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Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Page: 1795


Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (19:35): I rise to speak about environmental sustainability in Indi and the importance of planning for the long term use of our resources and ecosystems. I come to this topic neither as a greenie or a conservative, but rather as a farmer, researcher and sixth generation resident. I believe that planning for the future use of our environments must be directed by science, research and community knowledge. I provide this caveat because I know how political the issue of environmental sustainability can be. There are many controversial environmental issues facing my electorate. Water is a big one: how it is used, who owns it, how state legislation affects cross-border neighbours and how decisions affecting different points of the water cycle are made.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is very important to my electorate as 50 per cent of the water in the basin originates in Indi. Climate change and how we respond is a topic of great importance. My electorate is home to Victoria's ski fields and the effects of a changing climate can be seen most obviously up on the mountains during winter. Environmental tourism in our national parks is a major income earner. How we balance human use with the needs of the ecosystem can be controversial. Bushfires and how communities develop strategies to mitigate and respond to them is also controversial. Agriculture and forestry are the largest employers in the Indi community and we want to maintain our strong manufacturing base.

Other issues raised by my constituents include: the impact of new and existing infrastructure on the natural environment, responding to our growing energy needs, mining and coal seam gas exploration, balancing population growth with the quality of rural and regional life, the sustainability and security of our dams, population pressure on fragile environments, and alpine grazing where science versus tradition.

This diverse list of issues has an equally diverse array of opinions and solutions in our community. Research undertaken in 2013 by the community based organisation Voice For Indi found that people love living in Indi because of the natural beauty, the four distinct seasons, the clean air, the natural environment and the sense of community. People told us that the proximity to Melbourne and Canberra is important, but having a rural lifestyle still rich with community and cultural activities, with great food and wine, amenities and services that were affordable, make Indi a great place to live.

The people of Indi fundamentally care about their environment. They choose to live close to the mountains, rivers and valleys, where there is clean water and fresh air. They want a sustainable future for their children and they want the beauty of the environment to be maintained. It is my belief that the time is right to engage in a conversation with our communities, our businesses and our government representatives with the aim of creating a comprehensive, long-term strategic plan to direct our use of our environmental resources into the future.

Currently no such plan exists. It is much easier to polarise and to blame our political adversaries. One thing I know for sure: the answer to our environmental challenges does not lie in doing this. We need to plan for the future in Indi and we need these plans to be based on our best science and research and community participation.

A plan needs to acknowledge that we have multiple uses for our land and multiple expectations—leisure, manufacturing, farming, mining, timber, grazing and water harvesting, to name a few. I believe these are all essential to our future and can be compatible. A plan needs to be realistic and innovative. I know that the process of building consensus can be challenging but it must be achieved to secure our future prosperity. I know that my community has the knowledge and the passion and as we plan for our environmental future we must bring our communities with us.

The people of Indi want to work together with the government. We want to base our environmental planning and policies on the best science and research available to us. The communities of Indi know that a plan is needed for our long-term industry and businesses and the quality of our life to be preserved. With these comments in mind, I ask that the government, when it makes its decision on grazing in our national parks, considers the wishes of the people of Indi, considers the science, the research and the long-term sustainability of our environment. Thank you.