Question – Victorian Environmental Assessment Council report and forest management

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (18:09): My adjournment this evening is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Lily D’Ambrosio, in the other place. It relates to the government’s response to recommendations delivered in the final VEAC, the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council, report. The action I seek from the minister is for her to delay the government’s response by at least three months in view of the recent bushfires, which have wreaked havoc through our rural communities and regional communities but also through Crown state parks and national parks. They are in the eastern part of the state, but it is very important that a lot of resources and energy have been, rightly so, sent into that region. What I am asking is for the minister to therefore take some extra time to evaluate and consider the government’s response in relation to this report.

In March 2017 the Victorian government requested that VEAC conduct an investigation into public land in central-western Victoria, including Wombat, Wellsford, Mount Cole and the Pyrenees Ranges, in terms of their forests. The terms of reference were about finding a balance for the future management and conservation of natural and cultural values within the forests. The VEAC recommendations—and I am being very calm in my language here—provide some feedback but they also give recommendations for the future in terms of Indigenous engagement, resource management, landscape connectivity and ecological restoration.

It is no secret in here that many of the bush user groups are very concerned about this VEAC report and have articulated that to me and their opposition to some of the recommendations within that VEAC report. But in relation to what is happening in the state at the moment in terms of the fires and the whole landscape in which parks and forests operate, it is important that the government now takes time to strategise the recommendations in the VEAC report. It should also take time to focus on the response efforts in relation to Eastern Victoria and getting people, farms and farmers back on their feet, focusing on the wildlife, certainly, and recovering those creatures that have been so devastatingly hurt through the fires, and then take a breath and provide that response at least a three-month period after the current due date.