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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22867


Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 8 October 2003:

(1) Has he been sent material by the Yorta Yorta Elders Council and the Victorian National Parks Association concerning their proposal for a jointly managed Barmah-Millewa National Park.

(2) Is he investigating this proposal in the light of this information; if so, what is his response to this proposal.


Dr Kemp (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable member's questions is as follows:

(1) On 1 October 2003 I received a letter from Mr Michael Fendley, Director, Victoria National Parks Association. Mr Fendley, on behalf of the Yorta Yorta Elders Council, provided me with a copy of the `River Red Gum forests - Our Natural Heritage' fact sheet and an extract from the Riverina News `Red gum protection derailed'.

(2) I have responded to Mr Fendley. In my response I referred to the listing of the Barmah-Millewa forests as wetlands of international importance listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

I indicated that the purpose of listing sites such as Barmah and Millewa forests under the Convention is to ensure their `wise use' and to conserve their ecological character for future generations.

At the time of listing, the Barmah and Millewa group of forests were managed for multiple purposes, including recreation, grazing, forestry, honey production and conservation. In designating these sites, the Australian, New South Wales and Victorian governments accepted that these practices were sustainable under the existing management regime.

The forests provide a good demonstration of the Ramsar Convention's `wise use' principle and I am confident that, under current management arrangements, they are being managed in accordance with Australia's obligations under the Convention.

On 14 November 2003 the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, of which I am member, took an historic First Step decision to address the declining health of the River Murray system. One of the key elements of the First Step decision is a focus on maximising environmental benefits for six significant ecological assets, including the enhancement of forest, fish and wildlife values in the Barmah-Millewa forest.

My Department will continue to work with the relevant management authorities, the community and the Barmah-Millewa Forum to ensure the forests are being managed appropriately.