PROSPECTING groups are concerned a plan to hand 20 per cent of the Greater Bendigo National Park to a Traditional Owners board of management could restrict public uses in the park.
The Dja Dja Wurrung Parks Joint Management Plan proposes to restrict uses in 3600 hectares of the Bendigo park, 678 hectares of the Kooyoora State Park and 6426 hectares of the Kara Kara National Park to protect cultural sites and remediate the land.
Areas of three other state parks are also included in the plan.
Uses such as prospecting and four-wheel-driving will be restricted in these areas to ensure significant sites are protected.
The Prospecting and Miners’ Association of Victoria Central Goldfields Branch believes the plan is unlikely to result in better results for the land, as the parks were “virtually destroyed” during the gold rush era and the remaining sediment would make revegetation efforts difficult.
Branch president Bill Schulz said they wanted to “work together” with the Dja Dja Wurrung board of management to help manage the land, but believed they had been excluded from the process.
“They are having a lot of trouble even finding these Aboriginal sites now because most of their heritage in these areas was pretty well destroyed by gold discoveries,” he said.
“Most of the trees are no longer there – it’s safe to say 99.9 per cent were removed – and then the forests were regenerated in the 1930s.”
Mr Schulz was also concerned about the 15-year lifespan of the plan, and believed there would be further moves to restrict public uses in national and state parks in the future.
The management plan is at its draft stage and is seeking public feedback.
It seeks to use Dja Dja Wurrung expert stewardship to restore and protect the land, water and heritage, in particular 120 threatened plant and animal species, as well as scar trees and stone implements.
Prospectors will still have access to 49 per cent of the Greater Bendigo National Park and 64 per cent of the Kooyoora State Park.
Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board senior project manager Michelle Braid responded in writing to prospector questions about the plan.
She wrote that certain uses needed to be restricted in significant areas.
“There is a reduction in the areas available for prospecting on the grounds of the significant Aboriginal cultural heritage in these locations,” Ms Braid wrote.
“The land remediation aspirations are tied inherently to the culture and well-being of the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owners.”
Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Rodney Carter agreed with the prospectors that the land had been severely damaged by gold mining in the past, referring to the area as “upside down country”.
He said the plan was not about “excluding people”, but rather remediating the land for all to enjoy in the future.
“This isn’t going to happen quickly. Our vision is for this to occur over a number of decades and generations to carry out rehabilitation in areas,” Mr Carter said.
“Some of this involves food and fibre uses, and changes to the forest structure for more open woodland.”
The plan is expected to be sent to the minister for approval later this year.