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Environment minister urged to study data from Gippsland Youth on forestry

Leader of The Nationals, Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh, The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath with three Gippsland youth Jackson Elfring, Jennifer Ferguson and Megan Para together launch the ‘Gippsland Youth Symposium – Future of our Forest Report’

Victoria’s Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has been urged to read and use data from a Gippsland Youth Symposium’s Future of our Forests report. But State MLC Melina Bath, who represents Victoria’s eastern region, said she did not expect the Minister to read the document. Source: Timberbiz

Ms Bath told State Parliament yesterday that the Gippsland data was based on the same questions posed to a group of young people in suburban Footscray earlier this year.

“On 2 October, 30 young Gippslanders aged between 15 and 30 years attended a youth symposium, which was in contrast to the government’s biased Footscray youth symposium, which had an overwhelmingly majority of city-based youth, predominantly from seven environmental groups,’’ Ms Bath said.

“There is no-one more qualified to speak about the use of our forests, the future development of our forests and the management of our forests than those who live with the forest on their doorstep and who live within the forest and use it for social, environmental and economic outcomes.

“The Gippslanders were asked the same questions as the Footscray participants, and it will come as no surprise to this house that there were very different perspectives. One of the key issues was that the Gippsland youth support the opinion that industry, recreation and conservation can coexist.

“They feel the government is not listening to regional people and fairly representing their views,” she said.

“The action I seek from the minister is that she personally reads the Gippsland Youth Symposium’s Future of our Forests report and incorporates the recommendations of young Gippslanders into the development of the regional forest agreements,” Ms Bath said.

She said there were key themes, which include the importance of a carbon capturing, regenerative and sustainable, well-managed native timber industry.

“The Gippslanders support and want better bushfire prevention measures. They see this as the biggest threat to our forests. They want to incorporate the role of Indigenous people and the way they have used burns historically.

“We had some great young Indigenous people there who were very interested in that role, as well as others,” Ms Bath said.

But she said the Footscray report only made one reference to bushfire, which was “a real shame, highlighting the disparity between knowledge and understanding”.

Weed infestation and feral animals was also a major concern for the Gippsland youth which did not even rate a mention at the Footscray symposium.

“Education and awareness was also highlighted. Gippslanders want people to understand the importance of bush, but also the importance that industry can play in a well-managed area,” Ms Bath said.

“One very succinct person said, in relation to what they would like to see in the future of forests, that they would like to create, and I quote ‘sustainable, maintainable forest for future generations, and do so by encouraging sustainable timber harvesting, recreational use such as hiking, four-wheel driving, biking and support for the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning’s back-burning activities’.

“This government talks about consultation being important. The minister needs to read and use this data,” Ms Bath said.

Asked if she expected a response from D’Ambrosio, she said: “Well, I don’t.

“She’s not going to read it and I don’t expect a satisfactory response to my question and request,” she said.