On behalf of members of our organisation, Environmental Farmers Network, we offer our congratulations to the Victorian Government in declaring four new areas along the Murray, Ovens and Goulburn Rivers as National Parks.
This act will ensure better management practices for these areas in the future to help protect and restore wetlands and native vegetation previously negatively impacted by issuing grazing and timber harvesting licences.
We note that recreational activities such as camping, fishing and horse riding will still be allowed and that job losses in the timber industry will be offset with an assistance package including training and re-employment opportunities in environmental management of these areas. This is a great outcome for the local community and the environment.
The most pressing issue now is to obtain adequate environmental water reserves to ensure the survival of existing vegetation and wetland systems and regeneration of vegetation for future generations. This increased allocation of water and improved management of water will occur with the Australian and Victorian Governments investment in the irrigation infrastructure modernisation program currently underway and the water buyback program.
We encourage the State Government to continue to improve its management of crown land on waterways using a range of tools such as offering additional money for fencing grants through Catchment Management Authorities, targeting areas with high biodiversity and water quality values and reviewing and improving licence conditions for environmental gains. Some significant waterways do not have crown land frontage but are still environmentally important and any Government incentives should apply equally to private land.
With continuing dry seasons waterways are becoming vital bio-links across the landscape offering refuge in an increasingly hostile environment. Waterways link the landscape naturally and are usually not adjacent to roadsides offering safer passage for wildlife. They are the obvious essential backbone of any State conservation strategy.
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