Bendigo could soon have a new regional – or even national – park on its outskirts.
The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) will begin public consultation this month on the future of a number of central western Victorian forests – including the Wellsford – the state government announced today.
Wellsford Forest Conservation Alliance president Stuart Fraser said his organisation had been fighting for the review since 2001 when a similar VEAC assessment led to the creation of the Bendigo Regional Park.
“The box-iron bark forest is a fractured landscape and what we have here is one of the most valuable remnants left,” Mr Fraser said. “That’s why we’ve been fighting for the Wellsford for the last 15 years.”
The former beekeeper said the 7,122 hectare state forest was home to the only pre-European red iron-barks on public land in Bendigo.
And it could prove a life line for species – carnivorous marsupials like fat-tailed dunnarts and phascogales and the endangered swift parrots – as they attempt to adapt to climate change, he said.
“It is a wonderful biolink, it’s ideal, because you have the Bendigo Creek flowing out of the Murray River through the Wellsford and into the Campaspe River, down the Campaspe and into the Wombat Forest and into Heathcote,” he said.
“We have to build these biolinks if we’re to have any hope whatsoever of maintaining the species that we have left, if we can’t do that with these remnants species can’t move locations and many, many will be lost.”
Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said VEAC would consult with all regular users of the Wellsford.
“People go in there to walk their dogs, to run, to orienteer, there are conservation groups – a whole range of people, groups and organisations use and visit the park on a regular basis and there will be an opportunity for everyone to have their say,” Ms Allan said.
“We’ve seen through the creation of the box-iron bark park around Bendigo that it added to one of the many reason why people want to visit or move to and live in Bendigo.”