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Victoria’s national parks suffer from funding reductions
Deep budget cuts to Parks Victoria mean that Victoria's national parks are increasingly struggling to cope with feral animals, weeds, fire threats and degraded infrastructure.
The agency’s most recent annual report shows direct funding from the Victorian Government has been reduced by 37% in nominal terms over the past three years, from $122 million in 2011-12 to $76.8 million in 2014-15.
Over the same period, the organisation slashed its spending by more than 16%. Even after adding in cash from trusts and other sources, total income was still down almost 20%, leaving Parks Victoria $6.2 million in the red.
Explaining the reduced spending, the agency’s annual report states “this (reduced spending) was in line with expectations and follows a challenging financial period due to a decline in funding for Parks Victoria's core operations.”
The progressive funding cuts appear to have had a crippling impact, with insiders warning parts of the state are in danger of being overrun by weeds, feral deer, horses, foxes and cats.
According to a Fairfax media report, park managers also say they have been forced to remove badly degraded facilities in less-frequented areas because they no longer have funding for maintenance.
There has also been a cut in the information services provided to visitors, with no cash brochures and maps.
According to a Parks Victoria source quoted by Fairfax media, the organisation has been "running on the smell of an oily rag", with easy efficiency gains long since exhausted. That means budget cuts have hit such areas as road and building maintenance, with a huge backlog.
The funding cuts also appear to have had a major impact on staff morale at Parks Victoria.
A leaked confidential report by the Victorian Public Sector Commission, obtained by Fairfax Media, reveals a faltering performance by the agency, with growing numbers of staff considering their careers and increasing pessimism about the performance of management.
The report, based on a survey of 500 Parks Victoria employees from June this year, found almost six out of 10 staff believed workplace stress was an issue for their wellbeing.
Almost half suggested they had considered leaving, compared with about one-third in 2013, and just 58% said they were confident a grievance would be properly investigated, down from 67% in 2013.
Victorian National Parks Association spokesman Phil Ingamells said the Victorian Government urgently needed to reverse the drop in funding, not only to protect native plants and animals but also to recognise the economic contribution parks made to the state.
Ingamells stated “our parks already more than pay their way.
"They contribute over $1 billion each year through tourism, $330 million in water services and $180 million in avoided health costs."
The current Victorian Government came to power promising to create a "world class" system of national parks with an election platform promising a stronger park management agency answerable to the environment minister, with a bigger focus on managing the environment and protecting plants and animals.
Parks Victoria welcomed a new Chief Executive, Bradley Fauteux, late last year. Fauteux previously managed Ontario Parks and is reportedly working hard to rebuild morale within the organisation.
Lower image shows Wilsons Promontory.
13th November 2015 - PARKS VICTORIA SET TO WELCOME NEW CHIEF EXECUTIVE
16th September 2015 - VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT MOVES TO END 99 YEAR TOURISM LEASES IN NATIONAL PARKS
2nd April 2015 - PARKS VICTORIA ENCOURAGES PLANNING FOR EASTER VISITS
12th October 2014 - NEW TOURISM ACTIVITIES IN NATIONAL PARKS THREATENS NATURAL HERITAGE
31st May 2013 - HEALTHY PARKS HEALTHY PEOPLE GRANTS ANNOUNCED
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