August 22, 2017  |  Second reading

Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2017

MR HOWARD (Buninyong) — I wish to just add a few words with regard to this Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. I note that it does have the approval and support of those opposite. It is interesting to hear people like the member for South-West Coast speak quite enthusiastically about the Mount Eccles National Park and the new name that it is now going to have — an Aboriginal name — following the passing of this bill. But in speaking to the bill, I cannot help but make the observation that it is Labor that has really been supportive of our national parks system, our regional parks system and our general parks system across this state over a long period of time now in creating new national parks, in ensuring that we provide the appropriate protection for our parks system and then in working with Parks Victoria to ensure that people can appreciate those parks. Sadly, those on the other side of the house do not have that sort of history. We certainly know that when they came to office in their last term they were happy to put cattle in the Alpine National Park and carry out a number of acts which clearly caused deterioration in our parks and did not show the leadership that should have been shown.

Today I want to speak briefly on the one section of the bill that is important to me and the people of my electorate. Last year they were very excited when, as promised by the Andrews government when in opposition, we created the Canadian Regional Park in an area of my electorate where we have had state forest and an area of bushland for some years, but it did not have the protection of park status until last year. When some of the forested land was handed back to the government in recent years because the forestry companies leasing that land did not want to continue with forestry, there was the concern that the land would be lost as natural wooded country and might be settled for more residential purposes or something like that, but the Andrews government’s announcement of the Canadian Regional Park and then the enactment of it in legislation last year was something greatly appreciated by so many people across my electorate, led by a community coalition, particularly the Friends of Canadian Corridor. It was very exciting for them to see that land protected and to know that funding had been attached to that so that Parks Victoria would be able to work with the community to further protect and enhance that land.

At the same time, however, we involved the Wathaurong people, people like Uncle Bryon Powell and others, in discussions about the land. They were terrific in sharing their knowledge of the land, and they wanted to continue their involvement in the process of the land. It was suggested that perhaps the Canadian Regional Park was not the best name and that perhaps an Aboriginal name appropriate to the Wathaurong people would be better, and after some thought they came up with the name Woowookarung. That proposed name was advertised amongst the people of Ballarat, and I am pleased that they said, ‘Yes, we think Woowookarung is a good name’. As people may know, it is a Wadawarrung word that means ‘place of plenty’.

It was great to see the minister come to the Canadian Regional Park to announce the name change to Woowookarung Regional Park just last month. This leads us along a path to see that this particular area of land — extensive parkland around the eastern fringe of Ballarat — is now protected as the Woowookarung Regional Park, and that the community can continue to be involved. They have been particularly excited by the work of Parks Victoria since the area became a regional park. Parks Victoria have been enthusiastic in their willingness to work with the community and involve the community in every step of the planning.

It is great that there have been a number of community days — one just recently was a tree-planting day held in the park — when the Friends of Canadian Corridor and Parks Victoria worked together to encourage members of the Ballarat community to come and have a closer look, to appreciate some of the specific species of flora and fauna in the park. There is a great range of plants and animals there that are of particular interest and character, and they have been enjoyed and appreciated by a number of people over many, many years.

Now more and more people from the Ballarat region and further afield will have the opportunity to enjoy walking and undertaking a range of community activities in the park in years to come. It was at one stage considered to be a state park, but given the range of community uses of this land, including mountain biking, orienteering and a range of other activities, it was felt by the community that a regional park was the appropriate status for this land so that they could have the full enjoyment of this land.

I really want to congratulate the Premier; the two environment ministers we have had over the period of this government, who have taken a particular interest in this; and the community, who have been so involved in this process — and that includes people like Bryon Powell of the Wathaurong community. I am really excited to see that we have moved to legislate the new name, the Woowookarung Regional Park, and I trust that this is going to be another step along the way to people being able to appreciate this valuable piece of parkland.