The decision by new State Environment Minister, Lisa Neville, to cancel the Wonnangatta Valley grazing trial this week was short sighted and did not allow for the many benefits unfolding from this process to be fully considered, State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said today.
“Given the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria (MCAV) had formally written to Ms Neville the day she was appointed urging her not to make a hasty decision, to find out via radio the trial has been scrapped was disrespectful.
“The reality is, this trial into fuel reduction from a bushfire perspective, was bringing an enormous amount of additional benefits to the Wonnangatta Valley.
“When the area was incorporated into our Parks system in 1989 there were few pest plants and animals, the flats were grazed and green and it was very picturesque.
“It is a different story in the 25 years the cattlemen have been absent. Weeds, like blackberry infestation are common, the area is overgrown and feral pests are rampant.
“In the short time this trial has been in operation under agreement from the MCAV, the Gunaikurnai and State Government, we have seen many benefits.
“Tracks in the Park that were previously overgrown and closed have been opened up to assist tourism and I note the comments from the MCAV that planned burns that would have been highly unlikely before the trial, have been carried out.
“This trial was taking place under strict conditions on less than 0.025% of the Alpine National Park with a small amount of cattle in a carefully selected fenced location that cattlemen have occupied for 130 of the past 155 years. They are also required to be in attendance at all times.
“Whatever the results of the trial, whether in relation to bushfire mitigation or the additional benefits of the cattlemen being present, to disallow its completion is ludicrous. It is almost as though the new Minister is scared of what the results may have been,” Mr Bull said.
“Keeping fuel loads down and burning the bush regularly in a controlled manner is the way our first peoples managed the land.
“Already in just one year, all reports I have received indicate the place is in much better condition.
“This is Labor pandering to the Greens in fear of losing more of their inner metropolitan seats to them. They take this action against a small amount of cattle being used in a trial in a fenced, confined area - but we hear nothing on the many thousands of feral Sambar deer and wild horses that remain a huge problem in the same area.
“Our mountain cattlemen have plenty of runs on the board in caring for the high country and we can learn a lot from them on how to manage the bush. I have no doubt this trial would have shown us our high country is much better for their presence in a range of areas.
“This trial was being very well managed and it was producing important data as well as wider benefits. It simply does not make sense to cut it short for what appears to be nothing more than the wishes of predominantly city folk.
“Ms Neville has said of the cattlemen that she appreciates their commitment to the area and to the work that they do in the National Park. Well if this is the case, and there is a true appreciation of what they do, she should allow the trial to conclude so all the benefits can be assessed,” Mr Bull said.