Frequently Asked Questions

General Issues

What is joint management and why has it been established over Barmah National Park?

Joint management has been established by Parliament (through the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987) and implemented for Barmah National Park by the Victorian Government through a ministerial agreement with the Yorta Yorta Nation.  It recognises Yorta Yorta as the Traditional Owners of the area and enables Yorta Yorta to share responsibility for and participate in the management of the park.

What is the purpose of the Joint Management Plan for Barmah National Park?

The Joint Management Plan will set the directions for the park for the next 10 years with periodic review and updating after 5 years, and will allow Yorta Yorta culture, knowledge and skills to be applied to managing and caring for the park.

Who is preparing the Joint Management Plan?

The Plan is being prepared by the Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board which is appointed by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and comprises people nominated by the Yorta Yorta community and other members.

What guidance is provided for the Board in preparing the Joint Management Plan?

The Plan must comply with the National Parks Act, and other applicable legislation for managing aspects such as fire, wildlife and water.  Relevant government policies for public land and the policies of the Yorta Yorta Nation will be considered in the process, as will regional strategies for catchment management, tourism and other matters.

What about the interests of the broader community?

The Joint Management Plan must benefit the community needs of all Victorians and visitors, and provide for public enjoyment of the park, as well as education, information, facilities and services.

Is the Dharnya Centre covered by the Plan?

The Dharnya Centre is on public land designated as a Community Use Area, encompassed by the National Park.  The Joint Management Plan process recognises that visitors use the Dharnya Centre and the adjacent areas of the National Park in a linked way and sets therefore sets directions to integrate management of the National Park and the operation of Dharnya.

Who approves the Joint Management Plan?

The Plan is developed by the Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board and requires the agreement of the Secretary of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning  (DELWP).  The final Plan must be approved by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change.

Who will implement the Joint Management Plan?

A governance and implementation arrangement will be agreed upon by Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and the State of Victoria. Parks Victoria is the designated manager of Barmah National Park and will have responsibility for implementing many of the Plan’s strategies and actions, working in partnership with the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and other partners such as DELWP.  The Plan will also consider ways in which Yorta Yorta can increase their participation in park management through training, employment and business opportunities.  DELWP has responsibility for fire management in the park and on surrounding public land and other authorities such as the Goulburn-Broken Catchment Management Authority and the Game Management Authority have responsibilities under various legislation.

What are the main directions being proposed in the Draft Joint Management Plan?

The vision for the park is ‘Heal the Land, Heal the People — Healthy Country’. At the centre of this vision is a change in the historical story of the Barmah Forest and the Yorta Yorta:  to recognise Yorta Yorta as the First People of Barmah, redress our removal from the land and to enable us to take our place once again as custodians and decision-makers on this rich part of our Country in partnership with the State, government agencies and the broader community.

The Joint Management Plan sets out strategies for:

  1. developing the skills and capacity of Yorta Yorta to undertake joint management of the park and to apply Yorta Yorta cultural knowledge;
  2. improving the health of Country in the park with priority on restoring Moira grasslands and marshes through a better water regime, removing feral horses and other pest animals, and controlling invasive wetland plants;
  3. revitalising the Dharnya Centre and the surrounding area as a visitor gateway to the park and cultural hub providing interpretation and education, tourism services and events, and training programs;
  4. achieving more sustainable visitor use through improved access, camping and boating facilities, and reducing the impacts on cultural heritage and the environment;
  5. providing opportunities for Yorta Yorta cultural practice and knowledge transfer including setting aside an area to gather in the park;
  6. recognising and interpreting the shared history of the park since the colonial era; and
  7. developing Yorta Yorta employment and business opportunities in park management, education and tourism, and economic benefits for the region.
  8. Parks Victoria recently released a Draft Strategic Action Plan 2019-23 for Protection of Floodplain Marshes in Barmah Forest? How does the Joint Management Plan relate to the Parks Victoria plan and why are there two plans?

The Draft Joint Management Plan is a plan for the whole of Barmah National Park and for all aspects of its management.  In April this year Parks Victoria, as the operational manager of the National Park, released a draft Strategic Action Plan for Protection of Floodplain Marshes for public comment.  That plan deals with urgent threats to the marshes and wetlands in the National Park and adjacent areas of public land, and responds in part to community concerns about horses in the park.  The directions in the draft Strategic Action Plan have been provisionally endorsed and incorporated into the Draft Joint Management Plan.

What actions are proposed for managing feral horses?

The Draft Joint Management Plan endorses and incorporates the directions for dealing with threats to the park’s marshes and wetlands set out in the Parks Victoria Strategic Action Plan 2019-23.  This includes actions to deal with feral horses and other invasive animals, an inappropriate water regime and invasive plants. The goal is total removal of feral horses from the park as a high priority measure to protect the floodplain marshes of Barmah National Park and other environmental and cultural values.  The Draft Joint Management Plan and Strategic Action Plan set out more detail about how the removal program will be carried out, including humane removal techniques, animal welfare measures, and monitoring of the effectiveness of the removal program.

If the consultation period for the Parks Victoria Strategic Action Plan has closed what will happen to any comments I make on the proposals that are also covered by that plan?

Any submissions received on the Draft JMP that relate to matters common to both plans will be considered by the Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board and any new information will be shared and discussed with Parks Victoria.

What do you mean by more sustainable visitor use? Does the Draft Joint Management Plan propose changes to public access or allowable activities?

Almost all the existing recreational activities in Barmah will continue but with provisions that ensure that they do not impact on the Park or other visitors.  This includes: rationalisation of the track network (which was developed in the past to allow logging of the forest) in consultation with the community, stakeholders and emergency managers; more designated camping areas and some resting or closure of sensitive areas to dispersed camping; and additional facilities to reduce impacts including toilets at designated camping areas and additional boat ramps to improve boat access and reduce bank erosion.  Bookings and camping fees will be introduced for designated camping areas, consistent with other Victorian national parks.

Will park visitors still be able to ride horses in the Park?

Recreational horse riding will not be permitted in Barmah National Park, except on Sand Ridge Track from Rice’s Bridge during permitted events. This strategy will enable horse riders to access the Community Use Area adjacent to the park.  Significant opportunities for recreational horse riding remain on neighbouring public land such as Barmah Island.  Areas of the Murray River Reserve adjacent to the National Park will continue to be available for horse riding, as set out in the River Red Gum Parks Management Plan published by Parks Victoria last year.

Does this mean licensed tour operations can continue?

Horseriding licensed tour operators will be allowed to continue to operate in the National Park on open roads and tracks for the remainder of the term of their current licence.  Under the proposals no new horseriding tour operator licences will be issued and existing horseriding tour operator licences will not be renewed.  The Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board will work with Parks Victoria to help tour operators obtain licensed access to the Murray River Reserve and other public land areas if they require it.

Will opportunities for dispersed camping be retained?

There will continue to be extensive opportunities for dispersed, self-reliant camping in the Dhungalla Zone of the park which are not subject to bookings or camping fees. The Draft Plan proposes that bookings and camping fees be introduced for designated camping areas only, such as Barmah Lakes, where toilets and other facilities are provided.  A booking system for designated camping areas will give people who are new to camping in Barmah more certainty about opportunities and services, while the money raised from camping fees will assist in improving the park and its facilities.

Maps for the Dhungalla Zone are available alongside the Draft Joint Management Plan here.

Will park visitors still be able to have campfires and collect firewood for use in campfires?

The Draft Joint Management Plan recognises that campfires, in both designated and dispersed camping areas, are an important part of the Barmah National Park visitor experience.  Campfires will continue to be allowed at the popular dispersed camping locations along most of the Murray River frontage of the National Park, subject to compliance with fire regulations. In designated camping areas where constructed fireplaces are provided campfires will only be permitted in those fireplaces.  Firewood collection will continue to be allowed for use in campfires in the Park.  Some areas of the Park may be closed to firewood collection from time to time to allow rehabilitation or may be specifically set aside for the protection of environmental and cultural values.

What is the purpose of removing regenerating areas of River Red Gums?

The Plan proposes to remove some areas of River Red Gum regeneration that are encroaching on the marshes and grasslands of the Park.  This encroachment is a result of changes to the natural flooding regime caused by regulation of the Murray River system.  The regeneration consists largely of saplings and seedlings.  The purpose of this work is to restore the extent and health of the marshes and grasslands.  The removal work may generate by-product that can be used for firewood but this will be incidental to the purpose and rationale for the removal program.

How can I have input to the planning process?

The input of stakeholders and the community to the process is welcomed and a range of opportunities for input will be provided. Submissions to the Draft Joint Management Plan will be taken until the 6th of October – details on submissions can be found here. Both Yorta Yorta and the broader community are invited to attend Open House community consultation sessions to site down and discuss the Draft Plan. Open houses will be at:

 

Visitor Access and Camping Proposals

 

Are the proposed changes to access and activities designed to make it harder for people to visit the park?

No, the Draft Plan has a clearly stated objective of welcoming and providing services for all people to visit and enjoy the park, and to understand and appreciate its environment and heritage.  The Draft Plan contains numerous proposals to improve facilities and access, and to work with the tourism industry and local communities to develop the tourism potential of the park.

What about the proposal to introduce bookings and fees for camping?

The Draft Plan proposes that bookings and camping fees be introduced for designated camping areas only, such as Barmah Lakes, where toilets and other facilities are provided.  There will continue to be opportunities for dispersed, self-reliant camping in the Dhungalla Zone of the park which are not subject to bookings or camping fees.  A booking system for designated camping areas will give people who are new to camping in Barmah more certainty about opportunities and services, while the money raised from camping fees will assist in improving the park and its facilities.

Maps for the Dhungalla Zone are available alongside the Draft Joint Management Plan here.

How will people book designated campsites and pay camping fees?

The details of a booking and fee system will not be worked out until the public consultation period is completed and the Joint Management Plan has been finalised. However, a system similar to, or part of, the Parks Victoria ‘Parkstay’ online booking system could be used, with other ways for people to make bookings and pay for designated campsites if they do not have internet access.

Why is there a proposal to ‘rationalise’ roads and tracks?

The park contains a large network of roads and tracks that have been developed in the past.  This includes 18 separate road entry points to the park.  Roads and tracks are important for park management, bushfire management and for visitors to access and explore the park.  However, some tracks that run close to each other are not necessary for any of these purposes but take time and funds to maintain.  It is expected that a plan to rationalise some tracks and entry points, developed in consultation with emergency managers and community user groups, would result in a modest reduction in the overall network.  Most roads and tracks will be retained and the Draft Plan includes a proposal to improve access along some of these roads and tracks during periods of flooding by raising the road level at low points.

Why does the Draft Plan propose that horseriding no longer allowed in most of the park?

A major priority of the Draft Plan is to restore the health of the Country in the National Park, consistent with the legal requirements of the National Parks Act and the cultural obligations of Yorta Yorta.  Horses, as non-native animals, are not allowed to be brought into Victorian national parks except where areas are specifically designated to allow them or as part of a permit.  Horseriding is not allowed or restricted to small areas in most of Victoria’s 45 national parks.

Barmah National Park’s fragile and internationally significant wetlands and the frequent flooding of other areas of the National Park including roads and tracks, makes the National Park vulnerable to the impacts of horses.  There are nearby alternative areas for horseriding which are not subject to the same levels of environmental and cultural heritage protection as Barmah National Park, including the Barmah Island area close to the western edge of the National Park, the Ulupna Island area of the Murray River Reserve to the east, and the Community Use Area and Barmah Muster Yards for permitted events.

More detail is available in a separate Information Sheet for Horseriding Proposals.

Where can I find more information about visitor access and camping?

We have an information sheet with outlines of key proposals and background information: Information Sheet – Visitor access and camping.

 

Horseriding Proposals

 

Didn’t the Victorian government decide to allow horseriding in national parks as part of the previous River Red Gum Forests Investigation undertaken by VEAC (the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council)?

The Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board must comply with legislation (eg the National Parks Act) but it is able to propose changes to previous government policies for Barmah National Park.  The final Joint Management Plan must be approved by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change who will take into account the outcomes of public consultation.

What is the evidence of damage by recreational horseriding?

The proposals in the Draft Plan are not based on evidence of damage by recreational horseriding.  The proposals are a precautionary approach that recognises that horses are non-native animals that have the potential to do damage, especially in the fragile marshes of Barmah which are internationally significant as habitat for waterbirds and fish.  Evidence of damage by feral horses and other non-native animals in the marsh areas of the National Park has been documented extensively by Parks Victoria in its Strategic Action Plan for protecting the marshes, released for public comment in April this year.

How will horseriding tour operator licences be affected?

Horseriding licensed tour operators will be allowed to continue to operate in the National Park on open roads and tracks for the remainder of the term of their current licence.  Under the proposals no new horseriding tour operator licences will be issued and existing horseriding tour operator licences will not be renewed.  The Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board will work with Parks Victoria to help tour operators obtain licensed access to the Murray River Reserve and other public land areas if they require it.

How will horseriding clubs and individual riders be affected?

Horseriding clubs and individual riders will not be allowed to ride in the National Park but can continue to ride in the Barmah Island area of the Murray River Reserve adjacent to the western end of Barmah National Park, and the Murray River Reserve adjacent to the eastern end of the National Park near Ulupna Island.

How will the proposals affect the annual Barmah Muster?

Under the proposals the Barmah Muster – which is held in the Community Use Area outside the National Park – can continue.  The proposals allow for horseriding along Sand Ridge Track from Rice’s Bridge to access the Community Use Area for permitted events such as the Muster.  The permit activities for the Muster will be reviewed as part of a review of all permits affected by changes to allowable activities once the final Joint Management Plan is approved.  The nearby Barmah Island area of the Murray River Reserve will continue to be available for horseriding as part of the Muster, and at other times.

Where can I find more information about horse riding?

We have an information sheet with outlines of key proposals and background information: Information Sheet – Horseriding Proposals

 

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