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New alpine grazing trial

Depending on who you listen to, the Victorian Government’s latest grazing trial in the Alpine National Park is a sinister ruse or a crucial alpine management tool.

CATHY WALKER December 3, 2013 4:04am

Cattle being moved through the Alpine bush.


Depending on who you listen to, the Victorian Government’s latest grazing trial in the Alpine National Park is a sinister ruse or a crucial alpine management tool.

The Victorian National Parks Association called the new trial ‘‘more of the same — a favour for cattlemen mates dressed up as fire and land management’’.

But mountain cattlemen, backed by the VFF, called on the Federal Government to fast-track the reintroduction of alpine grazing to Victoria.

‘‘Cattle grazing is not appropriate in national parks and this seems to be a back door way of getting cheap grazing for their cattlemen mates again. It’s a park not a paddock,’’ Victorian National Parks Association spokesman Phil Ingamells said.

The proposed grazing trial has been moved to a lower altitude river flat in the Wonnangatta Valley, which has not been grazed by cattle since it was bought and included in the Alpine National Park in 1988.

‘‘This new trial appears to be an admission by the Napthine Government that cattle don’t belong on the high plains, where the earlier and widely criticised trial was started,’’ Mr Ingamells said.

Both sides would agree the issue will be a test for new Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who has to adjudicate on the Victorian Government’s plan to return cattle to the high country.

VFF Omeo Branch president and mountain cattleman Simon Turner said: ‘‘We are hoping that commonsense prevails and that the ecological future of our alpine regions can be protected.

‘‘The former Labor Government’s refusal to revive alpine grazing has damaged the alps,’’ Mr Turner said.

‘‘Not only has it left the area bushfire prone, it has risked wiping out a 200-year-old tradition.’’

But the parks association said contrary to what cattlemen claim, the Wonnangatta river flat had been actively managed by Parks Victoria to reduce weed infestation, particularly cape broom, and by using fire to restore native grasslands that protect vulnerable native plants.

‘‘The Napthine Government has its priorities wrong,’’ Mr Ingamells said.

‘‘His government has already spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff time, lawyers and media blitzes trying to justify its attempts to return cattle to the national park, when there is abundant evidence that cattle grazing in the alps is not effective in reducing bushfires, and does considerable harm to the high country.’’

Last week, Greater Shepparton City Council stopped short of calling specifically for cattle grazing to be investigated in the municipality’s state and national parks.

Councillors had debated a motion Cr Dennis Patterson introduced for the council to lobby the Victorian and federal governments to investigate grazing to mitigate the risk of bushfire.

The motion applied to Lower Goulburn National Park and Shepparton Regional Park.

However, Cr Michael Polan successfully amended the motion to remove the reference to cattle grazing.

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