What is the Commons? All the natural and cultural resources that should be accessble to everyone in society. The Commons includes the hills, the seas and beaches and rivers, forests, even park land. But now corporate predators are eyeing, gobbling up or “enclosing” the Commons under various forms of privatisation.
This is not something peculiar Malaysia; it is a global phenomenon. Take a look at 1200 Australians coming together in a protest to call for the reversal of legislation that would allow 99-year leases for private development in national parks.
Hands off the Commons!
This is a report published by the Victorian National Parks Association:
Victorians converge on ‘the Prom’ for HANDS OFF PARKS protest
Saturday 2 November 2013
More than 1200 bushwalkers, parks friends and campers converged on Victoria’s much-loved Wilsons Promontory National Park today to spell out a huge ‘HANDS OFF PARKS!’ sign using torches on the beach at dusk.
“This peaceful community protest against the Victorian Government’s attacks on our national parks will send a clear message to Premier Denis Napthine that private developments, grazing and prospecting are not ok in the places we love,” Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel said today.
The human sign re-enacts a famous community protest, held on 29 December 1996, against a proposed hotel development at Wilsons Promontory National Park – but this time torches lit up the message at dusk.
The event was organised by the Victorian National Parks Association, the Friends of the Prom, and the Prom Campers Association, and takes place at Tidal River beach between 7.30-8.15pm.
“With the beautiful Prom landscape as a backdrop, the human sign will create a galaxy of stars spelling out our message of HANDS OFF PARKS,” Friends of the Prom president Deb Henry said.
“It will spell out a message the Victorian Government can’t ignore.”
Sue Macgregor, president of the Prom Campers Association, said Victorians are proud of their national parks and want them protected, not opened up to private development with 99 year leases.
“The Prom is precious to many Victorians, but all of Victoria’s national parks and conservation areas are critical for nature conservation and already provide low cost rest, respite and recreation for millions of people each year,” she said.
Community groups are calling for recent changes to Victoria’s National Parks Act, which allows 99 year leases for private owners in two thirds of the parks estate, to be reversed.
“Tourism developments are best placed on private land outside but adjacent to parks, or in regional centres,” Mr Ruchel said.
“National parks and conservation reserves are the cornerstone of our efforts to protect nature for future generations. They are not cow paddocks, they are not for mining, and they are certainly not playthings for private resort developers.”
The community calls mirror the voices of 21 eminent Victorians – including leading academics, a Nobel prize winner, former chief scientist and former State Governor – who recently wrote an open letter to Victorian Premier Denis Napthine describing the move to allow 99 year leases in parks as a ‘betrayal of public trust’.
“This community protest comes 12 months before our next state election,” Mr Ruchel said.
“We are calling on all political parties to have strong policies and plans in place to protect and enhance our national parks for nature conservation, not to exploit them.
“National parks are a key community and conservation asset and deserve clear bipartisan support.
“In recent times, too often the great value and benefit of national parks to the community is talked down and undermined.
“Our leaders should be proud to act as custodians of our national parks estate, handing it on to future generations in improved condition.”
The VNPA has released a 10 point policy outline for parks, calling on Victorian political parties to:
- Reverse the legislation allowing 99 year private leases in parks, and encourage tourism developments adjacent to parks.
- Promote and encourage all of the community to use parks by investing in appropriate and sensitive recreational infrastructure and programs.
- Rule out the return of damaging cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park.
- Rule out fossicking and prospecting in national parks.
- Rule out expanded hunting in national parks.
- Establish a strategic plan for the future of our parks and reserves system that recognises and communicates the role and importance of parks.
- Build a stronger park management agency.
- Establish science-based park and nature conservation management.
- Ensure adequate and effective funding for managing the threats to parks.
- Complete the parks and reserve system to protect high conservation value species and habitats.