The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has rejected the Victorian Government’s proposal to return cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park as ‘clearly unacceptable’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Victorian Government had referred the proposal to the Minister for assessment and approval under the Act. The Victorian government failed to refer the grazing to the Minister in early 2011, when it reintroduced cattle to the Park for the first time, resulting in the Minister eventually ordering the cattle out of the National Park under the Act. The Minister’s decision rejecting the second trial, and his reasons, are up now on the Environment Department’s website.
Under the EPBC Act, the Federal Minister’s approval is required for any actions that will have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance. The Alpine National Park is covered by this mechanism due to the threatened species that live in the Park, and its broader National Heritage value. The Alpine National Park was declared a National Heritage place in 2008.
The Minister’s decision that the alpine grazing trial is ‘clearly unacceptable’ is the strongest possible rejection that the Minister can make under the Act, and is rarely exercised. More frequently, the Minister will conduct a more detailed assessment of the possible impacts of the proposal. In this case, however, the Minister decided that there was clear scientific and historical literature to support the conclusion that alpine grazing has unacceptably damaging impacts on the ecology and species diversity of the Park, and also on its aesthetic and recreational value.
The EDO is delighted to see that Minister has determined to exercise his powers under the EPBC Act to prevent unnecessary damage to the environment.