Federal Environment minister Tony Burke has used a new regulation to pour cold water on Victorian Government attempts to research cattle grazing as a tool to mitigate bushfire risk in the Alpine National Park.
On Friday Mr Burke introduced a new regulation under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) which will prevent the Baillieu Government from reintroducing cattle to the Alpine National Park in Victoria without proper assessment of the potential for environmental damage.
The regulation specifies that grazing of domestic stock including cattle would have a significant impact on the heritage values of the Australian Alps Heritage Area and that any future new grazing activities proposed in the Australian Alps Heritage Area, including the Alpine National Park, will need to be assessed under the EPBC Act.
In a media statement issued on Friday Mr Burke said the regulation meant the Gillard Government now had clear power to stop the Baillieu Government from introducing cattle into the national-heritage listed Alpine National Park without proper scrutiny.
"The Baillieu Government was wrong to reintroduce cattle to the Alpine National Park and has set a dangerous precedent for the management of national parks across Australia," Mr Burke said.
"The reintroduction of cattle to the Alpine National Park is the first time in generations anyone has tried to take backward steps in a National Park and I am opposed to it.
"The Baillieu Government has been deliberately downgrading protection in a national park.
"This gives them the opportunity to put a silly policy on the shelf as a reminder of what not to do.
"This whole debacle has been another reminder that when the Liberals win the environment loses."
Victorian environment minister Ryan Smith issued a statement to the media blasting Federal Government’s lack of consultation on the issue.
"It continues the pattern of lack of consultation with any of the states on this issue," the statement said.
"Mr Burke didn't even have the courtesy to let the Victorian government know he was about to trample on states' rights in under 24 hours.
"We have always been prepared to work with the Commonwealth to supply any information they require however they have taken this action without any consultation."
The Victorian Government has indicated that it is considering its options in relation to the new Federal Regulation.
The Mountain Cattlemen’s Association told AAP news that generations of experience had shown that grazing reduces fuel loads, and that cutting off that option was short-sighted.
Mr Burke said he was also continuing to consult with state and territory governments on a proposed new regulation which would give extra protection to National Parks across Australia.
The Government is considering state and territory comments on the proposed regulation for additional protection and there will be some further consultation.