(Released November 2002)
The following policy extracts relevent to the Otways are from the State ALP Forests and National Parks policy document released in November 2002.
1. A New Future for the Otways
During the first term of Government we have listened to the community's view of timber harvesting in the Otways - an area highly valued by both Victorians and visitors to our State.
The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia's premier tourist attractions. It is the main gateway to the Otways and attracts over 2.7 million domestic overnight visitors, which represents a 16% share of all visitors to regional Victoria, contributing $525 million to the regional economy.
As with other difficult forestry issues, there is on the one hand concern about the future of the industry and the security of jobs, and on the other a strong desire to see wood chipping and logging move away from the Otway native forests and into timber plantations. The Geelong Otway Tourism Board, the City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire, Warrnambool City Council and Moyne Shire have all expressed concerns about wood chipping and logging in the Otways.
The Bracks Government has closely examined the issues to find a constructive way forward. In the west of the State, there is a considerable area of hardwood plantation that will become available for harvesting over the next decade. This resource has the potential to provide a viable long-term alternative supply to native forests in the Otways. (See Plantations below)
Economic growth from native forest harvesting cannot compete with the economic growth in the Otways region from tourism. The long-term future for the timber industry in the Otways lies in plantations and the long-term value of the forests lies with tourism.
In order to protect the Otways, a second term Bracks Government will:
Reduce Woodchipping and Logging by more than 25%
The voluntary buy-back of a major timber licence for wood from the Otways makes it possible to now cut the level of sawlog and woodchipping in the forest by around 8,000 cubic metres or about 25%. This means that the area of the Otways used for timber production can be significantly reduced.
Labor will immediately reduce wood chipping and logging in the Otways by 25 per cent, following the surrender of a major timber licence. An Expanded Otway National Park
Currently, parts of the Otway Ranges are protected by the existing national park at Cape Otway, the Lorne-Angahook State Park between Lorne and Anglesea and various small reserves.
A greatly expanded Otway National Park - extending from Anglesea to Cape Otway along the Great Ocean Road - can be created by including the land between these parks and upgrading the Lorne-Angahook State Park to National Park Status. This new park will become possible by the completion of the buy-back process, opening up new tourist opportunities in the Otways.
To determine the new boundaries for the Otway National Park Labor will expand the reference for the current VEAC Inquiry into upgrading the Lorne-Angahook State Park to include all other public land on the eastern side of the Otways.
Labor will create a single national park, extending from Anglesea to Cape Otway following the Great Ocean Road on the eastern side of the range. This will protect key areas of the Otways including some of Victoria's most striking waterfalls and rainforest areas.
Future Reductions in Wood Chipping and Logging
Labor will extend the current transitional process being managed by the Industry Transition Taskforce to ensure all stakeholders are involved in these further changes in the Otways.
The success of the timber license buy-back highlights the benefits from constructively working with the timber industry and local communities. We will continue to work with communities to expand timber plantations and protect the Otways.
Labor will ask the Industry Transition Task Force to continue the transition process by:
Labor will renew the offer to buy-back native forest timber licences and provide financial assistance for new plantations in western Victoria so that the Otways has a sustainable, plantation based timber industry.
As further licences are surrendered or expire, provide further protection to other native forest areas in the Otway Ranges and complete the exit from native forests in the Otways by 2008.
Investing in Tourism
Tourism offers substantial long-term economic benefits for the Otways region. The Bracks Government will support the region to make the most of its tourism potential and develop new job opportunities.
Labor will provide resources for the proper management of the new national park and upgraded car parks and visitor facilities. In addition it will develop key features such as the proposed tree canopy walk at Triplet falls, the Trans Otway walk and overnight lodges for walkers in the forest. These will all help attract local, interstate and overseas visitors to this magnificent region.
Labor will invest in tourism developments and create new jobs in parks management for former timber industry workers.
Labor will allocate $14 million over four years towards a new future for the Otways. This will enable the development of a new National Park and tourism opportunities, an immediate reduction in wood-chipping and logging and start the transition of the timber industry to a plantation basis.
"It is now possible that forest plantations could be providing 75 per cent of domestic industrial wood supplies by 2010, compared with expectations of only around 62 per cent several year ago." ABARE Current Issues August 2002
The Bracks Governments recognises the potential for jobs and economic growth in regional Victoria as a result of the expanding the plantation timber sector.
There are substantial plantation areas in the Otways and surrounding areas, which have good soil and rainfall for growing trees. However more plantations will be required to replace the remaining timber licences for native forest if they are to be sufficient to continue current employment and supply Victoria's needs for timber and paper.
There are already over 350,000 hectares of privately owned hardwood and softwood plantations in Victoria and substantial areas have been identified which would be suitable for expansion of plantations. Over the next 4 years Labor will:
Labor will allocate $9 million over 4 years to a Plantation Incentives Strategy.
The Bracks Government's vision for the Victorian native forest industry is based on the production of sawlogs and value-adding. We do not support a wood-chip driven industry.
A More Accountable Forest Industry
The Bracks Government has acted on community concerns about secrecy and misinformation in the way government departments have run forestry operations. We have appointed the Environment Protection Authority to oversee the Auditing of the Code of Forest Practice and are making information available to the community in more accessible ways. We have accelerated the Sustainable Forest Resource Inventory (SFRI) and released the most reliable sustainable yield figures on the Internet. This will support transparent forest management arrangements that require properly researched sustainable yield information capable of being scrutinised.
In addition, Labor will release the first ever State of Our Forests Report that will be the benchmark for regular five-yearly reporting.
4. A New Future for our National ParksAdditional Park Rangers
The previous Liberal-National Government abolished the National Parks Service and slashed staff numbers across Victoria as a part of their savage cuts in public service positions.
The Bracks Government believes that it is important to ensure that the visitor experience to our National Parks is an enjoyable and informative one and that this is greatly helped by having ranger staff to provide help and information. It is also important to ensure that park staff have the resources to properly manage the parks and protect our environment.
Labor will create 50 new National Park Ranger positions across regional Victoria. This expansion of park ranger positions throughout Victoria will ensure that Victoria's National Parks are managed in line with the needs and expectations of the community.
These new positions are in addition to the 20 new ranger positions recently created to manage Box Ironbark National Parks and Marine National Parks - making it the biggest increase in ranger positions in Victoria's history.
Labor will allocate $20.8 million over 4 years to employ 50 new park rangers throughout regional Victoria to better maintain our magnificent national parks and conservation reserves, to tackle pests and weeds, and to give visitors an even better experience in our national parks.
Weeds and Pests on Public Land Including National Parks
As a result of the previous Liberal-National Government's massive budget cuts, weeds and pests have been a major problem in national parks and reserves. Pest and weeds represent a major threat to the productivity of Victoria's agricultural sector and Victoria's unique flora and fauna.
Labor has listened to the concerns of regional and rural communities and will spearhead innovative weed and pest reduction programs across Victoria.
During its first term, the Bracks Government has developed the Victorian Pest Management - A Framework for Action (VPMF). This strategy is the first of its kind in Victoria and it provides a strategic direction to combat not only declared weeds and pests but to fight potential pests over the long term.
In particular, the pest management framework outlines specific management strategies to address weeds, rabbits, wild dogs, foxes, feral pigs and feral goats and to improve public land management.
Labor has also introduced a fox bounty which has proven to be an effective and popular method of controlling fox numbers, boosted funding and resources for wild dog management and given local communities a real say on the management of the wild dog problem.
Labor will underpin its pest management framework by boosting resources for control weeds and pests on public land across the State, particularly in our parks and reserves system and in State forests.
This will be achieved through an expansion of the Good Neighbour Program.
While Labor is committed to making an unprecedented boost to weed and pest control on public land, Labor will also foster strong relationships between Government agencies, land holders and local government to manage weeds and pests right across Victoria.
Labor will allocate $14 million over 4 years to begin a major weed and pest control program in national parks, State Forests and other public land through local job creation schemes and cooperative programs with volunteer and Friends groups.
Boost for the Victorian Environment Assessment Council
The Victorian Environment Assessment Council was established by the Bracks Government to restore integrity to decisions about future land use and provide independent expert advice on major environmental issues.
The Council will have further important work to do as part of the Bracks Government's second term agenda including the three studies announced as part of this policy, namely:
To assist in its expanded role of the Council, the Government will appoint two additional members to VEAC and increase the Council's resources.
Labor will allocate $1 million over 2 years to the Victorian Environment Assessment Council to enable it to undertake these important inquiries.
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