Parks and Crown land legislation amendment Bill 2019 | Bill

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan): It is my pleasure to make my contribution on the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. This legislation will benefit the state. It will directly impact the magnificent sky, sea and landscape of Victoria. This bill helps in implementing the government’s commitment to protect Victorian natural flora and fauna. In 2018 we committed to make sure that Victoria is the best place for exploring the great outdoors by building new campgrounds, upgrading facilities and tracks and making family holidays more affordable. The bill implements two election commitments, among other changes, by creating a new marine and coastal park—the Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park, committed to in the Victoria’s Great Outdoors election policy—by reserving, under the National Parks Act 1975, land along the Bass Coast; and by providing for camping on licensed riverfrontages, committed to in the fishing and boating election policy, which is achieved by removing the current prohibition on such camping in the Land Act 1958.

Our beautiful landscapes bring billions of dollars to our economy and create many jobs for Victorians. COVID-19 has affected tourism jobs, and now that the restrictions have eased I ask every Victorian to spend their time in the beautiful Victorian landscape. We have invested $105.6 million to deliver better forests, parks, campgrounds, tracks and outdoor facilities. The natural delights of Victoria are waiting. Victoria is home to significant cultural history, built over thousands of years. Through this bill we are delivering very important advancements towards making our great outdoors more appealing to visitors while also making sure that the natural value of the public land estate across Victoria remains protected.

The bill amends several acts relating to Crown land to create new park and reserve areas or alter and correct the boundaries of several existing parks and reserves. The bill also makes some minor amendments, including technical updates and repeals, and alters the boundaries of several other existing parks and reserves. This is common practice for public land legislation. We want everyone to realise the value of vegetation, ecology and the environment. This legislation is testament to our ongoing commitment to protecting and improving our natural environment. The Andrews Labor government is known to support the natural environment.

As I mentioned before, this bill implements a key election commitment by creating a new marine and coastal park, the Yallock-Bulluk Marine and Coastal Park. This will be delivered by reserving land under the National Parks Act 1975 along the Bass Coast. It is an investment of just under $20 million over four years for the creation of this scenic park. The park will stretch along the highly scenic coast from San Remo to Inverloch. This development is important because we want Victorians today and in the future to enjoy Victorian land and seascapes.

This bill will also provide great opportunities for fishers and campers, as it enables camping on licensed riverfrontages. Nothing is better than camping by a river. Victorian rivers offer beautiful landscapes and riverscapes. This legislation will remove the prohibition on camping on licensed waterfrontages from the Land Act 1958. We recognise that people have been camping on many riverfrontages for many years, and through regulations we will have a better managed system. Through this bill the situation between licensed riverfrontages and unlicensed riverfrontages, state forests and national parks, where camping is not prohibited, will be regularised.

Before this legislation the public was able to lawfully access licensed riverfrontages for fishing, picnics and hikes, but not for camping. I think it is about time camping came onto the list of lawful uses. This will allow clearer and better understanding of the rules. The Victorian Fisheries Authority and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning are working in partnership to develop suitable regulations to support camping at these locations. People have been using the state forests for other recreational purposes, and I think we can extend those rights to include camping on licensed riverfrontages.

We also recognise the crucial role volunteers play in protecting and restoring Victoria’s natural environment. We have provided an environmental volunteering plan to support and nurture volunteers. Victoria has a strong and long history of environmental volunteering. Victorians are all-round giving people. Our volunteers take time out of their busy schedules to support a variety of environmental causes. Through the environmental volunteering plan we are expanding and reinvigorating environmental volunteering for all Victorians. Whether you belong to Landcare, a friends group, Coastcare or simply a local group to improve your local area, all environmental volunteers know that they are supported by this government.

All members must remember how devastating the bushfires were earlier this year. COVID-19 has dominated the conversation recently, but we cannot forget the havoc caused by the bushfires. Like the response towards COVID-19, the Victorian government acted swiftly to address the impact of the fires. We released the first version of the Victoria’s Bushfire Emergency: Biodiversity Response and Recovery report on 23 January. Since then we updated it in August 2020 to include consideration of the full extent and intensity of the fires. We also immediately took action to support Victoria’s bushfire-impacted wildlife and biodiversity, with a $17.5 million funding package announced in January to assist in recovery efforts. We also allocated a further $5 million in August this year to protect rare and threatened species from pests and predators.

I also note that the bill supports the expanded Bendigo Airport by re-reserving certain land used by the airport for aerodrome purposes. This is great news for northern Victoria. It will enable regular passenger flights from Bendigo to Sydney.

The Andrews Labor government has also delivered many other victories for the environment similar to this bill and over $1 billion in a range of measures since being in office. The government has improved the management of our state’s extensive parks network and the services provided to visitors. This includes over $70 million to Parks Victoria and 53 new rangers. We have also delivered a 20-year strategy to protect and improve Victoria’s biodiversity.

Furthermore, we have been able to achieve many significant things for our environment. It is a big, long list of achievements. Camping and recreating in Victorian national and state parks bring in $2.1 billion to our economy annually. These activities also support more than 20 000 jobs across the state. Over $100 million of investment includes upgrading hiking tracks and four-wheel drive tracks, creating 30 new campgrounds, reducing national park camp site fees by 50 per cent and establishing a new marine and coastal park along the Bass Coast. We want Victorians to continue to have access to these beautiful places, and we are making sure that the costs of providing safe, visitor-friendly facilities and services are sustainable and affordable. As the government is easing the coronavirus restrictions, we urge all Victorians to go and spend time in regional Victoria. Families across Victoria and Australia will have access to more camping. This gives them an opportunity to engage with the land, the bush and its biodiversity.

I am proud to be part of a government that cares for the environment and that cares for the Victorian outdoors. Our plans for the environment have to be long-term oriented, and I know that the changes we are making today will impact the future positively. This is a modern bill, and it is making a tangible investment to support our natural environment. This is a great piece of legislation. This bill brings a new park and more options for camping and protects Victorian biodiversity. I commend the bill to the house.