CATTLE GRAZING IN ALPINE NATIONAL PARK
Today I met with the Victorian National Parks Association about the issue of cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park. Following the meeting I have written to Environment Minister Tony Burke urging him to investigate, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC), the Victorian Government’s re-introduction of cattle to the National Park.
I share the VNPA’s concerns about the environmental impact of cattle in this sensitive area. I am further concerned that the State Government seems to be somewhat duplicitous in its handling of this issue, claiming to some people that it is only conducting a trial and to others that it is implementing an election commitment. ‘Scientific grazing’ sounds as dodgy as the Japanese Government’s ‘Scientific whaling’.
The use of cattle grazing to reduce fire risk in Alpine environments is not supported by science. After the 2003 fire, a study of the fire by Dr Dick Williams, Dr Ross Bradstock and Dr Henrik Wahren, published by 2006, found “no statistically significant difference between grazed and ungrazed areas in the proportion of points burnt”, and concluded that “The use of livestock grazing in Australian alpine environments as a fire abatement practice is not justified on scientific grounds”. Grazing was not recommended as a strategy by the Victorian Royal Commission into the Black Saturday Bushfires.
After the 2003 fires the Howard Government gave the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) an extra $3 million for research. The National Party MP Peter McGauran, claimed at the time (Press Release 8/9/2004) that “ The Bushfire CRC research will provide a clear indication to the State Government that grazing for fuel reduction needs to begin immediately to avoid another bushfire season like last year”. No evidence to support the theory that ‘alpine grazing reduces blazing’ ever emerged from this research.
Furthermore, if further research is warranted (doubtful) there is land outside the Alpine National Park which could be used for this purpose. On the other hand, there is a wealth of evidence over 60 years from the CSIRO, university and other scientists that cattle grazing damages fragile alpine environments. Cattle damage soils, spread weeds, trample moss beds and watercourses, and threaten rare native flora and fauna.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) was enacted to ensure that matters which have real potential to impact on the environment are considered at a national level. There are a number of endangered species and communities listed under the EPBC which could be affected by the introduction of cattle. These include the Alpine Tree Frog, Spotted Tree Frog, and a dozen species of EPBC listed flora. The VNPA believes, and I agree, that this is a matter which requires investigation under the Act.
KELVIN THOMSON MP
Member for Wills