Alpine grazing end?

THE final nail could be about to be hammered into the coffin of cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park.

The state government has introduced legislation which will amend the National Parks Act 1975, prohibiting cattle grazing for any purpose in the national park.

However, the government could face a battle to pass the legislation through the upper house of parliament.

With the five Greens upper house members supporting the bill, the government needs support from two of the five remaining crossbench members.

Sex Party MP Fiona Patten indicated she was likely to support the bill, however, three others including Shooter and Fishers Eastern Victoria MLC Jeff Bourman, were in favour to cattle remaining in national parks.

That could leave the casting vote to Democratic Labour Party MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins.

The legislation comes 10 years after the Bracks Labor government passed legislation to end cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park.

The current Labor government has acted to close down the cattle grazing trial in the Alpine National Park, which was introduced in 2014 by the previous Coalition government as part of a three-year trial investigating the role of grazing in mitigating fire risk.

The government claims extensive scientific research has shown grazing in Victoria’s alpine areas is detrimental to the environment and didn’t have any value in reducing bushfire risk or fuel loads in alpine areas.

The government will ensure a range of bushfire mitigation measures continue, including planned burns and other fuel management methods.

Environment Minister Lisa Neville said by introducing the legislation, the government was ensuring the Alpine National Park and River Red Gum national parks in the north of the state were free of cattle for future generations.

“Our national parks are for people to enjoy, not cows to destroy,” she said.

“The science is clear, cattle grazing doesn’t reduce bushfire risk in alpine areas, and they damage the alpine environment.

“The Andrews Labor government has acted so that alpine grazing will never happen again — we have closed the loophole that allowed the Coalition’s so-called ‘scientific trial’.”

Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matth Ruchel welcomed the government’s move.

“Cattle grazing is not appropriate in national parks — they are parks after all, not paddocks,” he said.

“Attempts by the former Baillieu and then Napthine governments to get cattle grazing trials up in the Alpine National Park in 2010, 2011 and 2014 lacked scientific merit.

“They were fundamentally an attempt to turn back the clock on park management.

“Hundreds of scientific studies going back many decades have proved beyond any doubt that cattle grazing damages our water catchments, spreads weeds, and brings some species close to extinction.”

The move has angered the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria, which claims the ban did not make sense.

A statement from the MCAV claimed the government was hiding behind ‘science’.

“They are misrepresenting what the science actually says, because only a very small amount of scientific work on the relationship between alpine grazing and fuel has been completed,” the statement said.

“What has been looked at was carried out in a very small area of the huge Alpine National Park, and is far from complete.

“If this legislation is passed in Victoria, a travesty will be finally complete.

“It is not the cattle that are ruining the alpine environment, it is the poor management by successive governments which has seen feral animals and plants run wild.

“Alpine cattle grazing has become a political fight that has gone beyond all reasonable sense, while the thousands of deer munch on happily — what hypocrisy.”

Victorian Farmers’ Federation Omeo branch president Simon Turner said the government had not consulted with it before announcing the ban on grazing.

“In December last year we called on the newly-elected Labor government to at least consult with our mountain cattlemen before rushing into a hasty decision,” he said.

“We knew the Labor party were calling for a ban, but by making this law, it means grazing will be lost from the High Country forever.

“Cattle grazing in the High Country of Victoria is a 200-year tradition that was almost lost with a ban in 2005.

“It looks like we are going back down this path.”