Australia — Cattle will no longer graze in Victoria’s Alpine National Park with the state government shelving the trial.
The former coalition government had reintroduced cattle to the park this year, under a three-year trial to look at the role of grazing in preventing fire risk.
But Environment Minister Lisa Neville has written to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to advise the trial has been terminated.
“The coalition wasted money on court challenges and trial after trial when the science is clear – grazing in the high country is detrimental to the environment and it has no value in reducing fuel loads or bushfire risk,” Ms Neville said.
Labor pledged before the election that it will fix a legislative loophole allowing the trial to proceed.
It says there is already overwhelming scientific evidence showing cattle do not reduce the risk of fire in Victoria’s Alpine areas.
Ms Neville has directed the environment and primary industries department to write to other parties involved to advise the trial is terminated.
The trial’s first stage began in March, with 57 head of cattle introduced in Wonnangatta Valley.
300 head of cattle were due to be re-introduced on January 1 for stage two but now this stage will not go ahead.
The state government has also ordered a review of the Alpine advisory committee to ensure its providing the best advice on how to manage the park and protect its heritage, including conservation, fire loads and bushfire risk.
The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) welcomed the news – calling the former trials flawed.
VNPA executive director Matt Ruchel said the decision meant cattle can now stay in paddocks where they belong, instead of trampling one of Victoria’s finest natural areas.
“It has been clearly demonstrated that cattle grazing doesn’t reduce fire risk in the high country,” Mr Ruchel said.
“There will now be no cattle grazing in the national parks of the alpine regions of the ACT, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, and that’s how it should be.
“It’s time to move on.”
Mountain Cattlemen Association of Victoria president Charlie Lovick has slammed the decision made by Mr Andrews, describing the announcement as “totally disrespectful”.
He said it seemed everyone else knew about the news before he did.
“We were the contracted party to the previous government and DEPI and we still have no official warning that it is over,” Mr Lovick said.
“Mr Andrews’ platform was that he would treat everyone with respect, but we’re obviously the enemy.
“And if they want us to be the enemy we will be.”
Mr Lovick, a sixth generation high-country cattle farmer, said from the start, his association said they would accept the umpire’s decision at the completion of the three-year trial.
But he feels robbed by the government’s decision.
“It doesn’t seem like we can do anything now,” he said.
“But governments come and go – the fight is not over.”