Strzelecki Forest Buy Back: A Step in the Right Direction for Victorian Rainforest

October 13, 2006

Environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Friends of Gippsland Bush welcome the Victorian State Government's decision to buy back key wet forest and rainforest areas in the Strzelecki Ranges, known as the Cores and Links.

Friends of the Earth Campaign Coordinator Cam Walker said, "John Thwaites needs to be congratulated about the buy back. He is the first Minister in many years to show an active interest in the region. Friends of the Earth has been working in the region for the past decade and over that time it has been apparent to us that the Strzeleckis are a misunderstood and very poorly protected part of Victoria. We call them Victoria's Hidden Treasure as there are some wonderful places here" said Mr Walker.

"Friends of the Earth understand very well how difficult it is to get a great result in a region that was effectively privatised under the Kennett Government. We also understand how difficult it has been for the Government to protect an area which was already over allocated to the Maryvale pulp mill" said Mr Walker.

Susie Zent, from Gippsland based conservation group Friends of Gippsland Bush added, "The decision will see immediate protection for large areas of the cool temperate rainforest of the Strzeleckis, with the government buying back the leasehold from Hancock Victorian Plantations. Key rainforest catchments to be immediately protected include; Agnes River, Franklin River, College Creek, Jack River, South Middle Creek and Merrimans Creek. As well as logging being stopped in these catchments, buffer zones of 60m and 100m will be granted on rainforest in the Morwell River and Albert River catchments. Long term management of the area will be conducted by Trust for Nature whom Friends of the Earth and Friends of Gippsland Bush have every confidence in.

"It was a very very tough deal for the government to negotiate and this should send a clear warning about any future plans to privatise Victoria's forests. Once in private hands it makes it very difficult to claw back areas from the chainsaws. Local member Brendan Jenkins should also be congratulated on supporting the cores and links proposal from day one" said Ms Zent.

"The eventual reserve will be 8000 hectares in size with a proportion of planted forest being subject to once only logging. All areas logged will then be re-established with indigenous species and retired from timber production" said Mr Walker.

"Although it is not a perfect outcome, this agreement will secure a reserve system, linking Tarra Bulga National Park to the Gunyah Gunyah Reserve, a distance of almost 30km, for the Gippsland community and all Victorian's to enjoy" concluded Ms Zent.

"Friends of the Earth also have concerns that other key rainforest and old growth forests are threatened throughout eastern Victoria and hope that the Bracks Government will place an immediate moratorium on the logging of these areas" concluded Cam Walker.

For further information contact Cam Walker 0419 338 047 or Susie Zent 51 691 588