Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

National Parks on Trial

The Coalition parties are attempting wreck our national parks. Prime Minister Tony Abbott says
Australia has too many parks and the NSW Government under Premier Barry O’Farrell and now Premier Mike Baird has put national parks on trial, several times in fact.

Pillaging the Pilliga 

In June the NSW Natural Resources Commission released a draft report that proposes legislative changes, not only to allow logging and grazing in the Pilliga’s conservation parks, but to use the trees to generate green electricity. Tens of millions of dollars in timber industry restructuring money and green energy subsidies will be wasted in logging conservation parks!

Logging and grazing has degraded parts of the Pilliga and it makes no sense to introduce these activities into national parks. The proposed adaptive management is just a smokescreen for commercial timber extraction and grazing. Take action, write to Premier Mike Baird.

Mining in state conservation areas was always a compromise, allowing areas with high conservation values and mineral potential to be reserved. Coal seam gas mining in the Pilliga reserves is demonstrating just what a compromise it can be. Mining here has caused toxic spills and habitat fragmentation. 

Riverina grazing trial

When a three year trial on grazing in the River Red Gum national parks commenced on November, 2012, former Environment Minister, Robyn Parker said “The trial will examine the social, economic and ecological impacts and benefits of grazing and I am pleased that former National Party MLC Richard Bull has agreed to take on the role of independent facilitator”.

Ms Parker said she wanted to improve the contribution parks and reserves make to rural and regional areas. Grazing benefits a few graziers but causes significant environmental damage to the River Red Gum parks.

Cattle are attracted to the two most sensitive ecosystems, wetlands and sandhills, causing environmental degradation. Grazing does not reduce fire hazards associated with Silver Wattle and Brush Cherry, as these plants are unpalatable. The remaining ground cover is generally sparse and doesn’t represent a fire risk. This trial is about assisting the National Party’s local political prospects by allowing graziers to make money from fattening stock in national parks.

Riverina logging and firewood harvesting trials

A trial logging of small trees in 396 hectares of the River Red Gum national parks is currently pending approval from Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt. Initial logging has started on nine hectares of parkland. This trial is a new proposal and so is an unfortunate precedent.

The logging areas are also proposed to be available for firewood collection, an activity already permitted in Murray Valley and Murrumbidgee Valley national parks. This is another precedent - each household in the Riverina can collect six tonnes of firewood a year from national parks, removing important habitat.

State forests in the Riverina provide 17,533 tonnes of red gum residues (i.e. firewood) a year and there is additional firewood from logging small trees. Tens of thousands of hectares of state forest are available for domestic firewood collection. There is also an extensive Red Gum industry on private land providing firewood.

When the 107,000 hectare river red gum reserve system was created in May 2010, more than $50 million of financial assistance was allocated to support timber industry restructuring. The National Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party push for logging national parks also throws away this investment in nature conservation.

River Red Gum forests self-thin over time, as they have done for millennia. Logging these forests is unlikely to reduce tree dieback, as it is controlled by flooding. Denying water to the internationally significant wetlands in these red gum national parks is not resolved by logging.

Hunting trial

A year has passed since the Game Council was abolished. Hunting of feral animals now occurs in twelve national parks under National Parks and Wildlife Service supervision. Hunting also occurs in 358 state forests, including Newnes and Ben Bullen State Forests.

Shooting in parks is subject to a three year trial, but remember the Shooters and Fishers Party voted for electricity privatisation in exchange for hunting in national parks.

In July 2016, the Natural Resources Commission will report on this trial and it is likely to find in favour of hunting in parks. Depending on the political complexion of Parliament after the March 2015 state election, hunting could then be allowed in up to 75 parks as previously announced under the Government’s deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party. Only constant pressure will stop hunting in national parks.

The Wilderness Act, 1987 allows wilderness to be restored to its original condition, but does not allow interference in natural processes. Removing feral animals and weeds prevents adverse ecosystem changes and helps restore the environment. Logging native forests and cattle grazing in native grasslands causes significant environmental disturbance for profit.