The Sustainable Urbanist: National Parks Next on the Endangered List?

Victorian national parks are to be managed through a 99 year private lease under new legislation introduced by the Napthine Government this week

The news comes at the same time the Federal Government is expanding its power over parks

The new laws open Victoria’s national parks to private development

Advertisements have already appeared in the commercial real estate section of The Saturday Age for the lease of the Quarantine Station

“This new legislation hangs a ‘for sale’ sign on Victoria’s most cherished national parks by allowing 99 year leases,” said Matt Ruchel, executive director of the Victorian National Parks Association

“These 99 year leases are as good as private ownership of Victoria’s prime conservation areas, and represent a betrayal by this State Government of long-term bipartisan support for national parks protection

“Any developments requiring such a long lease will likely be on large scales that will only grow bigger over time, threatening the long-term integrity of our national parks

“There is no need for private development inside Victoria’s parks, which are almost all within easy reach of accommodation and services found in regional towns,” he said

Environment Minister Ryan Smith has defended the 99 year leases saying they ”give investors greater certainty and a stronger incentive to develop innovative, high-quality proposals in our national parks”

The Federal Government is currently considering strengthening its powers over national parks in response to plans by Coalition-led states to allow cattle grazing, shooting and logging in protected areas

“The State Government needs to start acting like a steward of our most important natural areas, not a real estate developer

“It is the major investors who will benefit most from private developments in parks, not the majority of park visitors and certainly not the parks themselves,” said Mr Ruschel

The Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society wants legislation that sees heavy-impact projects automatically reviewed under national environment laws, giving the Federal environment minister the power to block it

Cattle grazing, recreational shooting, and possibly logging are among some state government proposals for parks in QLD, NSW and Victoria

Currently, the Federal Government can only intervene in a national park if it is heritage-listed, or a protected plant or animal is threatened

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the community was right to be concerned that national parks are under threat

”I share that concern and I’ll be looking into the ways I can stop these state governments from trashing national parks forever

“State Liberal governments are launching new attacks on national parks every few months

“My view is clear, national parks are for families and nature

“They are not farms, rifle ranges, mine sites or logging coupes,” Mr Burke said

Matt O’Leary


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