By NATALIE KOTSIOS
MOUNTAIN cattlemen should be recognised nationally as a “living culture”, Victorian senator Bridget McKenzie says.
The Nationals senator, who is attending this weekend’s Mountain Cattlemen Association annual get-together at Mitta, has also vowed to keep lobbying the Victorian Labor government to renew cattle grazing trials in the Alpine National Park.
The government has come under fire after last month ending the three-year trial in the Wonnangatta Valley near Dargo, started by the previous Coalition government.
State Environment Minister Lisa Neville said at the time that: “The science is clear — grazing in the high country has no value in reducing bushfire risk.”
But Senator McKenzie argued the science should continue to be questioned and different questions needed to be asked.
“Let’s look at how we can do it sustainably rather than just whether or not we should, which automatically discounts the behaviour of an entire industry,” she said.
“If you’re going to ask ‘Does grazing impact on the environment’, well of course it does, but that’s a simple question to ask of a complex thing when there’s multiple issues.
“It’s a management issue — given feral animals like deer and dogs are already in the parks with no management of where they graze and how they breed, we could actually have strategic grazing of cattle throughout the park in a way that gets the balance right if we did an in-depth scientific trial.”
Senator McKenzie, the grand-daughter of a cattleman, said alpine grazing “goes to the heart” of managing natural resources and was part of the national identity.
She will be inviting cattlemen to Canberra in March to speak with federal politicians on the issue; though the federal government has no say on grazing unless the state government makes an application for another trial, Ms McKenzie said she would keep the debate going.
“We have a rich indigenous cultural identity we are increasingly celebrating — as well we should — and I would argue as do the cattlemen,” she said.
It’s a sentiment the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association president Charlie Lovick would whole-heartedly support — he’s a sixth-generation cattleman.
“Nobody can deny that it is not a cultural connection, we’re absolutely connected — we’ve probably now got the longest continuous connection to the land and with that comes knowledge,” he said.
Little doubt it will be a topic discussed among the more than 1600 cattlemen and women who are gathering at Mitta for this weekend’s annual event.