Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts logo
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts home page

Archived media releases and speeches

Disclaimer

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Transcript
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

11 October, 2005
Press Conference at Treasury Gardens, Melbourne

Mountain cattlemen and Alpine National Park plan


Senator Campbell:
Well thank you very much for coming this morning. We've signed off last night on a $15 million plan; the central core of it is to ensure that we can protect the 170-year old tradition of alpine cattle grazing in the Victorian alps but to do so in a way that provides world leading protecting for the environmental values in the national park. We do this by pumping about $6.5 million into rehabilitation of the bogs and fenns and other parts of the natural environment bringing in modern technology to exclude cattle from those sensitive areas, excluding the Bogong High Plain area entirely from cattle grazing and also spending some millions of dollars on upgrading facilities within the park. It is also a plan for a greater Alpine National Park which will stretch from the Victorian alps right across NSW, into the ACT, literally within distance of Lake Burley Griffin. It will become the second biggest terrestrial national park in Australia but it will be done so in a way that it preserves not only the core environmental values but also the mountain cattle grazing which, as I've said, goes back 170 years and is a tradition that the Commonwealth Government is determined not to see lost from Australia. We have here an example of part of the exclusion measures that we would use to keep cattle out of sensitive areas: this is a world-leading device being developed by CSIRO in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture. It attaches around cattle's necks and when they go near areas where we want them excluded from they get an electric fence-style signal which reminds them where they should and should not go. This is just one of the exclusion methods of a whole range of others within the plan.

Journalist:
How can you do this without the agreement of the State Government?

Senator Campbell:
We're making the offer to the State Government. I've spoken to Mr Thwaites this morning, we've delivered a copy of the plan and a detailed proposal to him. We're asking the Victorian Government to consider the plan; it's a very big investment by the Australian Government in what is effectively a State Park at the moment, but it's an investment that is to back up our strong contention that this is an incredibly important part of Australia's heritage. It shouldn't be lost but it will be up to the Victorians to do it. The way forward is that I've asked Mr Thwaites to give my department and his a chance to look at the plan in detail and, should we reach agreement, then we would allow a small trial of this new management approach to be conducted over this summer, a trial involving only 25 cattle - so a very small number, scientifically monitored, a report at the end of the summer of the effectiveness of the management proposal and then the governments would then sit down and work this through subject to that trial.

Journalist:
Does the idea live or die by the State Government?

Senator Campbell:
Absolutely it does, yes. The State Government would have to agree to the trial, they would have to agree to work co-operatively on trying to balance the heritage values associated with alpine cattle grazing with the very important environmental values in the alpine region. That's what we're trying to do is to invest public money – taxpayer's money – into achieving a historic balance between alpine cattle grazing, which we believe should not be ended, and the very important environmental values in the alps. The Victorian Government will have to agree to it, we can't force them to do it but we're showing our bona fides by putting up $15 million of new investment in management of the Alpine National Park region.

Journalist:
...Inaudible...

Senator Campbell:
We'd emergency listed the cultural heritage of alpine cattle grazing and this proposal is to have a listing for a greater Alpine National Park – as I've said to create the second biggest terrestrial national park in Australia – and ultimately, should we get the agreement of the Victorian Government, to progress to a World Heritage nomination.

Journalist:
...Inaudible...

Senator Campbell:
I've emergency listed the cultural heritage associated with alpine cattle grazing and I will make a decision on the listing of alpine cattle grazing down the track, in time...

Journalist:
...Inaudible...

Senator Campbell:
...I haven't delayed. I've been working on a plan to ensure that we balance the environmental values in the park with the heritage which I've already emergency listed for the values associated with alpine cattle grazing.

Journalist:
What's holding that up? What's under consideration in that decision that you're still looking at?

Senator Campbell:
Well I'm not looking at it; I'm actually working on a plan to balance alpine cattle grazing and the cultural heritage associated with that – a 170-year-old unique Australian tradition – with the need to ensure that you have sophisticated management. Not only, might I say, to ensure that cattle don't have environmental impacts but also to ensure that pigs and brumbies and deer have the impacts managed. Those are not being managed; it's easy to say ‘let's get the cattle out', you've also got to have a sophisticated, practical approach to managing all of the other various animals.

Journalist:
This plan...your department...heritage values...

Senator Campbell:
No, that's untrue. In fact my department prepared this plan so...

Journalist:
...Interruption inaudible...

Senator Campbell:
No, their current advice is included in this plan. This plan has been prepared by the Australian Department of the Environment by our best environmental people available...

Journalist:
You've asked the Heritage Council for further advice – what was their advice on a permanent listing?

Senator Campbell:
Well I have to look at that advice; I have received but I haven't looked at it yet. I haven't read that advice yet.

Journalist:
You haven't read it?

Senator Campbell:
No, I am not sure about that.

Journalist:
...(inaudible)...

Senator Campbell:
My plan is to do a Greater Alpine National Park which includes the parks in Victoria, the park in New South Wales and the parks in the ACT. We want to have a greater Alpine National Park and this is a $15 million dollar plan to create one.

Journalist:
...(inaudible)...

Senator Campbell:
Well I'm sure the department has considered the Council's advice, but the department have it. I haven't got that advice at the moment.

Journalist:
State Government's already chewed up some hefty political capital in this argument, are you confident that political considerations will be put aside as they assess your plan?

Senator Campbell:
I'm asking that commonsense prevail, that with the two governments work together to create a balance between the environmental values that should get much better protection and much better management, and the cultural heritage associated with mountain cattle grazing.

Journalist:
...(inaudible)...

Senator Campbell:
The way this device works is that there is a global positioning system virtual fence which basically triggers these devices whenever the cattle move anywhere near them, they get an electric fence style signal and won't go into the areas that are protected. But we're not only relying on this, we're already relying on existing technologies such as removable electric fences and conventional fencing...

Journalist:
Does each beast have to have one on?

Senator Campbell:
No, not every single beast, it is potentially only a handful of them because cattle when they behave in a herd tend to find that they will follow the rest of the herd. That's why were going to start a trial with only 25 animals. All we're asking the State Government to do is to trial sophisticated multi-use management within the national park. It's done in all other parks around the world; very few managers of national parks seek to exclude entire activities; they get managed for multiple use. The approach of just banning an activity in a park is something that belongs in the 1970's and 80's. Although it can be popular in areas where people don't understand how to manage a national park, there are far more advanced ways of managing these things. If you look at groups like the Bush Heritage Foundation, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy – the companies that are grabbing pastoral country trying to protect the natural values there, but also create some income streams to put back into the management of broad acres of Australia – these sort of management techniques are the bread and butter; this is how they do it. The old technique of governments closing up national parks and saying ‘no' to things is really something that belongs in the 1970's and 1980's.

Journalist:
By announcing this money for remediation and then excluding cattle from certain parts of the park, aren't you acknowledging that they have damaged the park and will continue to do so in the future?

Senator Campbell:
We acknowledge that having cattle grazing has impact. What we're also acknowledging is that you can manage those impacts and maintain the Australian heritage values associated with a 170 year old tradition. You can balance these things. Yes, there are impacts from cattle, yes there are impacts from pigs, deer and brumbies. We're saying you should actually manage all of them, not just concentrate on the cattle; allow the tradition to continue; ensure it's scientifically monitored, controlled and done in a sustainable way. Across the whole of Australia we seek to have sustainable agriculture where you balance the impact of agriculture on the environment – and it can be done in the high country as long as there's the political will and the money to do it. We're putting up the money and we're advising the Victorian Government to show the same political will to create a balance not a ‘yes' or ‘no' approach.

Journalist:
How many areas and how vast?

Senator Campbell:
This plan shows a total exclusion from the Bogong plains – there will be no grazing on that ever – and then about 65 per cent of the bogs and the fenns will be totally protected using these electric fences.

Journalist:
...(inaudible)...

Senator Campbell:
No, this is one new feature. I bring these along because it's a new feature, it's a new technology being developed primarily here in Australia, but we're sharing it with the Americans. This is one of the new ways you can use without having to build fences that can interfere both aesthetically and also with recreation enjoyment. You've got to remember this park has a whole range of uses taking place within it and as I stress you've got wild pigs, you've got deer, you've got brumbies all running amok in the park. There hasn't been enough management of those in the past, there needs to be more. But we've said we will help with that, as long as you have an integrated management approach.

Journalist:
So how else are you keeping the cattle away from the sensitive land?

Senator Campbell:
With moveable electronic fencing and with conventional fencing.

Journalist:
...(inaudible)...

Senator Campbell:
What we want to do is make sure we use all the management techniques available, to have the very best protection for those sensitive areas.

Journalist:
...(inaudible)...

Senator Campbell:
As soon as I've had the detailed consideration of it. But I've made it quite clear that I don't want to continue having National Heritage Listing of just the Victorian Alps, I've made it quite clear with this plan I want to create a greater Alpine National Park and have a Heritage Listing for the whole greater Alpine Park which can then lead to a World Heritage Listing of the Alpine National Park. That's what the governments have been working on for a number of years and I think now is the time to progress it.

Journalist:
Would State government acceptance of this plan remove the necessity for the cultural Heritage Listing to go beyond an emergency listing?

Senator Campbell:
I think that it will either be listed as a piece of Australian cultural heritage or it won't; its irrelevant to this. As I have said previously, I can't force John Thwaites to put cattle back into the national park. All I can do is to come forward with what I regard as a sensible and practical plan, to work together to achieve what I've called a balance between saving the cultural heritage associated with alpine grazing and giving much better quality protection to the environment.

Journalist:
...(inaudible)...

Senator Campbell:
No, I've never done that; I've said to them I don't have it within my power to force the government to do that. I've been very upfront with the cattlemen – they know I can only do what I can do. I have put in enormous effort and energy into trying to come up with a balance and a compromise which I think is fair to everyone and to balance my important responsibility to protect the environment and protect our heritage.

© Commonwealth of Australia