Hands off our public land

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath, has taken the Allan Labor Government to task over its neglect of public land across regional Victoria and its ill-conceived plan to lock up state forests.

Under the guise of consultation, Minister for Environment Steve Dimopoulos last month created a “Great Outdoors Taskforce” branded as an opportunity for community to “help design the future of public land use” – but the panel is weighted with members who have form on recommending the government lock up state forests.

“User groups and regional Victorians have already been clear, and over 60% of public submissions into the Victorian Environment Assessment Council’s (VEAC) central west investigation said no to further restrictions on access to state forests,” Ms Bath said.

“Despite this, we now have a “taskforce” devoid of unbiased scientists that is trying to again force its ideals on regional Victorians and is ultimately ignoring the views of bush users.

“Not to mention Victorian forests are some of the most fire prone in the world, rendering the decision to have a panel without a bushfire of forest expert tantamount to gross negligence.

“At a meeting in Drouin this week more than 250 people turned out with a clear message to the taskforce – “hands off our public land”.

“We don’t need more parks; we need to take better care of the national parks that exist”.

And we need to allow continued access for the campers, horse riders, mountain bikers, four-wheel drivers and prospectors who have enjoyed Victoria’s natural assets in state forests responsibly for generations.

“Labor is doing a gross disservice to our public land and our people if it takes the advice of these so-called eminent panels, who have shown they have no interest in honestly consulting or listening to the community.

“How can Victorians be assured the lock-up of our state forests is anything but a foregone conclusion when their views are so blatantly ignored and deliberately misrepresented?

“Locking up and leaving is not conservation, it’s neglect.

“The Allan Labor Government must actively listen to bush users and add science to the discussion about the future of our forests instead of acting blindly based on ideology.”