We rely on healthy ecosystems for our survival. Victoria is the most cleared state in the country and natural ecosystems have faced centuries of land clearing, logging, invasion of invasive species and other threatening processes. The mountains that we love are already under threat from climate change: as fire seasons become longer and more intense, and as winter snowpack declines.

Now the Victorian parliament has announced an Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline. This is an important opportunity to show that the community wants to see ecosystems restored and species protected from extinction.

Please read on for ideas on how to write a submission to the Inquiry.

Make a submission

The first stage in a Parliamentary Inquiry is a call for submissions. Making a submission to the inquiry is a powerful way for you to tell your MPs that stopping extinction is their responsibility, and the Government needs to do more.

The most powerful submission is one you have written yourself. It will have more weight than a form style submission.

So, we recommend you use whatever dot points you want from below and send it to ecosystems@parliament.vic.gov.au.

You will need to include:

  • Your full name
  • Contact details (either a postal address or phone number)
  • The text of your submission – either in an email or an attached document.
  • Whether you want your submission to be confidential or public (but note your contact details won’t be made public)

The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry are here.

A brief submission is fine. You don’t need to claim to be an expert, just explain briefly why ecosystems matter to you and why Victoria needs to improve protection of our natural places. You could talk about your relationship with the mountains – for work, for recreation, for renewal.

Submissions are due by Friday 31st August 2020.

Some ideas on what to include in your submission

1/ Make your submission personal

Explain who you are and where you live, why nature matters to you.

2/ Include some facts about the state of Victoria’s environment

Explaining why we need to act:

Victoria is the most cleared state in Australia – 66% of our land has been cleared of native trees, shrubs and plants – this is the habitat that supports our native wildlife

Over 700 native plants, animals, insects and ecosystems are under threat

120 Victorian animals, birds, plants, insects and fish are on the brink of extinction

The 2018 Victorian State of the Environment report found two-thirds of the state’s indicators for land-based biodiversity were assessed as poor.  See the full report here: www.ces.vic.gov.au/reports/state-environment-2018

Last summer’s fires have worsened the outlook for natural ecosystems, and increase the need for the government to act:

  • Burned 1.4 million hectares, just in Victoria
  • 31% of VIC’s rainforests have burnt, as well as 24% of wet or damp forests, and 34% of lowland forests
    100% of the potential habitat of East Gippsland galaxias (a small native fish) have burnt
    40% of sooty owl, long-footed potoroo, diamond python, brush-tailed rock-wallaby and long-nosed bandicoot habitat has burnt
  • Yet the government has announced that it will allow ‘salvage logging in more than 3,000 hectares of fire affected forests. Multiple independent, peer reviewed studies show logging forests after bushfires increases future fire risk and can render the forest uninhabitable for wildlife for decades or even centuries.
  • Climate change threatens all natural ecosystems in the state and we need to take this fact into account as we develop government policy to protect the environment.

3/ Propose some solutions

Climate change poses an existential threat to mountain environments. So if we want to be able to protect these precious places, Victoria needs to play it’s part in the global efforts to rapidly reduce greenhouse emissions. In Victoria this means things like:

Get moving on emission reduction targets. The government has committed to announcing Emission Reduction Targets (ERTs) for 2025 and 2030. The government needs to get on with announcing science based ERTs as soon as possible and starting the transition away from our reliance on coal, oil and gas.

Build back green. Here are some logical things the government could do to show it is serious about responding to climate change, and hence reducing future impacts on natural ecosystems:

The October budget and post-COVID-19 stimulus package must invest in measures that rein in emissions and protect communities from intensifying climate impacts, such as:

  • Upgrading the grid to bring more solar, wind, and storage online, and help establish the country’s first offshore wind farm.
  • Bringing forward the Victorian Renewable Energy Target of 50% by 2030 to 2025, and establish a new target of 100% renewables by 2030.
  • Funding the installation of rooftop solar and storage on all public buildings such as schools, hospitals, libraries, fire stations, and SES facilities.
  • Retrofitting public libraries, schools, community centres, neighbourhood houses, and sporting clubs to become Climate Emergency Refuge Centres in times of crisis.
  • Building new, high-performance public housing for vulnerable people in our community.
  • Investing in a new fleet of Victorian-made trains, trams, and electric buses.
  • Upgrading the public transport network to improve accessibility for everyone in the community.

Fund our conservation estate

Victoria has a wonderful range of national and state parks, that protect ecosystems from the inland rivers and semi arid zones to the highest peaks. The Alpine National Park protects much of our high and alpine country.

Currently, national parks and reserves receive less than 0.5% of state government expenditure. In the face of a growing global, and local, extinction crisis we need to significantly ramp up investment in nature.

Park managers need significantly more funding for core frontline capacity to deal with the many pressures placed on parks, particularly for pest plant and animal control. Foxes, cats, wild dogs, horses, deer and pigs are all threats to natural environments in the mountains and foothills.

Large areas of the Alpine Park need additional resourcing for these control programs. The government must be guided by science and fund and implement programs which will bring invasive species under control.

The government could also provide additional funding to volunteer programs that operate in the Alps to protect the environment – eg citizen science projects looking for endangered species, eradication programs of pests like Hawkweed, wildlife care networks after fires, etc.

An end to habitat destruction and strengthened nature laws

We cannot hope to stop extinction unless we stop the destructive activities that are driving it. We need to:

  • End native forest logging and transition to a plantation based timber industry as a matter of urgency. The government has committed to halting native forest logging by 2030: they need to bring that date forward.
  • In the Victorian High Country, the state government logging agency VicForests, wants to log an additional 59 areas of fire damaged Alpine Ash forests in East Gippsland and the north east. This logging could affect habitat for 34 species, including the regent honeyeater, the spotted-tail quoll and the greater glider. Tell the government to halt the salvage logging program, and get on with the transition out of native forests. There is money already allocated to ensure timber communities are supported through this transition.

Increase fire fighting capacity

We know that fire seasons are getting worse. The Alps and foothill country are being burnt on a more regular basis, leading to the possibility of ecological collapse of Alpine Ash and Snow Gum communities. We need additional fire fighting capacity. Ideas include:

  • the state government should increase funding for FFMV firefighters, including remote area firefighters (rappel crews) and air capacity for fighting fires
  • The government should provide annual funding to purchase firefighting aircraft to increase our fire fighting capacity and reduce the need to contract aircraft from interstate or overseas
  • In addition to funding additional FFMV remote area teams we propose a new volunteer remote area fire force be established, similar to the Remote Area Fire Teams (RAFT) model in NSW, which could be structured to offer opportunities for younger and urban based people to join fire fighting efforts
  • There are specific ecological values in snow gum and alpine ash forests that need to be considered before any fuel reduction burning is introduced into these forest communities. Some vegetation communities, such as rainforest should not be burnt, and buffer and ecotone areas should also be protected from burning