To Be or Not To Be A National Park? That is the question the Victorian State Government may need to address in light of a major report on Victoria’s public land.

The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) have recently released draft recommendations based on a statewide assessment of public land they began in September 2014.

Recommendations to reclassify parks

  • The consolidation of existing public land classification categories from 18 down to 13.
    • It is proposed that existing State, Wilderness and National Heritage Parks be classified as National Parks and a new category, Recreation Park, is established to classify all current Regional, Metropolitan and Forest Parks.
  • Coastal Parks be re-classified as Conservation Parks
  • Current classification of Natural Features Reserves – Wildlife Area be changed to Game Reserve.

So why reclassify?

VEAC determined there is significant public confusion around the existing classifications, leading to misinformation around permitted activities and the relevant management agency for particular parks.

Two classifications which park-users commonly confuse are State Parks and State Forests. This similarity in names often leaves users with misconceptions around what activities are permitted and where to get their information.

As such, the proposed reclassification is likely to create a simpler understanding of the different types of parks and reserves.

Will it have an impact?

The reclassification recommendation may leave some recreational users wondering whether the proposed changes will impact the permissions around  particular activities in our parks and reserves.

This concern stems from a common misconception that it is the park classification that determines its uses.

However, permitted uses are not determined by the lines of park classification. Instead, they are determined by the National Parks (Park) Regulations 2003. This legislation outlines key regulations on state and national parks and determines that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning can set aside areas within our parks for particular recreational uses.

This legislative basis is reflected in all permitted activities which fall under the above Act. For example, horse riding is permitted in designated areas of some state and national parks, whilst it is prohibited in others.

Subsequently, the proposed reclassification is not expected to have a negative impact on existing permitted activities.

A number of benefits may also result out of the proposed changes:

  • A better understanding of the values and uses of our parks and reserves.

For example, the introduction of the ‘Recreational Park’ classification may encourage Victorians to get outdoors and enjoy the natural values of our state.

  • A potential increase in regional tourism from a change in perception about the ecological or recreational significance of our parks.

National Parks are often perceived to be more interesting or have greater significance than State Parks. As such, a reclassification to National Parks could attract more visitors to certain regions.

A new app?

VEAC’s consultation with stakeholders also found that recreational users typically seek out location specific information about where in a park or region their activity is permitted.

VEAC has subsequently proposed the development of new information products to assist recreational users, such as a mobile app denoting where particular activities are permitted across all public lands in Victoria.
Outdoors Victoria encourages all recreational associations and users of Victorian public land to read the Discussion and Draft Proposal papers and make submissions to the VEAC.

Submissions can be made here until Monday 7th November 2016.