Grazing national parks?

Lismore MP Thomas George is in agreement with the Nationals state leader Andrew Stoner who reckons the government should allow farmers to graze their stock inside national parks during drought.

Mr George said he has received many queries from farmers adjoining national parks (there are 16 national parks in the Lismore electorate) wanting to know why they cant access the national park land with its abundant feed.

He took as an example a letter hed received from a grazier near Woodenbong whose farm adjoins a national park. Years ago it was a state forest and hed leased a section to run cattle during drought.

We must preserve the environment, said Mr George. But genuine farmers need drought relief and national parks with some form of management may provide that. It may mean running temporary fences through the park.

Clarence MP Steve Cansdell also agrees.

Im fully supportive of it, he said. Ive talked to many farmers and to the Rural Fire Service. There are two benefits. Firstly, it will keep stock alive until the drought ends, and it will reduce fuel in national parks.

Mr Stoner made his assertion after figures were released recently showing NSW has slipped further into drought. He proposed that stock be able to graze in national parks in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and where grazing would not be detrimental to the area.

NSW Farmers Association president Jack Laurie wants the NSW Government to go further than the one-off measure put forward by Mr Stoner, saying the government should consider the plan as a permanent management strategy.

The head of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dr Tony Fleming, disagrees.

Parks are suffering the same drought as nearby farms, he said. Theyre under the same stress and the additional stress of grazing could be very damaging.

He added that native herbivores like kangaroos may be forced to move onto adjoining properties due to the competition for grasses created by introduced stock. This may cause different problems for landholders, he said.

The community has said it wants an effective national parks system with the removal of grazing within them, he said. The community would not want to compromise this for a doubtful, short-term measure.

Bob Debus, NSW Minister for the Environment, has stated he doesnt intend to allow grazing in national parks.

Andy Gough, Greens candidate for Lismore, is not in favour of the Nationals proposition.

I think its an outrageous and irresponsible short-sighted proposal from the Nationals, he said. I appreciate that farmers are doing it tough with the drought, but this proposal is a slap in the face for all those people who campaigned so hard over the last 30 years to protect our World Heritage forests. How do you control a herd of cattle thats been let loose into a national park? Its almost as ridiculous an idea as allowing uranium mining in Kakadu.

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