Sites of National Conservation Significance to be Sacrificed in Strzelecki Forest Deal

\SitesConservation groups Friends of the Earth and Friends of Gippsland Bush (FoGB) have today announced concern over the State Government's May 30 announcement regarding forest protection in the Strzelecki ranges in south eastern Victoria.

Morwell River Headwaters

 

Press Release 2/6/08

Sites of National Conservation Significance to be Sacrificed in Strzelecki Forest Deal.

Conservation groups Friends of the Earth and Friends of Gippsland Bush (FoGB) have today announced concern over the State Government's May 30 announcement “More Than 20,000ha of Gippsland Native Forest Wins Protection”.

“The first area to be targeted for logging under this deal will most likely be College Creek” said FoGB spokesperson Susie Zent. “College Creek is a site of National Conservation Significance. Over 350ha could be wiped out in College Creek alone! 1,500Ha of the Strzelecki Cores and Links Rainforest Reserve will also be clear felled, including key rainforest catchments. The previous Conservation Minister went to great lengths to save these rainforest areas. The new Conservation Minister will approve their destruction” Ms Zent said.

Logging operations on the lands of the Victorian Plantations Corporation (VPC) were privatised by the Kennett government. Since then, and for the past decade, The Strzelecki Community Group, comprising three local shires, Trust for Nature, the Catchment Management Authority and conservation groups have lobbied for the creation of a Rainforest Reserve which would link the Core Areas of rainforests of Gunyah Gunyah, College Creek, Jack River, Tarra Bulga National Park to Merrimans Creek, a distance of 30km. In 2001 a study conducted by Biosis Research confirmed that the Cores and Links Reserve would protect the highest biodiversity values of the Strzelecki Ranges. A Memorandum of Understanding (HoA) was signed in October 2006 to protect these areas by Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP), Australian Paper, Trust for Nature and the Strzelecki Forest Community Group (SFCG).

“The 2006 HoA has now been terminated without consultation with the community” said Friends of the Earth Spokesperson Anthony Amis. “We learnt of this in a meeting with Conservation Minister Gavin Jennings last Friday morning. This new deal has been created solely by HVP and the Department of Sustainability and Environment, with no input from local experts, who have been working in the area for the past decade. The decision will allow for the logging of 83% of accessible forests in the rainforest areas of the Cores and Links Rainforest Reserve. These are areas John Thwaites was determined to protect. The gutting of these areas will grant the Maryvale Pulp Mill supply for only 2 years. The gutting of College Creek will provide less than 6 months worth of pulp logs to Maryvale ” said Mr Amis.

“We believe that the announcement that 20,000ha of native forest would be protected is a distraction from the major issue, which is the protection of the proposed rainforest reserve. This is because of the fact that to successfully protect the 20,000ha, the Minister will have to amend the VPC Act, otherwise there is no long term protection of native forest, except that which occurs on private land. The VPC Act overrides all initiatives to protect almost all forest areas in the Strzeleckis. From Friday's meeting it appears that the Minister has no intention of amending the Act, meaning that his promise to protect native forest is almost meaningless” said Mr Amis. “The minister can not deliver his promise”.

“As the community has been excluded from negotiations, we have not been informed of the location of the native forest which will gain protection, which may well include isolated small patches varying in quality and size including road lines, inaccessible steep gullies, weed infested sites, dams etc. The 20,000ha of native forest is also likely to include areas which the timber industry have no interest in and are therefore more than happy to be paid for via future carbon credit deals. Hancock also have another 15,000ha of custodial land in the region which begs the question of why this was not included in the deal as well” concluded Ms Zent.

“We are not convinced that significant areas of native forest will be saved from logging in this deal. Only yesterday we witnessed examples of custodial land being logged by Hancock, including areas of Mountain Ash in the Jack River catchment which is supposedly protected in the deal announced on Friday. We have monitored the region for the past decade and native forest removal by this company under the smokescreen for plantation management is commonplace. The Government has totally caved into the industry” concluded Mr Amis.

 

For more details call Susie Zent or Anthony Amis on 51 691 588 or (03) 9419 8700