The following comes from Rob Harris at The Weekly Times. It’s always amusing to see the mountain cattlemen’s association representative bemoaning the fact that the issue has become ‘political’. Does he honestly want to say that it wasn’t a ‘political’ act when the Coalition originally rushed cattle into the Alpine Park in secret without having an actual scientific plan around the grazing trial? Of course not, its been about politics from day one.
What is telling from this report is the fact that the Coalition government classified the first year’s grazing results as being “cabinet-in-confidence”. This makes it difficult for the findings to be put into the public domain. If the results supported the argument that ‘grazing reduces blazing’ why wouldn’t they have made them public?
For background on this issue, please check here.
Scientific research from alpine cattle grazing trial ’inconclusive’
SCIENTIFIC research collected from the first year of the former Victorian Government’s high country grazing was “inconclusive” and is unlikely to be made public.
The new Labor Government announced earlier this month it would end the controversial three-year trial in Victoria’s Alpine National Park after just one year.
The trial was granted by the Federal Government after “rigorous assessment” and subjected to 33 “strict” conditions.
After the trial herd of 60 cattle had grazed in the Wonnangatta Valley between March and May this year, the Victorian Government was to undertake surveys for threatened species — in particular the Pale Golden Moth orchid — and an assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage and national heritage.
The Weekly Times can reveal this research was collated in a grazing progress report that was classified as “cabinet-in-confidence” by the former Coalition Government.
The research was not sent to federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt or the federal Environment Department. Victoria’s Department of Environment and Primary Industries, which conducted the trial with the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria, confirmed it was not in possession of the research.
A Coalition spokesman yesterday told the The Weekly Times the research was considered “inconclusive” because of the limited data from the first stage of the trial.
He said the research was to be amalgamated with the second stage of the trial data before it was made available.
If re-elected the Coalition would have sent up to 300 cattle into the park from January.
The credibility and motives of the scientific trial was questioned when cattle were introduced to the high country in March this year.
Grazing was banned from the national park by the Labor Government in 2005 after studies showed it had little or no effect on occurrence or severity of fire in the alpine vegetation.
The former Victorian Government pushed for a trial to gain extra research into cattle grazing’s role in reducing high country bushfires.
Former Environment Minister Ryan Smith said at the time there was a clear need to investigate all land management tools to manage bushfire risk in Victoria’s high country, including strategic grazing.
Labor Environment Minister Lisa Neville cancelled the trial earlier this month and said “the science hasn’t changed” since the original ban.
A Government spokesman said yesterday the “so-called scientific study” had been “disgracefully buried”.
“The Victorian community deserves better than their national parks and taxes being treated in such an appalling manner,” he said
Mountain Cattleman Association of Victoria president Charlie Lovick said he had told Ms Neville, before her cancellation of the trial, that many benefits had emerged from the cattle’s short stint in the park.
He said there had been “belated scientific interest and observation” of the native orchids, which he said “should have been investigated years ago”.
“In just one year the valley is short, green and looks magnificent,” he said.
“With the trials not going ahead in a very short time, it will revert to its previous condition as a weed and feral infested jungle and fire trap.”
Mr Lovick said the issue of alpine grazing was “totally political” and “any rational discussion about grazing assisting with good land management has gone out the window”.
The Victorian National Parks Association and CSIRO plant ecologist Dick Williams had labelled the trial “a sham”.
“The previous government’s grazing trial has been secretive, and seriously flawed, from start to finish. It’s time to move on,” VNPA’s park protection project manager Phil Ingamells said.
But Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, the granddaughter of a mountain cattleman, said Labor had a “blinkered view” of alpine grazing and it was “illogical and shortsighted” to cut short a scientific trial.