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Healthy Parks – Wealthy People

hpwp

 

For many years the various organisations that have run Victorian Parks have had an objective of increasing visitor numbers. The most recent incarnation, Parks Victoria, has gained a new objective – a greater proportion of Parks expenditure is to be raised from users and less is to be provided through government budgets. Are the two objectives compatible? The recently released Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) and its proposed increases in camping fees assumes the two objectives are compatible. I believe the RIS uses weak research and an avoidance of challenging questions to maintain this pretence. Here is why.

Horizontal equity – merely an excuse for regressive cost shifting:

The fundamental objective of the RIS is cost recovery for camping in parks. This objective is partially justified by the principle of horizontal equity. Stripped to its basics as used in the RIS, this is the principle that all users should pay the full costs of the camping services they use in Victorian Parks. No one group of campers should subsidise another. There are two problems with this simplistic principle.

  • Why should horizontal equity only be applied to campers. Why should it not be applied to day visitors or to those who derive benefit merely from knowing that Parks exist and are accessible? The answer is that campers are more easily regulated.
  • More importantly, the proposed fee structure will apply the same nominal costs to campers irrespective of income and so will discriminate against lower income campers who will be required to pay a greater proportion of their disposable income to camp. Its impact will be felt most strongly by those who choose camping as an affordable form of recreation. This is hardly horizontal equity. It is a form of regressive taxation. This regressivity will change camping behaviour in ways not anticipated in the RIS.

Most camping visitation is to low cost options – suggesting price influences camping choices

Three quarters of camping visits are to basic and very basic camp sites. Currently these sites have modest fees. The high useage suggests price is likely a factor in the choices of many of campers. This issue is dismissed by the RIS using short citations from a study by Deakin University. Too little detail is provided to determine if sample used in the study is representative of the high number of users of low-cost sites. But if the sample is representative, half of the respondents suggested they would choose another option if camping prices rose. This limited evidence of camping ‘price elasticity’ is dismissed in the RIS with no explanation. This is a fatal flaw in the RIS logic.

Price elasticity of camping demand – higher prices will divert campers

The charging of a $13 fee for a basic camp option may have little impact on the use of these facilities. However, most car-based camping sites that have till now been used as low-cost camping options are being re-classified as mid or high cost camping sites. The case of the Grampians is instructive. All eleven car-based camping sites in the Grampians have been classified as mid or high level service. Currently the majority are low cost options. After the new fees are applied, no low-cost options will remain. The daily fee per vehicle in any of these sites will be between $34 and $50 – a rise of between 170% and 300%. This is a very hefty rise. Despite the scale of proposed fee increases, the RIS makes no real attempt to assess the impact on visitation, other than to cite a poorly designed question in the Deakin survey which asked respondents if they were willing to pay a ‘reasonable’ fee. The concept of ‘reasonable’ is in the eye of the beholder. I imagine few respondents would have considered a 300 per cent rise to be reasonable. It appears the survey gave no indication of the potential scale of fee rises. This makes the survey useless as anything other than a tool for opportunistic citation. And this is how the RIS has used it. To paraphrase its argument- campers agree they would pay a reasonable charge. We define a 300 per cent increase is reasonable. Therefore campers will accept this fee increase. This is hardly credible analysis.

The survey should now be repeated and users asked whether the proposed fee increases are reasonable and whether they would be willing to pay them. We all know that the response to these questions would be very different to the repsonse in the Deakin survey. The outcome of the proposed fee increase can be predicted with reasonable confidence:

  • Fewer camping visit: A significant proportion of low income (and possibly other) campers will reduce their visitation to formal campsites. Some may convert to day visitation. Some may not visit.
  • Diversion to commercial facilities: Some current users will make an assessment that the price charged for basic Parks Vic camp sites is significantly more expensive than commercial campsites that offer services unavailable in Parks sites – hot showers, washing machines and camp kitchens etc. They will divert to commercial options. [This raises a suspicion that the fee rise is partly designed to increase the profits of private operators – particularly any future operators buying the new 99 year leases of park land]
  • Informal and illegal camping will increase. The RIS acknowledges that non-compliance with fees is already high (60 per cent). The fee rises proposed will provide a vastly increased incentive for non-compliance. Parks will need to either increase surveillance of informal camping areas, or accept lower revenue and the potential threat to park values.

Is the future will remote campsites be closed due to negative returns?

If maintaining park visitation was considered a real objective of Parks Victoria, much greater consideration would have been given to the price elasticity and cross-elasticity’s of camping. There would have been a serious attempt to estimate the level of fee increase that could be achieved without reducing visitation. The absence of such a consideration from the RIS suggests that revenue raising is now the over-riding objective of Parks Victoria. If the proposed fee increases do reduce visitation, divert campers to commercial facilities and increase informal camping, the revenue estimates in the RIS will be proved grossly optimistic. Little additional revenue will be raised, but visitation will have shrunk.

At the same time, increased illegal camping and non-compliance will require the diversion of Parks Victoria staff, if not to enforce revenue targets, at least to protect park values where these might be threatened by informal camping. This will either increase Parks Victoria’s costs, or more likely decrease the investment of Parks Victoria budget in the rest of the work needed to protect our Parks.

If these predictions become reality, Parks Victoria will face the realisation that many lower level service and remote camp sites will never be self-funding. Given the current climate, the next logical step would be to close these campsites as unviable. This future seems quite at odds with an objective of increasing park visitation. Park visitation will become a recreation only for the wealthy able to afford to stay in the higher level facilities (more than $200 a night) or in whatever up-market facilities are created on the 99 year leases. These will not provide low cost camping. Parks Victoria could then change the logo on its vehicles from “Healthy Parks – Healthy People” to “Healthy Parks – Wealthy People”. This would only require repainting one letter and should be affordable within the currently stretched Parks Victoria budget. At least then we would all know where we stood. Parks exist to serve those able to pay hefty visitor fees. The alternative is a fundamental rethink of Parks Victoria priorities and an investment in credible research.

[Open Spaces: This piece was provided by one of our regular readers and who wishes to remain anonymous. It follows on from Glenn Tempest’s short blog/response to the Victorian National Parks Camping and Accommodation Fees Regulatory Impact Statement (Healthy Parks, Wealthy People) from last week. ]

 

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Healthy Parks, Wealthy People

Victorian National Parks Camping and Accommodation Fees – Regulatory Impact Statement
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) has released a proposal for a user-pays approach to charges for camping and roofed accommodation in parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria.
Victorians are invited to provide comment on the regulatory impact statement by 22 November 2013.

I just emailed the following response to the Victorian Government/DEPI (Department of Environment and Primary Industries) in relation to the Victorian National Parks Camping and Accommodation Fees Regulatory Impact Statement. If you feel strongly about these fee increases then I suggest you provide comment by the above date.

……………………………………………

As a regular park user and author/publisher of some of Victoria’s most popular bushwalking and rockclimbing guides I would like to voice my strenuous objection to the proposed increases to camping fees within our parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria.

Having read the proposal I cannot help but be impressed at the Victorian Government/DEPI in having created one of the most confusing, inconsistent and badly worded documents that I’ve ever read. Was this proposal rushed or is it deliberately obtuse?

There are so many issues regarding these proposals that it’s difficult to know where to start. Firstly, however, I have to say that I’m astounded at the size of the proposed increase in camping fees. A fee of almost $50 for an individual to stay one night at a campground designated as having a ‘high’ level of facility and service is simply outrageous. If these massive fee increases are intended to drastically lower the number of overnight visitors to our parks and reserves then you are definitely going about it the right way. Especially affected will be those in our society who are less well off. My suggestion is that instead of promoting ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’, Parks Victoria can change its message to, ‘Healthy Parks, Wealthy People’.

Many park users are travelers who don’t plan ahead but simply ‘roll-up’ to various campgrounds. So who thought it was a good idea to confine those park users to an online booking system upon arrival at the campground? A smart phone and a credit card appears to be the only solution but plenty of people still don’t own a smart phone (although if you confine our parks to wealthy users then this may not be such a problem!). Unfortunately even those with smart phones are not always going to get reception. I hope that Parks Victoria will take a lenient view of all of those (roll-ups, gray nomads, etc) that will end up breaking the law through no fault of their own.

One certain result of these proposed campground increases will be that many park users will turn to bush camping to reduce their costs. Unfortunately this will result in an increase in environmental damage. This proposal indicates that substantial bush camping fees will also be introduced. As a regular bush camper I cannot wait to hear exactly how this will be policed. It’s simply not fair that an already overworked and greatly diminished Parks Victoria staff be turned into a rural version of Melbourne’s ticket inspectors.

Cheers,

Glenn Tempest

………………………………………

Written submissions should be forwarded by 5:00pm Friday 22 November 2013 via either of the following:

Post
Camping and Accommodation Fees
Land Management Policy Division
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Level 3, 8 Nicholson Street
EAST MELBOURNE VIC 3002

 

Online
Email: camping.RIS@depi.vic.gov.au

DEPI RIS Page link: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/forestry-and-land-use/visiting-parks-and-forests/national-parks-camping-and-accommodation-fees

Fact sheet: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/205971/Victorian-National-Parks-Camping-and-Accommodation-Fees-Regulatory-Impact-Statement-October-2013-Fact-Sheet.pdf

RIS executive statement: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/205519/Victorian-National-Parks-Camping-and-Accommodation-Fees-Regulatory-Impact-Statement-October-2013-Executive-Summary.pdf

RIS statement: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/205517/Victorian-National-Parks-Camping-and-Accommodation-Fees-Regulatory-Impact-Statement-October-2013.pdf

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Mt Donna Buang, 1914; Sawmills and War

I found this really interesting article in The Argus from Friday, March 27th 1914. Reading it made me realise that logging in the Upper Yarra Valley was already of an environmental concern even 98 years ago. Exactly three months after this article appeared in the press, World War 1 broke out and Australia changed forever. Who knows, perhaps this early show of distaste against the actions of the logging industry may have taken root had it not been for two consecutive world wars. The photograph below is sourced from the State Library of Victoria. It is titled View of track through forest on Mount Donna Buang, Victoria’ and was taken in 1911. The photograph ‘Gully at Five-Mile Bend on road to Cement Creek’ accompanied the original article.

 

THE GULLIES OF DONNA BUANG
BEAUTIFUL TOURIST RESORT. DISAPPEARING BEFORE THE AXE
The Argus, Friday, March 27th, 1914.

Under the shadow of Donna Buang, within five miles of the little town of Warburton, are some of the most beautiful gullies in all the Victorian hills. The longest summer does not dry their sparkling streams, nor warm the cool air in the shaded glens. Ancient peace reigned there until the ring of the axe lately drove the lyre bird from its haunt among the fern. The mountain is being stripped of its beauty for the cash value of its stately trees.

Two or three years ago the Department of Public Works entered upon the construction of a coach road from the township of Warburton to the top of Mount Donna Buang, where snow lies in the winter some times 4ft deep. From the top of this peak the traveler looks down on the valley of the Yarra and the villages clustering along its banks. Far up into the farther hills both the river and the Woods Point road wander like two ribbons through the forest’s dark green. Realising the aesthetic value of the beautiful gullies and the lofty mountain peak, the department spent the sum of £3000 on the construction of the road. There was no cooperation, however, between the Forest department and the Department of Public Works. The object of the latter was to see that the money was not wasted by the destruction of the gullies and mountain streams that were expected to attract thousands of tourists to the place. The interest of the Forestry department seems to have been to obtain the greatest possible revenue from the saw-millers in the form of royalty on the trees cut down. After a delay of nearly two years, a reservation, only three chains wide, on either side of the road has been made by the Forestry department, after some of the most beautiful gullies have been either spoiled or quite destroyed. Even if the three chain belt is left untouched, the narrow strip will not conceal the bare mountain side beyond. The beauty of the gullies will be gone.

The road winds northward round the range until it reaches the head waters of the Cement Creek. This stream flows down a deep gully thick with ferns and moss- covered beech trees through which the tall mountain ash tower like the pillars of a vast cathedral. The bottom of the gully and the valley beyond cannot be seen. Only the echoes of the stream as it splashes far below, reach the ear with a soft, inland murmur. The road makes a sharp bend here, and a space has been made, wide enough for a coach and team to turn. The water bubbles from the mountain side the whole year through. Even now, in spite of the long, dry summer, the ground is still wet, and the air so cool that it strikes the traveler with a chill. How long this will last one cannot say, for a little further down the gully, so near that the steam whistle breaks discordantly through the stillness, a sawmill is busily at work, cutting its way through the bush for the sake of a few payable trees to be obtained. Before long all but the narrow strip reserved from destruction will be cleared. The beauty of the gully will disappear, and the creek, in all probability become a winter torrent, leaving in summer a paltry stream of water trickling down the seared mountain side.

These gullies have other values than the market price of the trees now growing in them. If properly preserved, they would bring to the district and to the state far more revenue and abiding wealth than the royalty, which for a little while, the saw-miller will pay. Around the road, particularly where it crosses the Cement Creek, a sufficient area should be reserved to maintain at least the illusion that the traveler is in the heart of a mountain forest.

 

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Hunting in our Parks: a Deal with the Devil?

Coming to a national park near you?

On June 20, 2012, the Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill is to be debated in the NSW Legislative Assembly. This Bill proposes to allow hunters largely unrestricted access to many of the best NSW national parks and reserves. A list of the proposed parks can be found here. If this Bill eventually passes it will directly effect how we as a nation are seen to manage and care for the future of our most precious natural landforms. But first, it’s worth looking at why NSW is considering such a backward step.

Despite what appeared to be a pre-election pledge to keep the state’s electricity assets in public hands, NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, announced in late November that his government was to sell off the state’s electricity generators. His comments that the state would retain ownership of the ‘poles and wires’ infrastructure couldn’t hide the fact that this was a major policy back-flip. The vast majority of the NSW public don’t want their electricity generators to be privatised, and who can blame them. There is plenty of evidence around the world that electricity privatisation almost always results in higher prices for the consumer and higher dividends for major shareholders (such as banks and pension funds). Here in Australia this has certainly been the case for both Victoria and South Australia where electricity prices have skyrocketed since privatisation, yet institutions have grown fat on the profits. There is also evidence that privatised electricity companies deliberately hinder the uptake of alternative green energy, which they see as potentially eroding future profit margins.

Unfortunately for Barry O’Farrell there was a fly in his ointment. The electricity privatisation bill had sailed through the NSW lower house in March but now sat gathering dust in the upper house. This is because the NSW Liberal/Nationals don’t have the numbers to pass it into legislation under their own steam. But all was not lost. The NSW Shooters and Fishers Party are represented in the NSW upper house by Robert Brown and Robert Borsak and it’s no secret that they want hunting access to NSW national parks. Of course the vast majority of park users are against the prospect of wholesale hunting in parks if only from a safety point of view. But the Shooters and Fishers Party quickly recognised this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. And so it was that the NSW Government and the Shooters and Fishers Party started negotiations. The fact that the NSW Government had already pledged that there would be no hunting in National Parks was not going to get in the way of the electricity privatisation Bill.

Just for the record, this is is an exchange made in the NSW Legislative Assembly in August of 2011 between Ryan Park, Labor member for Keira and Robyn Parker (NSW Minister for Environment).

Mr RYAN PARK: My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment. ….. what assurances can the Minister give that hunting in national parks will not be reconsidered in return for the support of the Shooters and Fishers Party for her Government’s legislative agenda?

Ms ROBYN PARKER: How predictable. The policy of the New South Wales Government is clear: hunting in national parks is not permitted. I say that very slowly for the slow learner on the Opposition backbench. Parks receive over 35 million visits per year and we provide among other things facilities for visitors to our State, and I advise the member opposite that shooting is not compatible with visitations to our national parks. The member has wasted yet another question. For the benefit of those opposite I repeat that the policy of the New South Wales Government is clear: Hunting in national parks is not and will not be permitted.

Source: Hansard Transcript

But as we know, when it comes to politics truth is the first casualty. Barry O’Farrell needed a deal and if that meant going back on his assurances that there would be no hunting in national parks then so be it.

On May 30 the NSW Government suddenly announced that changes to the Game and Feral Animal Control Act would allow for hunting within 34 National Parks, 31 Nature Reserves and 14 State Conservation Areas. Apparently this equates to roughly 40% of the land area controlled by NSW National Parks and Wildlife. It was a victory for the state’s hunters and a shock to the vast majority of park users who had believed the government’s assurances that this would never happen. Then in late May the Shooters and Fishers Party introduced the Feral Animal Control Bill 2012. This bill proposes to:

  • Allow the minister to make National Parks available “for the hunting of game animals by persons who hold a game hunting license“.
  • Allow for “expanding the list of game animals” that can be hunted on public land.
  • Prevent anti-hunting protesting by making in an offence “to interfere with a person who is lawfully hunting game animals on public hunting land” (including national parks).

Having served as a member of the Victorian Government’s Alpine Advisory Committee during 2010-11 and as a long-time bushwalker, rockclimber and cross-country skier, I well understand the problems we face with feral animals in our parks and reserves. Hell, I even recognise the need for some parks and reserves to be closed for short periods during which strictly managed feral culling can occur (such as what happens periodically in the Gammon Ranges in South Australia). However, I also believe that feral animal control first requires monitoring, evaluation and research. To allow hunters into a national park without scientific scrutiny is not the way to address the feral animal problem. I also don’t believe that hunters are doing this simply because they are suddenly concerned about the environment. In truth they simply want to hunt and there are plenty of hunters out there who are not particularly concerned about what they shoot. And do we really want to have hunters wandering around with high-powered rifles in parks where we are meant to be enjoying ourselves with our families?

As Tim Vollmer (The Fat Canyoners) so eloquently phrased it on his controversial blog, “To put it bluntly, feral animals are a serious issue, but one best addressed by professionals relying on science, not red-necks relying on firepower”.

Should this Bill be passed I can’t help fearing that it may just be the tip of the iceberg and that other states (under pressure of the politically connected shooting lobby) may eventually open up their national parks to hunting. This is something that should concern us all.

Please visit the National Parks Association of NSW for further details.

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Falcons Lookout Trail Improvements

Last December Glenn Tempest wrote a blog (Problems with Falcons Lookout and Ironbark Gorge Carpark) commenting on the awful state of the walkers/climbers trail into Falcons Lookout at Werribee Gorge State Park. This trail is one of the most heavily used in Victoria and can see anything up to 60 people use it a day. Since then Parks Victoria have gone some way to fixing the issue. The works were not quite finished when we were there on Sunday but there is already a welcome improvement. However, despite these works, using pine boards in this manner is only really a temporary measure. In a couple of years time the boards will have almost certainly collapsed and we will again be faced with the same issues of erosion and user safety. Glenn pointed out in his original blog that “it may be simpler, cheaper and quicker to realign this section of the trail down the spur 20m or so to the west, then cut it back to the point at where the original trail reaches the bottom of the gully.”. In the long term this is probably true, but Parks Victoria is cash-strapped (see Glenn Tempest’s Parks Victoria: Death by a Thousand Cuts) and probably can’t afford the cost of these works. Looks like we will have to put up with band-aid measures for a long time to come.

Update May 2013
Looks like Parks Victoria have recently added more timber to the steps. Once again an improvement.

CameraZOOM-20130519164237672

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Parks Victoria: Death By a Thousand Cuts.

This Easter weekend some state and national parks are facing industrial action by Parks Victoria rangers belonging to the Community and Public Sector Union. Most likely this will involve the locking of gates to parks which have single points of entry. The union has been in ongoing enterprise bargaining negotiations with the Victorian Government, having stated that Parks Victoria staff have not had a pay rise in almost two years. The sticking point is that the Baillieu government is refusing to increase its offer of a 2.5 per cent annual pay rise, plus whatever trade-offs can be obtained via productivity improvements. What makes this all the more unpalatable to the rangers is that 48 executive officers in the Department of Sustainability and Environment (the department that overlooks Parks Victoria), have shared a windfall bonus of $655,000 for the last financial year. That is an average of $13,645 for each officer.

Interestingly, the Baillieu government has declared that they will have no hesitation to putting on non-unionised strike breakers’ to re-open the park gates to the public. Environment Minister Ryan Smith commented that “It’s extremely disappointing to hear that the unions are trying to lock Victorian families out of our parks this Easter weekend”.

On the surface this may appear to be a simple wage dispute, but in fact it’s just a symptom of a larger and much more serious disease. It’s no secret that Parks Victoria is suffering from chronic underfunding. Parks and reserves across Victoria are seeing the results of decades of government cut-backs. These funding cuts effect our parks and reserves in many ways. From the supply of basic amenities (such as toilet rolls), all the way to establishing and maintaining user facilities such as walking and mountain bike trails as well as creating new management and environmental plans for the future. Looking after our public spaces is, quite simply, a massive job and if it is to be done correctly it will require substantial government funding.

The Cathedral Range State Park (just outside Melbourne) is a good example of just how much things have changed. Fifteen years ago there were three rangers looking after this very busy park (and the nearby small Buxton Gum Reserve). Over the intervening years the number of rangers have been reduced until today there is only one ranger visiting the park on two days a week. Other Parks, such as Mt Beckworth Scenic Reserve and Mt Alexander Regional Park are good examples of public lands that have been all but abandoned due to lack of funds.

Regular readers of this blog know that although I’m a big supporter of Parks Victoria I’m also very critical of the gradual disintegration of our parks and reserves. Many Parks Victoria rangers do an amazing job in increasingly difficult circumstances. One of my ranger friends commented that ‘productivity improvements’ was in fact government speak for ‘saving money’. For bushwalkers this usually means letting walking trails and signage vanish. Fewer trails and lower maintenance means less money spent. Projections indicate that Melbourne will have a population of 5 million by 2020. With increasing numbers of users visiting our parks the question we should be asking is how exactly are Parks Victoria supposed to do a good job with correspondingly less money to spend.

Over the Easter period the following parks may be closed. Before we start getting angry with the rangers who are closing these parks perhaps we should consider the much bigger picture.

1. Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens
2. Braeside Park
3. Buchan Caves Reserve
4. Cardinia Reservoir Park
5. Churchill National Park
6. Coolart Historic Area
7. Dandenong Valley Parklands
8. George Tindale Memorial Gardens
9. Lysterfield Park
10. Maribyrnong Valley Parklands
11. Maroondah Reservoir Park
12. Mount Buffalo National Park
13. National Rhododendron Garden
14. Organ Pipes National Park
15. Pirianda Gardens
16. Point Cook Coastal Park
17. Serendip Sanctuary
18. Silvan Reservoir Park
19. Tower Hill Reserve
20. Upper Yarra Reservoir Park
21. Werribee Gorge State Park
22. Wilsons Promontory National Park
23. Woodlands Historic Park
24. You Yangs Regional Park

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Dogs in Parks

As the Access & Environment Officer for CliffCare, many of the articles I write are aimed at providing information to climbers on best practices whilst out climbing. Not only does this help with becoming better informed but in the long run it helps with maintaining access to the areas we love to climb at.  And if you use them, it’s fair enough that you should take care of them. Quite recently I wrote an article on dogs in victorian parks following a reported incident of someone bringing a dog into a National Park.  As the original discussion was on an online forum, it soon degenerated into a slanging match but I did think that whilst there are many dog owners who probably flout the rules in this instance there are also those that aren’t really aware of the importance of not taking our furry friends into National Parks.  This discussion is of course, not limited to just climbers. So many outdoor pursuits, especially walking, seem to be the perfect activity to bring your best bud along. And there are parks you can take them to. But they aren’t National Parks.  The following information below was taken from a PV fact sheet and pretty much explains the reasons why it’s not so cool to bring Fido or Fifi along.

So before you head off for the day, weekend or week, check on the parks notices to make sure whether they’re welcome.

DOMESTIC DOGS
Parks Victoria recognises that dogs are popular recreation companions and contribute to people’s health and well-being. Walking with a dog has many benefits, such as reduced stress, enhanced mood, increased heart and lung fitness and a number of social benefits. Many people enjoy walking with their dog in natural areas, such as parkland, open space, bush and coastal areas and Parks Victoria provides a wide range of opportunities throughout Victoria for people to experience people to experience the great outdoors with their dogs.
CAN
As a general rule, dogs are permitted in parks or areas of parks where the primary management purpose is for recreation, e.g. Metropolitan Parks, Reservoir Parks, Regional Parks and Forest Parks.
CAN’T
Dogs are generally not permitted in parks and reserves where the primary management purpose is for conservation, e.g. parks managed under the National Parks Act 1975 (Vic.) and nature conservation reserves.

NATIONAL PARKS

Generally, domestic animals and other introduced animals such as dogs are not permitted in national parks established under the National Parks Act. This is to ensure that the park is managed in accordance with its objectives, to preserve and protect the natural environment and to conserve flora and fauna. Park rangers are often asked by visitors “why can’t I take my dog into the national park?” First and foremost, national parks are there to protect Australia’s native wildlife. They are vitally important for the many species whose survival is in danger. Dogs can have negative impacts on the natural and cultural values of parks, as well as impacts on the enjoyment and safety of other visitors.
Dogs can compete with or harass, chase, trample or prey upon native fauna, especially ground-dwelling species. Dogs can also disturb wildlife by their scent, sounds, scratching and digging. Dogs may also transmit diseases and parasites to native fauna, and their urine and excrement may attract wild dogs and foxes. Even if a dog is on a lead and is very obedient it would be impossible to have a rule which allowed some dogs (the quiet or small ones) into national parks and similar reserves but not others (the big and the boisterous).
Dogs are a potential source of annoyance, distress and sometimes harm to park visitors especially in camping and picnic areas, and when the animals are not under control. Some visitors are frightened of dogs or object to seeing dogs in parks because they are not part of the natural environment and make wildlife more difficult to observe. Dog droppings can cause offence to visitors, and have environmental, amenity and
health impacts.
Dogs are permitted in national parks for specific purposes.
These include:
Dogs which assist disabled people with their disability are permitted in all parks and reserves, with the exception of Wilderness Parks and areas closed to the public, e.g. Reference Areas
Dogs assisting police, SES or Defence Force in search and rescue or surveillance
Dogs in vehicles which are in transit through a national park on a major through-road / route travelling on bitumen roads which pass through national parks.

So after all of that – which may seem a little negative for dog owners who want to take their dogs to parks, I have listed below a selection of parks where they are more than welcome.

Albert Park 3km South of Melbourne CBD
Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park 10km South of Wonthaggi
Cape Conran Coastal Park 30km SE of Orbost
Cape Liptrap Coastal Park 10km South of Leongatha
Cardinia Reservoir Park 45km SE of Melbourne
Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park 60km East of Sale
Greenvale Reservoir Park 22km North of Melbourne
Hepburn Regional Park 5km West of Daylesford
Jells Park 20km East of Melbourne CBD
Karkarook Park 17km SE of Melbourne CBD
Kooyoora State Park 220km NW of Melbourne
Lerderderg State Park 75km East of of Melbourne
Macedon Regional Park 57km NW of Melbourne
Maroondah Reservoir Park 70km East of Melbourne
Murray-Kulkyne Park 50km South of Mildura
Silvan Reservoir Park 50km East of Melbourne
Westerfolds Park 16km NE of Melbourne CBD
Westgate Park 6km West of Melbourne CBD
Yarra Bend Park 4km North of Melbourne
You Yangs Regional Park 55km SW of Melbourne

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Tracey & Cams Excellent Sustainable Living Adventure

The marketplace

One of the great things that I love about the Sustainable Living Festival, which is held each year in February, is its ability to embrace all levels of the Sustainability tree. As with anything that requires people to rethink and change their mindset and lifestyles – it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to be thrown into the environmental deep end of renewable energy, coal seam gas controversies and energy targets and converse in a knowledgable way. Sure ,there are all of these things happening over the weekend via stalls, wandering petition hawkers and talks going on in various locations, all on the bigger picture. There is so much information available that your head could just explode by the end of it all. What I find great, is that besides the big picture events, is the plethora of little things that absolutely anyone can do, and understand and for much of it, are simple little changes that can lead people along towards the bigger picture. For those just starting their conscious journey into environmental sustainability, the lightheartedness and sometimes frivolity of it all, is the instant feel good factor that leaves you walking away thinking – “yes, I can make a difference by making a few little changes at a time

After our ride from Balwyn to Fed Square with a flat tyre just on the outskirts ( I took the opportunity for myself to have a little nana rest), it was perfect timing to then land in front of the pedal powered keg on wheels that is the Good Brew Company and indulge in a Magic Tea. Divine! A yummy mix of green tea, yerba mate, honey, water and lots of bubbles. What a fantastic pick-me-up. Cam and I shared one with every intention of then having another at the other end of the marketplace at their stand. I think possibly I gulped faster than he did and got the lion’s share of the bevvy.

edible weeds

Keen to pick up some more tips on more effective gardening – having recently made over 30 jars of jam and chutney from our way out west Mitre property’s, peach and nectarine crop – I have acquired the bug, and the joy that comes from feeding yourself from your own garden. Whilst certainly not in full stage permaculture mindset as yet, I am taking baby steps and hung around the VEG display area picking up some handy hints and things I can realistically implement in my own garden at present. I do so want some chooks but these will have to wait a little longer. I shall have to continue to get my chook fix at my next door neighbours. A highlight of my green garden experience though, would definitely be the Edible Weeds presentation. I have done a little research previously on this subject – having a huge array of weeds, especially on the house up at Mitre. Stinging nettles are well known for their edible and medicinal properties – I could probably supply half the Wimmera with tea from the amount that pops up there in the Springtime but I wanted to know what else is about. Doris Pozzi from Hello Little Weed gave an informative and very entertaining talk on easy to find weeds and even had samples to taste afterwards. Ok, so on my list of to-do’s – Melokeya and Egyptian dish-using mallow leaves, Dandelion pesto and I need to hunt down some Purslane – seriously yummy to just munch on. It’s a weed – but one that I don’t seem to have on my place. Not only does it taste great it contains one of the highly sought after Omega 3 Fatty Acids. I hear there is a great recipe for Cucumber/Purslane yoghurt salad. Looks like I’ll be joining the foragers hunting down all the goodies that are out there. Can you believe it? Over 20,000 edible plant species out there and we use only 20% of these to make up 90% of what we eat.

This is all about getting our heads out of the sand when it comes to what we are told we can eat. I’m sure they don’t all taste brilliant but with that kind of quantity available to us, I’m sure you can find something you like. And it’s free. And abundant. Wait till I tell my boys about the weed salad we’re having tonight! Whilst on the subject of food – after we had filled our stomachs to the brim with potato rosti, chutney and beetroot relish, we handed our plates over to the team of volunteers of Wash Against Waste What a brilliant initiative.

Wandering through the bike and treadlie market put together by BikeFest was a great opportunity to see the huge range of all things wheeled out there and to see those that are totally emeshed in their wheeled way of life and how it works on so many levels. Why, you can even have a smoothie whilst pedalling through the BikenBlend crew. I really wanted one but that huge potato rosti wasn’t allowing any more room.

Time was getting on and with a long ride back to Balwyn. Cam and I started our way back up to where we had parked the bikes. Not a quick trip – along the way we stopped to talk to various stallholders, chats with the Quit Coal campaign collective about the planned Bacchus Marsh open cut coal mine, a few more signatures and then planted our bums at the Tasmanian Land Conservancy where we acquired a living room sized piece of paradise for $3.00. Getting donations is not an easy thing to do when there are so many worthy projects to donate to, but I thought the

TLC had come up with an interesting and interactive way of gathering donations to help pay back the no interest loans they received from philanthropist organizations to purchase Tasmanian land to be protected forever. I chose a sofa with a view on the edge of Lake Ina. Cam obviously liked a view and (being near me) as he chose an adjoining sofa and living room. Very clever and very fun, we had a nice chat with the two volunteers manning the stalls and thought it a perfect way to round off our Sustainable Living Adventure.

If you have never been to the festival, mark it down in your diary for next year. A great festival, a wealth of information and to be oh so cliché about it – you do come away with a warm and fuzzy feeling. About the world. And about the people in it who care. I have another job at The Environmental Jobs Network where I share space with the guys and gals from the Sustainable Living Foundation and the hard work and passion that I see throughout the year is evident in the resulting festival.Go on. Make the effort – you know you want to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Open Spaces office

We usually write here about our various adventures, about product updates and other helpful things. Today I want to share with you some more personal things about Open Spaces – the space we inhabit and the animals who share it. It is not so common for businesses to give specifics about place or people. This is so staff and office arrangements can be changed when it is most economically viable to do so. We are not that kind of business. The place the business occupies – the office and its surroundings – is integral to the business, as are the staff and the authors who write our books. And not just in a ‘making the wheels of capitalism chug around’ kind of way. In the ‘we really like and care about you as a person’ kind of way, too.

Eco-resource central

Glenn is uber-passionate about recycling, re-using, conserving and generally running a business with as small an eco footprint as possible. He takes this so seriously that the office is built from the ground up with this in mind. It is housed in a converted weatherboard house, with the ingenious construction being worked out by Sunpower Design Consultants in Brunswick. There is a big glossy photo of the house on our about us page, but here are some more intimate shots, that hopefully give you a feel for the place.

There is rad decking all over the place at the office, since the block is super sloping…

All the stairs and decks help to create little microclimates for pernickety plants…

Polished concrete floors keep feet nice and cool all through summer. Peeking out from the top right corner is an Ikea desk leg and a computer which Glenn built himself! All the computers here are built up specifically for our requirements. This helps us get our work done with minimal interference from Microsoft Vista perils.

 

Outdoor ‘meeting room’

This is our cute little outdoor sitting space. When you’re sitting there looking out on the grass trees and the goldfish, it is is hard to imagine working anywhere else.

Making the books

Our books usually start with a good idea from an author. Sometimes it works the other way around, and we commission a good idea from an author. Once the author has done the hard work of writing it, we edit the text, shoot photos of the walking/riding trails or of the rockclimbs, and start making maps. Map making is a slow process involving combining various aspects of many different maps in order to get a map that clearly and accurately shows the area where the walk is, includes points of interest for walkers, and excludes almost everything else. This sounds so simple, but believe me, it takes a really long time. This is my job. Here are some pictures of the process…

Once the paper stage is over, we work on them digitally…

 

Distribution

Tracey is our kick-ass all round sorter outer of the things that make us money, and this includes packing up your books twice a week as the orders come in. Here is where it all happens…

The books get their own room and are lovingly protected from the elements. Here is one of our ace titles waiting to for orders: Grampians Bouldering by Dave Pearson and Chris Webb-Parsons.

And here is where the magic happens. Everything is super organised. Brown paper, check! Envelopes, check! Packing tape, check!

 

Office animals

No office should be without its office animals. Here we have about 20, but it most of them are fish. Here are a few of them in one of the many office ponds…

Here is another office pond (the big cauldron on the left)…

And last but definitely not least, the office cats. Pinot…

and Sushi…

These photos make them seem moodier than they are really (blame the iphone filter effects). Most of the time they sleep on the couch in the sun, reminding us what does not count as work.

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Cathedral Range Visitor Updates

Step construction at the Sugarloaf area

With plenty of work going on at the Cathedral Ranges, thought it would be good idea to get the information around. Not only are there major works going on with tracks, the new shelter and toilet facility is being built in the Sugarloaf area along with an Information Board to give visitors a little background of the area.

Laying the slab for new Shelter at Sugarloaf

The Jawbones track will be closed for major track works Monday to Friday from November the 29th until Christmas . This means the only access to the Farmyard and the Jawbone climbing areas is via Ned’s Gully or Sugarloaf Saddle. During this time period the track will reopen on weekends.

Also, please take note of the logging information below. As soon as PV have firm dates for when this work will actually begin we will let you know. St Bernards Track will most likely remain open for sometime yet. However Little River Track will close as soon as any works begin.

Logging of the pines at Cooks Mill will be recommencing this summer. At some stage in the near future machinery will be forming an access track through the central Cooks Mill campground and down the Little River Tr. Then the cutting of pines will begin. Over the Christmas holiday period the only logging activity taking place will be pine cutting from the 10th Jan, and log carting from the 17th Jan – all logging works will cease over the Australia Day weekend Friday, Saturday Sunday and Monday

The impacts logging will have on visitors are:

– Restricted camping around the central Cooks Mill area (Tweed Spur will remain open

– Closures to both Little River walking tr and St Bernards tr

– Sharing the road with logging trucks (after the 17th Jan, and possibly before Christmas)

– Machinery noise after the 10th of Jan and before Christmas.