The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, has again used the floor of Parliament in a bid to force the Victorian Government to hand over a small piece of land for Echuca cemetery’s expansion.
Mr Walsh says his first appeal to Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio was treated with disinterest and disdain.
He said he received a page of generic claptrap which made it “blatantly obvious” no-one had made a proper inspection of the site “because the Minister’s response and the reality are so far apart it wasn’t even funny”.
“I am again inviting the Minister to join me at Echuca cemetery so she can understand the difference between her version of what – and I quote her – ‘good quality native vegetation enhancing the ecological and amenity values’ is and introduce her to the challenges faced by Australia since a noxious weed called prickly pear arrived here with the First Fleet,” Mr Walsh says.
“Because as of last week, the Minister and her department have decided an acre of scrappy scrubland in Echuca is – and I quote again – ‘environmental and conservation values of state significance and strategic values of regional significance’,” he said.
“I have photos of an Echuca Cemetery Trust board member and myself surrounded by an ocean of prickly pear that is still spreading across this little slice of country unused and/or apparently unwanted by Campaspe Shire and by the Victorian Government.
“Until someone decided they could actually put it to a good use.”
At which point, Mr Walsh said, it was suddenly, according to the Minister’s assessment, elevated to what can only be assumed to be the finest acre of country in Echuca.
He said he would love to hear how the Environment Minister might explain to him, and his constituents, an acre of flood-prone, mostly prickly pear occupied land alongside Echuca Cemetery represents her description of, “good quality native vegetation enhancing the ecological and amenity values” for an area visited by no-one and seen by no-one except one farmer occasionally, and a few cemetery visitors.
“And then justify how this sprawl of declared noxious weed can block the cemetery trust expanding its borders to better manage its current role and future needs,” Mr Walsh said.
“I would be delighted to take the Minister to see this small slice of land so she can do the right thing and gift it to the Echuca Cemetery Trust, which has plans to relocate its existing shared and off-street parking to the block, freeing up more space for burials in the cemetery proper.
“In living memory this land has only ever been used by one local to access a property, and that would be able to continue.
“Here, surely, is an issue where a bit of common sense should prevail, which the department does not seem to be showing at the moment,” Mr Walsh added.