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Nature-starved Melburnians yearn for green spaces

The pandemic lockdowns have enhanced the value of nature for Melburnians and increased their support for new national parks, according to new polling of 1000 adult Melburnians, released by the Victorian National Parks Association.

More than half of those polled said the COVID-19 restrictions had made them value access to natural areas and national parks more across Victoria. And nearly half said restrictions made them visit bushland and parks in their local area.

Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.

Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.

About 80 per cent supported proposals to expand national parks in Victoria around Daylesford, Woodend, Bendigo and Ballarat.

“These results reinforce what we’ve been hearing across the community over the last few difficult months – people miss the bush,” says Matt Ruchel, the executive director of the Victorian National Parks Association.

“They want to spend more time in nature and they want more of Victoria’s natural places protected”.

A superb lyrebird.

A superb lyrebird.Credit:Alex Maisey

In June last year the independent Victorian Environment Assessment Council recommended permanent protection of about 60,000 hectares of Victorian native forests, which are home to 380 threatened species.

These include the Wombat Forest (near Daylesford), Wellsford Forest (near Bendigo), Pyrenees Ranges Forest (near Avoca), and Mount Cole Forest (west of Ballarat, near Beaufort).

After it was tabled in state Parliament in August 2019, the government had six months to respond but is yet to make a decision, saying the coronavirus and the bushfires have caused delays.

Ferntree Gully resident and landcare volunteer Robert Pergl is lucky enough to have the Dandenong Ranges National Park within his five-kilometre radius. He visits often to admire the tall mountain ash trees, fern-lined gullies and superb lyrebirds picking their way through the leaf litter.
With warmer weather, a range of different flowering plants – including pink fingers and donkey orchids – have attracted local visitors.

“It’s been essential to maintain a connection with the natural world and become even more familiar with my local area,” Mr Pergl says. “With increased park use that we need increasing resources for these areas to be protected and to look after their environmental values.”

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