We know that the mountains we love face an existential threat from climate change: less snow, more fire, less streamflow are all starting to transform vegetation communities and the look and feel of mountain environments.
The Victorian state government released it’s budget for 2020/21 yesterday. Apart from the welcome climate and energy measures (which will help the state to play its part in reducing its contribution to further climate change), there are a number of allocations that are relevant to mountain environments.
Details on many of these are still fairly vague. Notes and questions from me are in italics. Some of these announcements were made previously, but because the budget was delayed – it is normally handed down in May – they are being re-announced now.
There is funding for the Gunaikurnai Joint Management Plan implementation.
I assume this will include sections of the Alpine National Park.
Advanced bushfire management
Funding is provided for the management of bushfire risk across public and private land. This will be delivered through an expanded risk-based integrated land and fuel management approach, greater mechanical fuel treatments, the implementation of Traditional Owner-led cultural fire practices and the recruitment of additional firefighters.
There is also an allocation for ‘Securing water supplies in remote areas for firefighting’.
It is likely that much of this will be influenced by the outcome of the report from the IGEM inquiry and reportinto last summer’s fires.
It looks like here is no specific allocation to the purchase of aircraft for fire fighting (although this summer a record number of aircraft and helicopters will be available in Victoria). It would also appear that there is no allocation to establish the volunteer remote area firefighting team either.
Building strategic fuel breaks
Funding is provided to build and upgrade 1 447 kilometres of fuel breaks across Victoria, targeting the highest priority fire risk areas. This includes upgrading the temporary Cowwarr-Bruthen fuel break in Gippsland, built during the 2019-20 fire season.
It is not yet clear what other fuel breaks may be planned for the high country.
Bushfire biodiversity recovery: Supporting economic growth and biodiversity
Funding is provided to address the impact of bushfires and enable biodiversity to recover through revegetation and reseeding activities, construction of predator-proof fencing, other land care activities, and intensified and sustained activities for the broadscale management of threats.
Timber salvage operations
Funding is provided to facilitate extended timber salvage operations following the 2019-2020 Victorian bushfires. The recovery of burnt timber will enable VicForests to meet the Victorian Forestry Plan’s timber supply targets and to maintain supply to mills, as well as maintaining employment in the plantation processing sector in north east Victoria.
It is especially disappointing to see this allocation to continue damaging salvage logging of burnt forests. As noted by David Lindenmayer, a researcher at the Australian National University and one of the world’s most cited forest ecologists, the worst thing that we can do post-bushfire to alpine ash forests is to allow the logging of these burned areas, known as salvage logging.
Timber salvage operations allocation – $11.2m
Visitor Economy: Regional Tourism Infrastructure
Funding is provided for a range of regional tourism infrastructure projects to support jobs and local communities:
This includes several projects in the Alps:
- Mount Buffalo Chalet: Wilderness Eco Pods
- Mt Hotham ‐ Alpine Gateway development
- Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing – Stage 1;
The proposal to upgrade the Alpine Crossing walk has been widely criticised because it will help open up previously undeveloped areas near Mt Feathertop and allow private development within the Alpine National Park.
Direct financial support for alpine businesses
An additional $6 million support will be made available to eligible businesses in alpine resorts. Details here.
The Government is delivering on our Biodiversity 2037 commitment with funding of $48 million, including:
→ Partnerships with private landholders and local government authorities for weed, pest, and habitat protection
→ Increasing the area of suitable habitat for the Helmeted Honeyeater and Leadbeater’s Possum
→ Continuation of the Managing Country Together program with Traditional Owners, and the implementation of the Wotjobaluk, Dja Dja Wurrung and Eastern Marr Settlement Agreements
→ Additional resources for Parks Victoria to manage our parks and ensure more Victorians can enjoy them
Wild dog control project
Funding is provided to reduce the risks wild dogs pose to primary production, biodiversity and community health in Victoria. A new wild dog trap alert system will also be introduced to reduce the time allocated to inspecting traps and enable more humane treatment.
Victorian deer control project
Funding is provided to undertake deer control in priority locations across peri-urban, eastern and western Victoria. This will protect agriculture, biodiversity and Aboriginal cultural heritage, and address public safety issues caused by deer, including vehicle accidents and property damage.
Funding is provided for the development and delivery of a second Sustainable Hunting Action Plan to further promote responsible hunting in Victoria.
The full budget document can be found here.