Australia — There has already been much damage caused six weeks into a cattle grazing trial in Victoria’s high country, the federal government says.
Canberra wants the Victorian government to scrap the trial but Premier Ted Baillieu has vowed to push ahead.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said he found extensive damage to the state’s Alpine National Park during a tour on Friday. He said he was still investigating whether the Victorian government had broken federal law when it reintroduced 400 cattle to the park six weeks ago. But he said the move breached an environmental principle.
“Using a national park as a farm is wrong, simple as that,” he told reporters on-site at the park.
“You can see already in just a few weeks the damage that’s being done.
“There’s a separate question as to whether or not it breaches federal law. That’s something I need to take further advice on from the department – as to whether federal law is breached.”
The state government is trialling cattle grazing as a tool for bushfire fuel reduction in the high country. Four hundred cows were introduced to six sites across the park.
Mr Burke said the Victorian government was yet to provide any information to the federal Environment Department which supported the scientific merit of the trial.
“My department has been asking for information about this so-called scientific grazing for some time.
“The information that’s come to us so far hasn’t shown any evidence that they even did a base-line study as to what the situation was before the cattle were introduced.”
Mr Baillieu said he was confident the grazing was not damaging the national park.
“Our mission is to reduce the fuel load in bushfire prone areas and strategic grazing has been used before and we want to have that capacity available to us in the future and this project will proceed with that in mind,” he told reporters on Friday.
The Mountain Cattlemens Association president Mark Coleman questioned the value of Mr Burke’s day-trip to the national park.
“What we’ve seen in past is people coming up for five minutes,” he said.
“You’ve got to see the environment over a long period of time to make a judgment.”
Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt plans to introduce a bill to ban alpine grazing to federal parliament next week.