On the eve of Mr Andrews’ first anniversary in office, one of Victoria’s leading environmental groups has declared it is becoming increasingly frustrated with the pace of reform and has called on the government to take a more proactive approach over the next 12 months.
In a detailed audit to be released on Monday, Environment Victoria found while eight of the government election promises had been implemented, 17 are still in progress, and in some areas – such as the approval of new coal mining exploration licences in Gippsland – Victoria had gone backwards thanks to Labor’s actions.
“The overall theme is that we are concerned that they are moving too slowly to deliver for our environment,” said the group’s chief executive Mark Wakeham.
“We remain optimistic that the Andrews government will be the leaders on the environment and global warming that Victorians want and need, but there is no time to waste and year two needs to be more productive than year one.”
Environment Victoria’s assessment comes at a critical time for the government, which is in the process of developing major policies on climate change, water, and renewable energy.
Within weeks, a parliamentary committee will also hand down a highly anticipated report into coal seam gas exploration, which will determine if, or when, the government should lift the moratorium on the controversial practice known as fracking.
But while Environment Victoria’s report gives the government a tick for winding back Coalition policies – such as restrictions on wind farms, the commercialisation of national parks and plans to scrap the Victorian energy efficiency target – it also highlights a number of concerns. For instance:
* Labor’s 20 per cent renewable energy and efficiency target is too modest and may involve little extra investment in renewables.
* Little has been done to ensure that rivers get enough water and are not further damaged by livestock grazing.
* There is no plan to transition from dirty coal to clean energy, when the government should “act with urgency” to decarbonise the economy.
* The government’s position on logging in native forests seems unclear, despite promising a special taskforce to examine the issue and help secure the long-term survival of Victoria’s iconic Leadbeater’s possum.
Environment Minister Lisa Neville justified the government’s progress to date, saying it had “worked hard to put the environment back on the agenda after four years of doing absolutely nothing under the Liberal Government.”
“We expanded the VEET scheme which the Coalition axed, started work on rebuilding the Climate Change Act which they didn’t believe in, took cattle out of the high country to protect its future and ended the privatisation of national parks by legislating against 99 year leases,” she said. “We are one year in, with lots more to do.”