National Parks (Otways and other amendments) Bill
Title NATIONAL PARKS (OTWAYS AND OTHER AMENDMENTS)
NATIONAL PARKS (OTWAYS AND OTHER AMENDMENTS) BILL
Introduction and first reading
Mr THWAITES (Minister for Environment) -- I move:
That I have leave to bring in a bill to amend the National Parks Act 1975 to provide for the creation of the Great Otway National Park and for other related matters, to amend the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978, the Fisheries Act 1995, the Forests Act 1958, the Heritage Rivers Act 1992 and the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 and for other purposes.
Mr HONEYWOOD (Warrandyte) -- I ask the minister for a brief explanation of the bill, particularly pertaining to the fisheries and other related Crown land matters.
Mr THWAITES (Minister for Environment) -- The bill will implement the government's key commitment to create a new national park, the Great Otway National Park. It will contain provisions in relation to the forest park area which is to be created under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act. It will also amend the Fisheries Act to provide that any new commercial fishing entitlements after 7 March 2005 do not authorise fishing in any national state or wilderness parks or reference areas.
Motion agreed to.
Title NATIONAL PARKS (OTWAYS AND OTHER AMENDMENTS)
NATIONAL PARKS (OTWAYS AND OTHER AMENDMENTS) BILL
Mr THWAITES (Minister for Environment) -- I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I am pleased to introduce a further bill to enhance Victoria's parks system. The bill will principally amend the National Parks Act 1975, Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 and Forests Act 1958. It will also amend the Heritage Rivers Act 1992, Fisheries Act 1995 and Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004.
Of particular note, the bill will protect the Otway forests by:
implementing the key government policy to create a greatly expanded national park in the Otway Ranges -- the Great Otway National Park;
establishing the basis for creating the Otway Forest Park; and
ensuring the end of sawlog and pulpwood harvesting in the Otway forests.
It will also enhance the parks and reserves system near Melbourne through the addition, in particular, of Melbourne Water owned land which is being transferred to the Crown. Some other amendments to several existing parks and heritage rivers will also be made.
A new direction for the Otway Ranges
The primary purpose of the bill is to create the Great Otway National Park under the National Parks Act. This splendid new national park will incorporate the existing Otway National Park and Angahook-Lorne, Carlisle and Melba Gully state parks, as well as areas of state forest and other Crown land. The new national park will cover more than 100 000 hectares, an increase in park area of more than 60 000 hectares, and will implement the park recommended by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council -- VEAC -- in its final report for the Angahook-Otway investigation. I thank all those who contributed to this significant study.
The new national park will be complemented by the Otway Forest Park, which will be established under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act. As recommended by VEAC, the forest park will cover nearly 40 000 hectares.
It will provide for recreation, including some activities not normally permitted in a national park, and minor resource uses while also protecting and conserving the natural and cultural values of the forest and water supply catchments.
The change in public land use in the Otways results from the decision of the Bracks government to phase out timber harvesting in the native forests of the Otway Ranges and, instead, to recognise that their sustainable future lies with their tourism value. Sawlog and pulpwood harvesting has already ended in the areas of state forest that will be included in the new national park and will end in the area to become the forest park by 2008. A new era for the Otway forests will begin.
The new national park will represent all that is special about the Otways: the tall wet forests, ancient rainforests, the drier forests of the inland slopes and the very diverse heathlands and heathy woodlands, fringed by a spectacularly rugged coastline and studded with some of Victoria's most striking waterfalls and other attractions. Internationally and nationally significant geological features, beautiful streams, tall trees, old growth forest, spectacular wildflower displays, rare plants and animals, and significant cultural heritage sites will all be protected.
This is indeed a magnificent new park of which all Victorians can be proud. It is easily accessible and will add considerably to the experience of those visiting the
world renowned tourism attractions of the Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles.
I would now like to refer to particular aspects of the bill relating to the new national park.
Protecting water supply catchments
The park will include parts of several water supply catchments currently managed by Barwon Water and South West Water. The catchments are vital for the supply of water to Geelong, Colac, Warrnambool and several other coastal towns, such as Lorne, Aireys Inlet and Anglesea. Some of the land in these catchment areas is owned by the two water authorities and is being transferred to the Crown for inclusion in the park. This will ensure their permanent protection.
Those catchments wholly in the park that are located upstream of water supply storages will be identified as 'designated water supply catchment areas'. Under section 30H of the National Parks Act, the paramount consideration in managing such areas, just like the designated water supply catchment areas in Kinglake and Yarra Ranges National Parks to which the section currently applies, will be the protection of the catchment areas and their water resources.
Clauses 8 and 9 of the bill will substitute, with amendments, several sections of the National Parks Act that were inserted in 1995 when significant parts of Melbourne's water supply catchments were included in Kinglake and Yarra Ranges National Park. These provisions will then also apply to the designated water supply catchment areas in the Great Otway National Park. Barwon Water and South West Water, as managing water authorities, will, under an agreement with the Secretary to the Department of Sustainability and Environment, continue to have water supply management responsibilities in these catchment areas.
The secretary will continue to have overall responsibility for ensuring the park is appropriately managed.
The amended provisions will also enable the managing water authorities to continue to access, control and manage various structures and installations. There will also be the ability, either through a temporary notice under section 32N or the regulations, to control human access where necessary to protect the catchment areas and their water resources.
Defining the Great Ocean Road and other arterial roads
One of the memorable experiences of a visit to the Otways is the drive along the spectacular Great Ocean Road. This is one of the world's great coastal drives.
The road is not currently on a road reserve for all of its length, which is also the case for several other arterial roads which pass through the proposed national park. The bill will provide for the roads to be included in defined road reserves which, in accordance with VEAC's final report, will generally be no greater than 20 metres wide. This will help to ensure that the special character of the roads where they pass through or abut the park is preserved.
Clause 10, by inserting sections 32P and 32Q in the National Parks Act, will provide a process whereby detailed survey work can be carried out to define accurately the boundary of the road reserves and for adjustments to be made to the park and existing road reserves following those surveys. The surveying will take some time, given the lengths of the roads involved, but the bill enables the provisions to apply until 30 June 2009. This approach will also apply to the section of the Great Ocean Road that passes through Port Campbell National Park.
Protecting the Cape Otway lighthouse
The Cape Otway Lighthouse Reserve is a particular heritage feature which will be included in the national park, together with the Cape Otway cemetery, which is closed. The lighthouse, which was completed in 1848, and the associated buildings are a special part of our heritage. They make up the largest and oldest group of lighthouse keepers' quarters in Australia. This site will be a key visitor attraction of the national park. The current leases will be continued, with some amendments to one of the leases to clarify the lessor.
Clause 4 inserts a new provision in the National Parks Act to enable a new lease to be granted over a defined area at the lighthouse for the purposes of recreation and tourism where this is carried out in a manner consistent with the conservation of the heritage values of the area. This provision does not provide for the construction of new accommodation.
Establishing the Otway Forest Park
Clause 33 of the bill provides for the Otway Forest Park to be reserved under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act following preparation of a detailed plan to be approved by the Surveyor-General and the minister. Once created, the park will be managed under the Forests Act, which will enable a range of provisions to apply to the reserve. Clause 37 will allow five existing sawlog and pulpwood licences to continue until their expiry (in 2008) as well as other licences and leases. Importantly, clause 35(5) will amend the Forests Act to ensure that
no new licences can be granted in the area of the forest park for sawlog or pulpwood production.
Clause 38 will amend the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act so that the sawlog and pulpwood licences in the Otways which are included in the list of licences in the west of the state that may, under section 28 of that act, be transferred to VicForests remain under the control of the secretary under the Forests Act.
Amendments to Port Campbell National Park
The bill will also implement some changes to Port Campbell National Park. The historic Loch Ard cemetery, which is closed and for which the secretary has responsibility, will be added to the park along with several sections of unused road reserves and small areas of adjacent Crown land.
Using sections 32P and 32Q referred to previously, the Great Ocean Road will be defined following survey where it is not already included in a road reserve.
The boundary of the park in close proximity to the Port Campbell township will be rationalised. A section of the town beach, the surf lifesaving club and the camping ground will be excised and permanently reserved under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act. The bill will continue the existing surf lifesaving club lease. A police residence and two sites containing South West Water facilities will also be excised.
Enhanced protection of the parks and reserves system near Melbourne
The second feature of the bill is the enhancement of the parks and reserves system near Melbourne.
Approximately 3450 hectares will be added to Dandenong Ranges, Kinglake and Yarra Ranges National Parks and Warrandyte State Park under the National Parks Act. Two new nature conservation reserves -- Beaconsfield and Warrandyte-Kinglake -- will be created under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act.
These parks and reserves will, in particular, benefit from the transfer to the Crown of approximately 2800 hectares of land currently owned by or vested in Melbourne Water but which is surplus to its requirements or is better included within parks. Most of the areas were recommended for inclusion in parks and reserves by the former Land Conservation Council in its 1994 Melbourne Area District Two Review Final Recommendations. The approval of these particular recommendations was deferred pending resolution of issues associated with transferring the Melbourne Water land to the Crown. I am pleased to advise that these transfers can now occur.
Dandenong Ranges National Park, which was created in 1987 and significantly enlarged in 1997, will see approximately 320 hectares of land added, including some purchased land and Melbourne Water land acquired for the proposed Silvan No. 2 Reservoir. The bill also refines the boundaries of this national park following a detailed review of the status of various parcels of public land in its vicinity. The investigation revealed small pieces of land, such as unused road reserves and other small areas of Crown land, which should be incorporated in the park and several other areas, such as roads and areas used by schools, which should be excluded.
The additions to Kinglake National Park include Melbourne Water land which abuts the new Warrandyte-Kinglake Nature Conservation Reserve.
With an area of about 660 hectares, this new reserve will comprise a mix of Melbourne Water land and existing Crown land, including the existing One Tree Hill Nature Conservation Reserve, and in turn links to Warrandyte State Park to create a significant, protected habitat corridor. Several areas of purchased land are also being added to Kinglake National Park and small areas of Melbourne Water land and purchased land will be included in Warrandyte State Park.
Kinglake National Park will also be enhanced through the addition of Melbourne Water land in the vicinity of Tourourrong Reservoir. Its inclusion in the designated water supply catchment area of the park will consolidate the protection afforded to the catchment of that reservoir.
Similarly, some of the Melbourne Water land being added to Yarra Ranges National Park near Badger Weir, at Fernshaw and Dom Dom Saddle and in the Upper Yarra catchment, will form part of the designated water supply catchment area of that park. Melbourne Water land along part of the O'Shannassy aqueduct will also be included in the park. This will provide an opportunity to establish a linear trail along the lower slopes of Mount Donna Buang.
The Beaconsfield Nature Conservation Reserve, covering approximately 170 hectares, will be established to protect an area of state conservation significance in the vicinity of the disused Beaconsfield Reservoir. This will be a significant addition to the reserve system south-east of Melbourne. It is intended to appoint the Cardinia Environment Coalition as managers of this reserve. Clause 20 of the bill will enable Melbourne Water, by agreement, to continue to manage and control the dam wall and other structures in the reserve.
Minor park amendments
The bill will also add to Cape Liptrap Coastal Park the access roads to three Venus Bay beaches by agreement with the shire, and another area of Crown land near Rock Hill.
Several small areas will be excised from existing parks. In accordance with the government's policy on excisions from parks, these are minor and have minimal impact on the relevant parks. The excisions are:
small areas associated with roads in Dandenong Ranges, Organ Pipes and the existing Otway national parks, the existing Angahook-Lorne and Carlisle state parks, and Cape Liptrap Coastal Park;
small areas which are not required for park purposes in Dandenong Ranges, Kinglake and Port Campbell national parks and the existing Angahook-Lorne State Park; and
boundary corrections to Dandenong Ranges National Park and the existing Angahook-Lorne State Park which exclude some areas of freehold and leasehold.
In accordance with section 11 of the National Parks Act, the National Parks Advisory Council was consulted about the proposed excisions and has provided advice for tabling in Parliament. The council does not oppose the proposed excisions. Attached to its advice are additional details of the excisions.
Additions to heritage rivers
The bill will add areas to two heritage rivers under the Heritage Rivers Act.
In particular, it will implement the recommendation in the VEAC's Angahook-Lorne investigation final report to extend the Aire Heritage River to a distance of 200 metres from each bank of the river where it passes through the Great Otway National Park. The Aire River is the least modified large river in south-western Victoria and contains the most rugged river gorge in western Victoria.
The bill will also extend the Mitchell and Wonnangatta heritage river to include part of the area which was added to the Mitchell River National Park in 2002. This will provide additional recognition of the river valley upstream of Angusvale.
Amendments to the Fisheries Act 1995
The government has decided to allow the existing commercial eel licences to continue in the Great Otway National Park instead of phasing them out as recommended by VEAC. Instead, the Fisheries Act will be amended to strengthen the protection given to national, wilderness and state parks and reference areas generally. Clauses 29 to 31 will ensure that any access licence, aquaculture licence or general permit of a particular type cannot authorise commercial fishing in a national, wilderness or state park or in a reference area unless there was an entitlement specified on the licence or permit immediately before 7 March 2005. This amendment will have no impact on any existing commercial fishing operation.
This bill will make a significant contribution to enhancing the state's parks system and to establishing a new and sustainable future for the Otway forests that are so highly valued by the community.
The creation of the new park areas is accompanied by a significant boost in funding for the management of parks system as part of the 2005-06 state budget. This includes an additional $13.1 million over four years, plus nearly $3.4 million per year ongoing, specifically for establishing and managing the new parks in the Otways. Also, the Otways will benefit from part of an additional $19.3 million allocated to protecting biodiversity, and $49.4 million for restoring built assets, in parks across the state.
The Bracks government is proud of its record in protecting the environment for future generations and helping to create a more sustainable future for the state.
The 13 marine national parks and 11 marine sanctuaries, the expanded parks in the box-ironbark region and the proposed new Point Nepean National Park are all part of a significant legacy for future generations. This bill continues that tradition and will ensure that the magnificent native forests of the Otway Ranges, as well as additional areas around Melbourne, are protected for future generations.
I commend the bill to the house.
Debate adjourned on motion of Mr HONEYWOOD (Warrandyte).
Debate adjourned until Thursday, 30 June.
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