VICTORIAN Greens leader Samantha Ratnam says voters should be wary of “scare campaigns” run in relation to changes in regional park classifications that restrict recreational uses, including at the Wellsford forest.
The Bush User Groups United started a television advertising campaign on Sunday to raise concerns about proposed changes to parks outlined in a Victorian Environmental Assessment Council report.
The report proposed turning 3160 hectares of the eastern part of the Wellsford forest into a nature reserve, banning horse riding, prospecting, dog walking, firewood collection and hunting.
A further 3950 hectares on the western side would be added to the Bendigo regional park, restricting hunting and timber harvesting, but allowing all other uses.
Ms Ratnam visited Bendigo on Monday, and encouraged people to read the recommendations from the report.
“What we often see with these types of issues is scare campaigns that are run,” Ms Ratnam said.
“There’s lots of myths and stereotypes that enter a public discussion.
“For too long – governments, politicians and often communities – we realise too late when we lose the precious thing that we have, we’re losing so much wildlife and habitat across the world.”
The Victorian Greens are targeting Northern Victoria for the party’s first regional seat, with Nicole Rowan running again after falling marginally short in 2014. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party’s Daniel Young picked up one of the five seats on offer.
The BUGU advertisements will run on two commercial television stations, with more planned for 3AW.
They list the activities banned in the proposed nature reserves and national parks, including 52,853 hectares at Wombat-Lerderderg and conservation parks at Cobaw and Hepburn.
Public comment on the report has been extended to December 10. VEAC is holding further consultation sessions near Bendigo this week.
BUGU head executive Bill Schulz said they wanted more people to be aware of the proposed changes.
“Not a lot of people actually know what’s happening in this space, or they want to know more about it,” he said.
“This is awareness advertising. We don’t tell people who they should vote for.
“There has never been a case study to see if national parks are producing the results that conservationists want to see. Has it helped the environment, like they say?
“Parks Victoria is already having trouble maintaining what they have now, how are they going to be able to maintain these extra parks?”
Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel said removing “extraction industries” such as prospecting and firewood collection would allow forests to “regrow, rebuild” and protect habitats.
An alliance of Wombat Forest community members will hold a rally in Gisborne this Saturday to protest the proposals in the VEAC report.