Consultation Seems To Be The New Fashion

Rodney has already talked about the local consultation he and Bill attended, but wait, there’s more:

Did you take part in  a web survey “Join the conversation about Strengthening Parks Victoria”? It has now closed – the time frame was extremely short and it was not well publicised. I tried to put in my 2c worth but I see from the website that my story is there but not my plea for better funding. (It seemed to be for individuals not groups, so no FOGG response). Here is a little about the survey:
Victoria has one of the most comprehensive parks systems in the world, spanning a total
of 18 per cent of the state, including land and sea, and supporting citizens and visitors.
Strengthening Parks Victoria is a project about celebrating the spectacular landscapes,
habitats and places we have managed for nearly 20 years, and understanding how we
must change to deliver the best outcomes for Victorians, visitors, our economies, and the
Country we care for. Help us set Parks Victoria up to be a world class parks management agency, and a great partner, for the next 20 years and beyond. Tell us your vision for parks, your experiences, expectations and aspirations…..”

I hope that it is still  on the website, where you can read what others wrote, and maybe can still vote for ideas you like.

Then there was a chance to make a submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the control of Invasive Animals on Crown land. I did manage to put in my thoughts on this and to talk to my MP Emma Kealey about deer and funding for our park.

FOGG are part of the Friends Network, which is a loose association of many”Friends of …” groups, not just national Parks.  They too are asking for feedback on how the network operates. This I am handing over to our committee. The latest Friends Network newsletter had more than a few interesting pieces. Here is just one of them, and if you would like to get the full document do email me as per the back page.

What is the value of our parks?
Parks Victoria recently published Valuing Victoria’s parks (2015) which provided some quantification of the benefits of parks. They came up with eight important benefits for which values were estimated.

The report by Parks Victoria includes a range of other benefits in addition to these eight. However, these eight alone provide total annual benefits to
the value of $1.8 billion. This means that for every dollar of taxpayer funding provided to Parks Victoria, the community is gaining a benefit of more than $11. This seems a more than reasonable return for the funding invested.

What do we pay for these benefits?
At the heart of any asset management program is creation, maintenance and renewal. The same applies to our parks. They need care, understanding, managed use, and restoration. Protection alone is not enough. Taxpayer funding for Parks Victoria (direct government grants plus funding from the Parks & Reserves Trust Fund ) averaged around $183 million a year for the four years to 2014-15. In 2015-16 this rose to an estimated $190m in 2015-16 and funding is budgeted to rise to almost $200m in 2016-17 .

The benefits to the community of funding our system of parks are substantial and ongoing. In order to maintain and grow these benefits for the future, substantial real increases in funding are needed.

What contribution does VEFN (Victorian Environmental Friends Network)  make?
Members of the VEFN (including us Foggies) make a substantial contribution to the operation of Parks Victoria through volunteer work such as weeding and planting. In 2014-15 volunteers contributed 213,347 hours of time to the maintenance and upkeep of the 200 parks managed by Parks Victoria. These volunteer hours were estimated by Parks Victoria to be equivalent to 29,000 volunteer days or 127 people working full time for a year. The volunteer effort in 2014-15 was equivalent to more than 13% of Parks Victoria’s FTE staff of 958 people. Parks Victoria values this volunteer time as being worth at least $6 million per year. This contribution of volunteer time adds significant value to the parks and to the community. Both Parks Victoria and the government recognise the value of this volunteer contribution and expect it to continue or increase. The government’s draft biodiversity strategy Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2036 recognises the contribution and potential of volunteer efforts.

However, increasing volunteer time also poses management and organisational challenges. Experienced, long time volunteers get older. Demands and distractions of life compete with time for volunteering. Increasing logistical and statutory requirements for all manner of things ranging from safety, insurances and reporting tend to detract from hands ‘on-ground’. Yet some of the greatest rewards and productivity come from the shared learning, trust, and inspiration generated by community volunteers and staff working together to care for the land. We need the backing of a coherent government program to reinstate and underpin funding and field staffing for Parks Victoria together with a coherent and planned effort to sustain and grow volunteer efforts. This should be done in the context of a strategic plan that provides certainty to both Parks Victoria and the community.