Greenies see red over 'Straw Parks'
By UTE SCHULENBERG
'STRAW Parks' is how local environmentalists are describing the three new State Parks announced by the NSW minister for lands, Tony Kelly, when he visited the Mid North Coast last Friday.
The minister said the formation of Manning Entrance, Harrington Beach and Bellinger Heads State Parks was a proactive step taken by the Government in conjunction with the community to better manage the reserves.
"The new state parks will now protect some of the most naturally beautiful locations in Australia for recreation, camping, water sports and bushwalking," Mr Kelly said.
But environmentalist Ashley Love said the declaration provided no protection to the environmentally sensitive coastal lands.
"Nowhere in the hundreds of pages of legislation in the Crown Lands Act is there mention of 'State Parks'," Mr Love said.
"This is a framework for excessive coastal development and big developer involvement."
Bellingen Environment Centre spokesman, Leif Lemke, has spent the last two years lobbying to have this stretch of the Bellingen Shire's coastline placed under the management of the Department of Environment and Climate Change.
"There has been absolutely no community consultation with regard to these new parks," Mr Lemke said.
"We gathered the support of the local council, community groups as well as the previous environment minister, Phil Koperberg.
"The minister for lands has gone out of his way and ignored public opinion in making this decision.
"It's very disheartening."
He said the creation of State Parks simply duplicated government services, "something the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said was to be avoided".
"DECC are the professionals in overseeing conservation and recreational values of public land there is no reason for the Department of Lands to get involved.
"In the last 200 years of custodianship, they've done nothing towards the maintenance or management of this area. This land is not protected, it can be sold at the whim of the minister."
A spokesman for Minister Kelly said the lands were reserved under the Crown Lands Act, 1989.
"This ensures a balanced approach to land management that sees the environmentally sensitive areas protected and public recreation encouraged," he said.
"There are no proposals to sell State Parks."
He said the parks would be managed by the Department in conjunction with the community.
"In the case of Bellinger Heads State Park, the Department will work with Bellingen Shire Council to determine the future management regime."