30 May 2013 — Victoria’s national parks are “up for sale” after the Victorian Government introduced legislation allowing 99-year development leases in the state’s most important parks, Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel says.

“This new legislation hangs a ‘for sale’ sign on Victoria’s most cherished national parks by allowing 99-year leases,” he said.

“These 99-year leases are as good as private ownership of Victoria’s prime conservation areas, and represent a betrayal by this state government of long-term bipartisan support for national parks protection.

“Handing developers 99-year leases is effectively selling some of Victoria’s most valuable conservation land. Any developments requiring such a long lease will likely be on large scales that will only grow bigger over time, threatening the long-term integrity of our national parks.”

Mr Ruchel said there was no need for private development inside Victoria’s parks because they were mostly within easy reach of accommodation and services found in regional towns.

“The State Government needs to start acting like a steward of our most important natural areas, not a real estate developer,” he said.

Mr Ruchel said in August last year the Government made a commitment that no investment proposals will be considered in areas classified as wilderness parks, wilderness zones, reference areas and remote and natural areas under the National Parks Act 1975.

But wilderness and remote areas are also now being opened up for potential 21-year leases.

“It is the major investors who will benefit most from private developments in parks, not the majority of park visitors and certainly not the parks themselves,” Mr Ruchel said.

“There is no evidence private developments in parks contribute to the management of parks. International and national examples prove they often take resources away from much-needed conservation management.

“For good reason less than one per cent of 20,000 national parks worldwide have any significant tourism infrastructure within them.”

Calls to Environment Minister Ryan Smith’s media department were not returned.