Ask the Real Forest Users
Across Daylesford there seems to be a sense of rising panic amongst self-styled 'forest users' as they nail up their protest signs around town.
Who are they and what do they fear? Surely they're not the firewood collectors, 4WD drivers, gold fossickers, loggers, campers or even shooters, who will all still have thousands of hectares of Regional Park to roam through, chop up and burn down.
So who are the forest users we still haven't heard from?
Go into the forest. Try standing in the blackened silence of a 'controlled' burn and listening for the voice of a single bird. Look for any tree tall enough for the nest of a wedge tailed eagle. Any log hollow to shelter an echidna. Try chatting with the lovely old wombat lying dead on my bush road this week. Interview the road kill that were once kangaroos and wallabies. Night after night, search the treetops for the privilege of glimpsing the elusive powerful owl or - as I've seen once in thirty years - the now almost extinct Eastern Quoll.
But don't be surprised if these voices cannot be heard over the raucous self interest of all the other forest users and the hammer blows of their current campaign.
I was hardly surprised to see that after four years of mediocre performance Louise Staley MP should suddenly choose to take a stance opposing national parks in our region. In order to understand how ludicrous her position is it is worth considering the economic impacts of the Grampians National Park just west of this area. In that region as recently as 2017 data revealed that expenditure more than doubled from 2016, with overnight tourists spending $270 million. The evidence is overwhelming: Victorians love our National Parks. The elevation of our own state parks to national parks has the potential to provide a tremendous boost to the regions while having almost no impact on the handful of bush users who engage in practices that are not consistent with the values inherent in a national park. Economically the Ripon electorate can simply not afford another term under Louise Staley MP.
-Patrick Hockey, Clunes