PERFECT weather ensured the Prom was looking at its sparkling best last Saturday when a huge crowd assembled on the beach at Tidal River. Together the 1200 bushwalkers, parks friends and campers formed the letters of a message for the state government and its plans to allow private development inside Victoria’s national parks – HANDS OFF PARKS!
As dusk fell, the protestors, including many locals who treasure Wilsons Promontory and other national parks and want to keep them free of private development, turned on their torches and their message shone out in a spectacular show of sparkling lights.
The human sign re-enacted the famous – and successful – December 1996 community protest against a proposed hotel development at the Prom.
The peaceful and relaxed event was organised by the Victorian National Parks Association, Friends of the Prom and Prom Campers Association.
“National parks and conservation reserves are the cornerstone of our efforts to protect nature for future generations,” said Matt Ruchel, executive director at the Victorian National Parks Association.
He said the message for the Victorian Government and all political parties was clear:
- Private developments and other abuses of our national parks are not welcome.
- The law the Victorian government has just passed, allowing 99-year leases in national parks for private developers, is not acceptable.
- Opening up national parks and conservation areas for cattle grazing, prospecting, logging or other forms of inappropriate development are not on.
- Cuts to funding for national parks need to be reversed.
Sue Macgregor, president of the Prom Campers Association, said Victorians are proud of their national parks and want them protected, not opened up to private development with 99 year leases.
“The Prom is precious to many Victorians, but all of Victoria’s national parks and conservation areas are critical for nature conservation and already provide low cost rest, respite and recreation for millions of people each year,” she said.
Community groups are calling for recent changes to Victoria’s National Parks Act, which allows 99-year leases for private owners in two thirds of the parks estate, to be reversed.“Tourism developments are best placed on private land outside but adjacent to parks, or in regional centres,” Mr Ruchel said.
“National parks and conservation reserves are the cornerstone of our efforts to protect nature for future generations. They are not cow paddocks, they are not for mining, and they are certainly not playthings for private resort developers.”