Around the Traps
The 58th Parliament of Victoria ended last month and we now head into the State Election on November 24. As this will be my last column before the election, I would like to thank everyone who offered support and encouragement during my first term in office. As many readers know, two months before the 2014 election I had never considered a run for office, much less had I envisioned holding a seat. I did not make the decision to run lightly, but I saw an opportunity to stand up for what I believed to be in the best interests of country Victorians. To that end, it has been an absolute pleasure representing the constituents of Northern Victoria, as well as the interests of fellow hunters and outdoor recreational enthusiasts. I would like to think my actions in Parliament brought attention to the widening gap between the needs of country Victorians and those living in and around Melbourne. At every opportunity, we tried to speak on behalf of rural and regional Victorians, who so often feel ignored by the city-centric major party Governments.
Threats to public access
One constant issue of concern I have raised during my term in Parliament is the systematic drive by the Andrews Government to block or diminish public access to Crown land. The most recent attack comes in the Government’s apparent support of the recent ‘Central West Investigation’ by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC), currently open for comment until December 10. The VEAC report indicates a plan to significantly decrease the size of State Forests and increase the size of national and state parks, which have the effect of locking out or restricting many current user groups. To illustrate my point, I asked the Government last month if it would guarantee that no recreational pursuit currently taking place on these public lands would be banned because of the VEAC recommendations to create national parks. The initial reply was that the aim is to ensure ‘there is an appropriate balance’ between use and access. The written reply listed some of the activities that national parks will accommodate, being four-wheel driving, trail bike riding, mountain biking, horse riding, car rallies, camping, bee keeping and dog walking. However, there was a disclaimer that some of these activities will be limited to certain areas or specific times. The list also makes no mention of hunting, which currently takes place in state forests. If the aim is to increase access to public lands, shutting out thousands of current users and denying them an ability to connect to the land as they have over generations does not provide balance. It skews the result to support this Government’s true ideology of stopping a large segment of current Crown land users. To strike a balance, we need a Government that promotes and properly maintains the current public lands system. We need a Government that recognises that current users do not need to be removed from public lands, for which access has always been and should always be available to all Victorians. From now until the election, I will continue to travel around the Northern Victoria Region electorate to listen to voters’ concerns in the hope I can raise them in Parliament next year. One of the events I will be attending is the Elmore Field Days, which runs from today through Thursday. Visit me and my staff at our stall in the Agribusiness Pavilion, site AP123A.
Elmore Field Days