der­stand­ing that the chair would be independent and im­par­tial. The ap­point­ment of Pro­fes­sor Don Henry to that po­si­tion raises se­ri­ous con­cerns. For more than a decade (un­til very re­cently) Pro­fes­sor Henry was the CEO of the Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion (ACF). The ACF is a vo­cal sup­porter of the cre­ation of a new na­tional park in the Victorian Cen­tral High­lands and has a mem­ber on the Task­force. The ACF ac­tu­ally shares an of­fice build­ing with other pro­tag­o­nists for new parks, in­clud­ing the leader of the Victorian Greens Party and even other mem­bers of the For­est In­dus­try Task­force such as the Victorian Na­tional Parks Association.

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