Operation Columbus targets illegal activities in parks and reserves around Gembrook
Friday 2 September, 2022
Parks Victoria, in partnership with Victoria Police, have launched a dedicated compliance operation targeting illegal activities in parks and reserves around Gembrook.
Significant natural values, foothill scenery and cultural history combine to make parks like Bunyip State Park and Kurth Kiln Regional Park an attractive and achievable day trip for visitors from Melbourne’s southeast suburbs, Mornington Peninsula and Latrobe Valley.
Illegal activities, particularly off-road vehicles and illegal firewood collection, are having devastating impacts on the natural and cultural values of these parks, including impact on known cultural sites, destruction and removal of vegetation, soil degradation and erosion impacting on waterways and aquatic ecosystems, removal of habitat trees and the impact on park visitor facilities.
The first weekend of the operation in late July was a success with over 120 interactions between Authorised Officers and park visitors. Many of the interactions were positive with information being shared on park values, areas to visit and what activities are permitted or not in the park.
However, 32 offences were detected, including four-wheel drives and trailbikes in closed areas or driving off-road, illegal camping, hunting and illegal firewood collection, dogs in the state park, use of a drone without a permit, and destruction of park assets such as gates and signs. 12 official cautions and three infringements were issued on the spot, with further infringements possible following investigations.
It is important when planning to visit a park that visitors are aware of the activities that are permitted and where there may be restrictions. For example, Bunyip State Park has different regulations to nearby state forests. Dogs and firewood collection are not permitted within Bunyip State Park.
Firewood for personal use can only be collected from domestic firewood collection in the autumn and spring firewood collection seasons. For details of where, when and what firewood can be collected, visit: https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/firewood/firewood-collection-in-your-region
Operation Columbus will see increased patrols and surveillance across Bunyip State Park and Kurth Kiln Regional Park over the next three months, particularly during the seasonal closure period. On-the-spot fines for breaching a seasonal closure and for interfering with or damaging a gate or sign is $925 per offence.
The community can help curb this destructive behaviour by reporting any suspected illegal behaviour in parks to 13 1963 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Quotes attributable to Jack Dinkgreve, Area Chief Ranger, Gembrook.
“There is a real community cost to the damage being done - replacing gates, signs, padlocks and rehabilitating damaged areas takes time and resources away from visitor services and protecting the environment. Some repair works can be completed quickly, however the scars on the environment last for many years.”
“Information from the community is a key part of our intelligence and evidence gathering and we encourage community members to report any suspicious behaviour to Parks Victoria on 1319 63. But please remember your safety is most important- don’t put yourself at risk to gather information.”
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