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National Park – sooner the better

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Dear Editor,

Your pages have carried several letters decrying the proposal to create a Wombat National Park. The gist has been that the authors like things the way they are, but they have only been concerned about restrictions on their recreation – ‘me and my dog’ – without so much as a passing nod to the natural environment. They have made no effort to consider the reasons why VEAC has mooted a national park. The existing state forest is not a constant which could stay as it is but, is in real danger of deteriorating as the demands and pressures on it increase.
Two underlying sources of pressure are clear. First is the growth of urban population as Melbourne expands; that growth has been happening for many years and will continue indefinitely. Regardless of a small reduction in the annual national immigration intake, the number of people living in Moorabool shire will double in the next 20-years. So where 500-people now collect firewood, there will soon be 1000, and so on. You could argue to postpone national park status until the whole situation becomes intolerable to your recreational visitors, but by then the area will have lost a lot more of its ecological value and will probably be unrecoverable. The Dandenong Ranges was a similar example where creating a national park was the best way to protect what was left at the urban fringe.
The second source of pressure is the changing climate, in particular hotter average temperatures and lower rainfall. These changes are threatening our native vegetation and wildlife with progressive extinction, and one essential response in the short term is to create sanctuaries where endangered flora and fauna have some hope of survival. Some letters have claimed that the bushfire risk becomes greater in national parks, but it was the Bunyip State Park which burned last summer, and it was criss-crossed by 4WD trails. Alas, the only safe generalisation about fire is that wherever there is bush, the bushfire risk will grow in future.
National parks provide wide benefits beyond those enjoyed by recreational visitors; above all, they provide a reservoir of natural diversity in a shrinking world. Wombat National Park? The sooner the better.

Jeremy Maddox
Gordon