A Natimuk resident says new advice validates the argument for Parks Victoria and the Natimuk Lake Foreshore Committee to manage the lake and foreshore jointly.
The Department of Environment Lands Water and Planning handed management of the lake reserve to Parks in 2003. The volunteer committee of management looks after the foreshore, funding projects with support from the Otto Spehr Trust, set up by an early Natimuk resident for the beautification of the lake.
In June, DELWP confirmed it had written to trustees, saying "it may be appropriate for the trustees to consider the allocation of trust proceeds to Parks Victoria as the manager of the lake".
Kerry Walker, who failed in her bid to be elected to the foreshore committee in 2019, said she was concerned the community would be sidelined if this happened.
"We wrote to DELWP that we think a Memorandum of Understanding that allows us to work much more closely with Parks Victoria needs to be prepared, to honour the trust," she said.
"The trust sees the Lake and the Foreshore as one, and because Parks Victoria has followed on from Horsham Rural City Council, there is no reason for us to not to work on the two jointly. DELWP wrote back and said no, and that we weren't allowed to raise money or put any money towards the lake."
Natimuk volunteers have been locked in a dispute with DELWP over whether they had the authority to begin works on a weir at the lake, which they did in 2016. DELWP claims they did not given the weir was built on the reserve Parks Victoria manages.
LOOK BACK ON THE DISPUTE:
In a letter to NLFC chairperson Brenda Strudwick dated June 29, Parks Victoria chair Jeff Floyd suggested Parks Victoria did not have the funding to proceed with works on a controversial weir at the northern end of the lake, and would seek approval to use funds from the Otto Spehr Trust.
"After that we put a submission into the trust saying we didn't have a problem with that if there was a project that fit the purpose of the trust, but we do have a problem about the state government trying to sideline the community to get access to the trust," she said.
"The advice has come back saying just that. It says it's not there to subsidise government coffers. If Parks Victoria is tasked to do something, then it can't get money from the trust for that.
"What it says is it could become a joint committee with the foreshore committee, which is what we suggested to DELWP in the first place."
A 2017 document signed by Parks Victoria and the NLFC shared by Ms Walker with the Mail-Times includes the condition the two groups will work "In partnership... to determine and plan all future costs associated with the maintenance and renewal of the weir".
Ms Walker says she then wrote to the trust, which advised her a harmonious relationship with Parks, in which the groups put in joint submissions for funding, would be most ideal.
She said the trust only had $26,000, not enough to complete the weir project on its own.
The Mail-Times asked DELWPfor a response to Ms Walker's claims Parks was not eligible to unilaterally use funding from the trust to upgrade the weir based on the legal advice.
A DELWP spokeswoman saidthe government department had not requested any changes to the administration of the Otto Spehr trust by Perpetual Limited.
"The Natimuk Lake Foreshore Committee has been appointed by DELWP to deliver land management services for the Natimuk Lake Foreshore Reserve and can operate and spend funds only on this reserve," she said.
DELWP also said it was the role of Perpetual Limited to determine how the trust was administered and how the proceeds of the trust may be spent.
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