Australia — The Gillard government’s dramatic intervention has elevated Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu’s election promise of returning cattle to the state’s alpine areas to a national environmental issue and, potentially, a constitutional stoush.
Charlie Lovick, a sixth-generation cattleman who worked as a horsemaster on the film The Man from Snowy River, said grazing was essential to protect the alps from bushfire and the heritage of the high country horsemen.
“It is so important for the welfare of the alps that this be challenged,” he said at his property at Merrijig, at the base of the alps.
“It is so important that our knowledge of this country is not ignored.”
Mr Lovick said mountain cattlemen would back the state government all the way in its challenge to protect the alps from bushfires and maintain the heritage of high country grazing.
Mr Burke dismissed as a “joke” the submissions put forward by the Baillieu government to justify its alpine grazing trial, which is part of a study to determine whether cattle reduce ground fuel and the risk of bushfire in the high country.
He also condemned the state government’s failure to seek commonwealth approval before embarking on the six-year trial.
Mr Burke said he had asked his department to investigate whether Victoria had broken national environmental laws.
“Every Australian company knows they’re not above national law,” Mr Burke said. “Victoria decided maybe they were; well, they’re now in for a shock. They’re not above the law and by April 8 the cattle will be out.”
On March 1, the minister set Victoria a two-week deadline to provide all the relevant information about the reintroduction.
“The information that has eventually come from the Victorian government is a joke,” Mr Burke said in Canberra yesterday.
“For something that is meant to be a university research project, we’re provided with documentation that wouldn’t pass as high-school science homework.
“We cannot have a situation where the Victorian government wants to treat national parks as though the environment is a joke. We have cattle stomping all over areas of national environmental significance.”
Mr Lovick, whose family arrived in the high country in 1860, said the federal government intervention was a “green-driven decision”. He vowed to continue to run his cattle in the national park, in accordance with his contract with the Victorian government, until ordered to do otherwise.
“How many generations do you have to go back before people realise that you have a wealth of knowledge?” he said. “We see ourselves as the caretakers here.
“We think we know the country backwards.
“There is no other way of reducing the fuel in the snow-gum country other than grazing.”