We got the Strzelecki Blues worse than ever.

Page updated November 14 2006

Several years ago, the Strzelecki Working Group (Hancock Victorian Plantations included) unanimously agreed to ask the State Government to bring about the immediate reservation of the "cores and links", an area of approximately 8,000 hectares of the Strzelecki State Forest identified by Bioisis Research as high conservation forest. The big proviso we all agreed to was that Hancock Victorian Plantations, the Strzelecki State Forest leaseholders, should be adequately compensated for any timber foregone. Most of us also felt that that this compensation should be provided by the State Government in the form of money. The State Government refused to act for many years, until about a year ago when it got more involved. This was horribly late, and the years of delay had stretched HVP╣s patience and bumped up their asking price, but we all hoped for some progress.

On Friday the thirteenth October '06, Mr. Thwaites made an announcement about the cores and links. The gist of the announcement was that the │cores and links▓ were going to be saved, but down in the fine print of his media release, there were hints of a few odious provisos, which were everything that we were dreading. His announcement refers to the agreement made between the State Government and HVP called the │Heads of Agreement▓ which was signed on Oct 5th. Next, a legally binding document based on this will be drawn up between HVP and the State Government, and signed. The Heads of Agreement sets out the deal as it currently seems to stand. For conservation, it╣s a case of one step forward, two steps back. The one step forward is the promise to protect the 8000 ha. of the Cores and Links in the Eastern Strzelecki Ranges. In return HVP are given unprecedented free-reign over the Strzeleckis. The deal turned out very much in HVP╣s favour, and it is troubling and sad to see the State Government dwarfed before the might of the private logging corporation.

The down side of the Agreement:

1. It allows about a fifth to a quarter of the Cores and Links to be clear felled by HVP before "saving" it

2. It opens up "custodial land" (the native forest which makes up about half of their Strzelecki State Forest leasehold land) for logging, as it never was before. HVP is being given access to 460,000 cubic metres of timber from Strzelecki native forest. Before this deal, even if it wanted to log in the │custodial lands▓, the need to obtain shire permits to do so would have proved a real obstacle. This agreement removes this obstacle by fast-tracking Council permits, and allows HVP into whatever custodial land they need to make up their "shortfall". So much for custodianship.

3. The plan is far from fully formed. The government isn't planning a normal reserve, but a baffling hybrid akin to a piece of covenanted private land, even though all of the cores and links is 100% public land. There is no estimate as to how long it will take to log, regenerate and then │save▓ the whole of the │cores and links▓, but we fear that they are planning a painful bit-by-bit approach.

4. It allows for the logging of bits of native vegetation that happen to lie within areas of îplantation╣.

5.. It downgrades the Biosis recommendations for 250m buffers around Cool Temperate Forest to 60m and 100m buffers around Warm Temperate Rainforest to 60m.

6. It stipulates that the members of the Strzelecki Forest Community Group are not to campaign against any of the above, or HVP can call the deal off.

For a time, the Strzelecki Forest Community Group (which is more or less the Strzelecki Working Group minus Hancocks) stuck to our policy and sent fairly consistent messages to the State Government that the absolute minimum that we expected was a: prompt reserving of the Cores and Links, and b: the │custodial land▓ was to remain off-limits to logging. The message that we were receiving was that the Government wasn╣t going to come up with enough money for all of that. As the deal was hammered out, the SFCG╣s solidarity fell apart. The poor Strzelecki Working Group and the poor Strzelecki Forest Community Group were all so disillusioned and disheartened by so many years of getting nowhere that even a cynical and flawed deal such as this was seen by some as better than nothing. A couple of SWG members have tried to talk it up a bit, hail the plan as some sort of triumph, but there hasn╣t been any cheering on the streets. We stuck to our guns and found ourselves sidelined. With the chairman and other SFCG members willing to support this deal, it no longer mattered what we thought. The government could claim that the deal was something that the community supports. We have such an archive of letters of support, │letters to the editor▓, etc, and none of them indicate that any section of the community would be satisfied with the deal as it stands. Hence, by supporting the deal, elements of the SFCG have made the fatal mistake of claiming to represent the community, while failing to adhere to the stated wishes of the community.

From the bits of contact we had with environment minister╣s advisors, we brought away some modicum of faith that the Government was genuine, and keen to go try to fix the problem, but we also felt much trepidation. For one thing, we knew what HVP was like to deal with, and we were picking up signs that the State Government were not keen to come up with │enough▓ money. This was inevitably going to lead to a deal where HVP was │compensated▓ in other ways, and/or a further reduction or dilution of the │cores and links▓ reserve idea. Now, along with the $5 million that the state will pay out to HVP, the additional compensation is basically a granting of all of HVP╣s deepest Strzelecki wishes. The most insulting slap is the proviso that HVP can log the Cores and Links before giving it back. This is closely followed by a painful back-hander allowing HVP to clear fell their │custodial lands▓. It╣s a mess. There╣s other reasons why its all failed so badly: Hancocks kept changing their demands and driving hard bargains; elements within DSE have long been keen to derail any plans for additional reserves in the Strzeleckis.

At some point, about 12 months ago, HVP began to argue that any buyback would also have to address their timber "shortfall" that resulted from saving any areas in the Strzeleckis from logging. They didn't just want money as compensation any more, they wanted an additional "equivalent" volume of wood to be found for them, from places additional to where they╣re already allowed to log. They even held a forum on the issue where several good suggestions were put forward, but ignored. Somewhere in the negotiations, DSE, the Government and HVP seemed to have agreed that any timber volume │forfeited▓ by HVP due the │saving▓ of the Cores and Links would have to be made up from forests in the Strzeleckis. The option of actually CUTTING LESS WOOD was never taken seriously by either party. HVP already have the right to log all the plantations as well as native forest regrowth and reforestation (often mistakenly referred to as plantation). Beyond that, the only additional areas in the Strzeleckis where HVP can make up their │shortfall▓ are the "custodial" lands, the native forest which makes up about half of their Strzelecki State Forest leasehold land, which HVP have often declared was safe from logging, as they were a plantation company, not a native forest logging company. Up until now Hancock Victorian Plantations have traded on their plantation branding, always going on about what good │custodians▓ they were. But the signing of the │Heads of Agreement▓ officially makes HVP a native forest logging company. Forget any idea that HVP is solely a plantation company from here on. The upshot is that in addition to being allowed to log within the Cores and Links, and continue to frantically harvest from their hardwood estate outside of the Cores and Links, HVP have also been granted access to cut an additional 460,000 cubic metres of timber from Strzelecki native forest.

Once more we hark back to the most glaringly cynical part of it all, the deal to let HVP clear fell in the Cores and Links before it is "saved". Didn╣t this dreadful and gloomy piece of mal-practice die out decades ago? Are things still this dire? Media releases state that 1500 ha of the │cores and links▓ will be clear felled. This may take place over many years, even decades. The areas to be logged are being cunningly described as plantation, perhaps putting the false idea forward that these areas are somehow inferior, and that logging it might even be beneficial. This is just spin. In fact these areas are native forest regrowth, predominantly Mountain Ash. There is nothing exotic or plantation-like about them. They are either regrowth after clear felling carried out around 20 - 30 years ago, or part of the Strzelecki Reforestation Scheme. They are part of the depleted Wet Forests that we are trying to protect.

Needless to say, we did not support the deal. We stuck with the SFCG policy that opposed logging in the Cores and Links and in the custodial land, making us dissenters. The decision by many individuals in the group to diverge from their own policies represents a betrayal of what the community actually wants. We are dilligent archivists and have a swag of letters from all sorts of groups and individuals calling for a "Cores and Links" National Park at the very least, many asking for a great deal more and, as we have already said, not a single one suggests that any section of the community would be anything other than insulted by the deal as it stands.

The │Heads of Agreement▓ stipulates that the Strzelecki Forest Community Group are to: îrefrain from campaigning against the Company Group╣s once only harvesting activities in the Custodial Land and plantation areas within the Harvest Area╣ The community, for decades, has been fighting and hoping for a decent amount of protection in the Strzelecki forest, and the Strzeleckis is still not even close to the State Government╣s minimum reserve targets. A great deal of the │Heads of Agreement▓ is at odds with the community╣s wishes. We have left the SFCG because we choose not to be part of a group that supports the agreement.

- Kim Devenish and Julie Constable

P.S. îA Proposal for a 30,000 ha. National Park in the Strzelecki State Forest╣ seeks a further 25,000 ha. of reserves in the Strzelecki State Forest, and has huge public support including: Australian Plants, the South Gippsland Conservation Society, the Mt. Best Concerned Residents Association, the Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists, Environment Victoria, the Strzelecki Hills Branch ALP, Wonthaggi/Bass Branch ALP, Greening Australia, Friends of the Gippsland Bush; Friends of Morwell National Park; Friends of Tarra-Bulga National Park, Greens Party, Prom Coast Tourism, Mt. Eliza Association for Environmental Care, the Foster îPlanning for Real╣ project, Senator Bob Brown, Professor David Bellamy and the Victorian National Parks Association. 7,000 people signed a petition in support of the national park in a few months in 1998. The petition was tabled in the Victorian Parliament. The Gippsland RFA îSocial Assessment╣ acknowledged the community╣s vision for a major national park in the Strzeleckis and the Board of the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority noted the community╣s acceptance of the park proposal. The Nature Conservation Review 2001 recommended a major new park for the Strzelecki Ranges of around 45,000 ha.

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Previous update: June 2004

 

The ALPs pre-election policy document, Our Natural Assets: Valuing Victorias natural environment (1999) states: "The Kennett Government has failed to protect remaining native vegetation in the Strzelecki Ranges.It privatised over 20,000 ha.of native vegetation when it sold the Victorian Plantations Corporation to private interests, and failed to enforce the Code of Forest Practice to protect rainforests, streamside vegetation and other native vegetation from logging. . Labor will:

-Ensure full protection of all conservation areas in the Strzelecki Ranges

Negotiate with private landowners to ensure protection of all significant areas of native forest and strictly enforce the code of forest practice

-Refer the Strzelecki Ranges to the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council to examine future opportunities for protection of native forests in the region."

THE LABOR PARTY HAS BEEN IN GOVERNMENT FOR NEARLY FOUR YEARS AND THESE PROMISES HAVE NOT BEEN FULFILLED

Crisis in the Strzeleckis

-Severely depleted bioregion 

-Severely under reserved

-Public forest leased to a plantation corporation.

-No environmental assessment before privatisation 

-Native forest misclassified as plantation

-Logging rates higher than ever

-Very young Mountain Ash forest cut and replaced with non-endemic plantation species

-Exempt from many public processes

-Flora and fauna threatened

-Rainforest threatened by Myrtle wilt

South Gippsland Victoria. Australia

Black outline: Strzelecki Bioregion ( 340,000 ha.)

Green: most of the remaining Native vegetation ( around 65,000 ha) 

History

The Great Forest of Gippsland once covered the entire Strzelecki Ranges.  Much of the Eastern and nearly all of the Western Strzeleckis was privatised and converted to agricultural land between the 1850s and the 1920s, along with the bulk of the surrounding foothills and flats.  The destruction of this giant forest was one of the most regrettable and painful chapters in Australia's history.  But not all was lost.  Luckily, the upper parts of the Eastern Strzeleckis were just too inaccessible, too steep, too hostile, and too difficult to clear and remained Crown Land.  Since the 1930s a further 28,000 ha. was gradually repurchased by the State, bringing the extent of public land in these ranges to 60,000 ha.  9,000 ha. of the Strzelecki State Forest was land briefly leased out to hopeful farmers in the 1890s.  This land reverted back to the Crown after proving to be unsuitable for farming and was abandoned, often before any clearing took place.  A 1927 royal Commission reported that abandoned 'farmland' in the Strzeleckis had already returned to heavy forest cover.  The remaining 26,000 ha. has always been Crown Land.  So, less than half the Strzelecki State Forest is repurchased land.

By the end of the 1940s a reforestation scheme to 'restore beauty and productivity' to areas which had been damaged slowly got underway.   In part, it served to allow and assist the bush to reclaim failed farm clearings.  Its main emphasis, however, was to replace mixed forest and farmland with a great expanse of pine plantations.  This led to a prolonged war with the natural environment by way of baiting, spraying, ringbarking and bulldozing.  Wallabies and wattles were branded as pests.

Now, most of the remnant Strzelecki Wet, Damp and Cool-temperate Forest lies in the upper reaches of the Eastern Strzelecki Ranges, with a few significant outlying sites.The 59,000 ha. of public land in the Strzeleckis is made up of 5000 Ha of reserves, and about 54,000 ha. of State Forest. This State Forest contains around 13,000 ha. of pine plantations around its edges. These intensively managed areas should be easing pressure on the Strzelecki native forest.  Not so.  In addition to the pines, approximately 7,000 ha. of native forest has been mislabelled 'hardwood plantation'.  This is a problem that the State Government must fix. 

 

The Forest

The Strzelecki uplands form the beginnings for all of South Gippslands rivers and creeks, feeding Gippslands major inlets and lakes. 

It is steep,wet country and the area is one of Victoria's most significant sites for cool temperate rainforest and renowned for its huge Mountain Ash.The forest is home to a genetically distinctive endemic koala population of national conservation significance and endangered species including the Spot-tailed Quoll, Powerful Owl, Broad-toothed Rat, Barking Owl, Sooty Owl, Bent-wing Bat and the Australian Grayling. Superb Lyrebirds, loved for their beautiful song and dance gave the name Land of the Lyrebird to the South Gippsland area; their habitat is now restricted to the remnant forest. Reserves, including the Tarra-Bulga National Park are much admired but are too small. The accounts written by the early settlers describe the variety and the sheer abundance of the wildlife- Koalas, Quolls, Gliders, Platypus, Wombats, Bandicoots, Potoroos. Echidnas were observed trundling along in long echidna trains. Gum leaves, Wattle, Ferny gullies, Blackwood, Beech and giant Ash combined into the archetypal Southern forest. Mosses, lichens, fungi and ferns covered tree trunks and fallen logs. Everything grew to an astounding size. Shrubs grew as trees. Trees grew gargantuan. 

The extent and abundance has been diminished. The native forest community is confined to a fifth of its former extent, and that fifth has not received the level of protection it needs to retain and boost biodiversity, habitat values and catchment health. Given protection, the bush will bounce back, but at present, it is being kept in a state of arrested development by clearfelling. 

 

Amcor, the VPC and Hancocks

The presence of the Maryvale paper mill to the north of the Ranges has added pressure on the Strzelecki forest. For more than 5 decades APMs (became Amcor) Maryvale paper mill has sourced Mountain Ash from the Strzelecki public forest. The company also became the major holder of freehold forest and plantations in the Strzeleckis. Since the 60s Amcor also leased 8600 ha. of the Strzelecki State Forest.

In 1993 the Kennett Government created the Victorian Plantations Corporation (VPC) and put most of the Strzelecki State Forest (40,000 ha.) under its management. This change in management took place without community consultation or environmental assessments. 

Strzelecki residents gathered on the steps of parliament House on Tuesday, 28th April, 1998, to express their grievances and disgust with the Government and called for a large National Park in the Strzeleckis. 

The following night, the Bill was passed through the Lower House, but not without considerable debate regarding public access, lack of maps for the public to scrutinize.  Many locals, including the South Gippsland Conservation Society have urged that a moratorium on hardwood logging in the Strzeleckis be put in place until grievances are resolved.

In 1998, the Kennett Government sold the VPC to Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP), the Victorian branch of US based timber company, Hancock Timber Resource Group. The land that the VPC managed was transferred to HVP in the form of leaseholds. No environmental impact study was undertaken beforehand.

In 2002, all of Amcors freehold and leasehold plantations and native forest in Gippsland was purchased by HVP.

HVP leaseholds and freehold in Strzeleckis 

Leased Strz. State Forest:

Ex- VPC State Softwood plantations13166 ha. 

Ex- VPC native forestmis-labelled as plantation6500 ha.

Ex ?VPCunavailable native forest19674 ha.

Ex - Amcor native forest and plantation4500 ha. (approx.)

Ex -Amcor unavailable Native forest4000 ha. (approx.)

Freehold:

Ex-Amcor Softwood plantations11934 ha.

Ex-Amcoravailable native forest2500 ha (approx.)

Ex-Amcor Native forest12000 ha. (approx.)

Total 73700 ha.

The Rest Of The Forest in the Strzeleckis

State Forest not leased5000 ha.

Reserves (Tarra-Bulga & Morwell Nat. Parks, Mt. Worth State Park & Gunyah Rainforest Res) :   5000 ha.

Freehold Native Forest other than HVPs10,000 ha. approx

Everything else is now leased or owned by HVP: threatened and depleted forest types, cool temperate rainforest, sites of botanical significance. 

 

 

Native Forest in Private Hands -  Mountain Ash treated as plantation

7000 ha. of Strzelecki native Mountain Ash regrowth and reforestation had its native forest status stripped away, was re-labelled plantation and included in the States plantation privatisation package. To make this bad idea worse, 20,000 more hectares of native forest in and around these areas were also included in the package.No other State Forest has had its regrowth re-classified as plantation and in no other State Forest has so much native forest been given over to private management.

The highly contentious 7000 ha. included 50 years of regenerated logging coupes, and 50 years of reforestation ( native forest restoration). 

In the 80s the Land Conservation Council undertook a major assessment of the place and recommended that these areas remain in public tenure and subject to the Forests Act.It is now quasi-private and exempt from the Forests Act. This forest which locals hold dear is being treated as if it were private land and logging has intensified in these important headwaters, fragmenting habitat, introducing exotic species through the heart of the remnant forest and threatening biodiversity, waterways, rainforest and the health of the forest. 

Classifying these areas as plantation means forest can be cut frequently and replaced with any plantation species. As a result, young Mountain Ash forest is being cut and replaced with non-endemic Shining Gum and Blue Gum.

Logging rates increases

HVP are currently logging eucalypt at the rate of 450 ha / year from leased Strzelecki State Forest). Recently, HVP announced their intention to increase this forest destruction to 700 ha / year. A moratorium on logging in the controversial misclassified areas should be put in place until community grievances are addressed.

Softwood in the Strzeleckis is being cut at a rate of around 2000 ha. per year.

The Strzeleckis needs more reserves

The 340,000 ha. Strzelecki Ranges Bioregion is the most depleted forest bioregion in Victoria with only 20% of original native vegetation cover remaining. The proportion of land protected in reserves is also unusually small.Less than 2% (5,000 hectares) of the bioregion or about 8% of the public land is protected in formal reserves.In comparison, the minimum reservation target adopted by the RFA and draft Native Vegetation Plans is 15%, and the proportion of public land in reserve averaged across Victoria is around 50%.Its very clear that the Strzeleckis does not yet have an adequate reserve system, even though there is ample opportunity to create one. 

Reports and studies have stressed the inadequacy of the Strzeleckis reserve system. The CAR reserve criteria suggests reserves should be catchment based, have a low boundary-area ratio and be linked across the landscape. These criteria have been considered in the National Park and the Cores and Links proposals.

Approximately 2% of public land in Victoria has been converted to plantation, yet in the Strzeleckis approximately 35% of public land has been converted to plantation.  In order to rectify this gross imbalance, the remnant forest in the Strzeleckis needs formal reserve protection. 

A Proposal for a 30,000 hectare National Park in the Strzeleckis   

In 1998, South Gippslanders worked out a way to enlarge the reserve system to 30,000 ha. bringing the proportion of land in reserve to a much healthier 10% of total bioregion, bringing existing reserves (5000 ha.) together with the non-leased areas of State Forest (5000 ha.) and almost half of the leased public land (20,000 ha.).The national park would link the forest from Turtons Creek in the west to beyond Tarra-Bulga Park in the east, as well as including outlying but significant areas.The Proposal struck a strong note in the Gippsland community with 7000 people signing a petition in support of it in no time at all.Support was remarkably broad and enthusiastic, and opposition was virtually non-existent. The local community was aware of lack of conservation in the Strzeleckis. 

Nature Conservation Review 2001

This was commissioned by the Victorian National Parks Assoc. to identify gaps within Victorias reserve system. The report stressed that the wetter forests of the Strzelecki Ranges Bioregion stand out as a forested bioregion requiring special attention due to the high level of threatened Ecological Vegetation Classes and very poor reservation.It recommended a major new park system for the Strzelecki Ranges to ensure protection of the remaining biodiversity of the wet and damp eucalypt forests and cool temperate rainforests of the region. 

The Cores and Links reserve proposal 

The Strzelecki Working Group (SWG)formed by the South Gippsland Shire and with conservation, HVP & Shire representatives, commissioned the Strzelecki Ranges Biodiversity Study, which identified five high biodiversity Core Areas and habitat links joining the Gunyah Rainforest reserve to Tarra Bulga NP and College Creek.This proposal will protect nationally significant rainforest sites, secure habitat for endangered species and protect the headwaters of the streams and rivers in the Eastern Strzeleckis and add some 8000 ha. to the reserve system. This is an urgent priority. 

HVP agree to it as long as they are compensated for the foregone harvesting rights.The company agreed to a temporary moratorium on logging in the Cores and Links but time is running out. 

The non-leased State Forest reserve proposal  

A second proposal endorsed by the Strzelecki Working Group is to have the5,000 ha. of non-leased State Forest added to the reserve system.

These two Strzelecki Working Group proposals if implemented would raise the amount of public land reserved in the Strzeleckis from under 2% to almost 7% of the bioregion.

Support for a greater reserve system in the Strzeleckis   Friends of the EarthEnvironment Victoria, Victorian National Parks Assoc, Wilderness Soc., Field Naturalist Club of Vic, Gippsland Local Govt Network, Friends of the Gippsland Bush, Society for Growing Australian Plants, South Gippsland Conservation Society,Friends of Tarra-Bulga NP, Mt. Best Concerned Residents Association, Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists, Strzelecki Hills and Wonthaggi/Bass branches of the ALP, Prom Coast Tourism, Prof. David Bellamy and the Aust. Greens (Victoria) have all expressed their support. 

Processes bypassed by the leasing of State Forest and by the re-classification of native forest as plantation

 

1. Gippsland Regional Forest Agreements 

Initially, the Strzelecki State Forest was part of the RFA process and part of the Deferred Forest Area which was to protect it from logging until the RFA was completed.Midway through the process the State Government privatised the bulk of the forest and by doing so excluded it from the RFA process and consideration for the CAR reserve system, which was supposed to apply to all public forest.The local community was appalled. The Gippsland RFA Consultation Paper stated: A range of concerns have been raised by communities in South Gippsland about the management of native forest and plantations in the Strzeleckis.These relate to the sale of the plantations, the appropriateness of transfer of public native forest management to private companies and the delineation of the extent of plantations in maps published in the CRA for the Gippsland RFA.

2. The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC)

The Gippsland RFA Consultation Paper stated: The Victorian Government has indicated its intention to ensure full protection of all conservation areas in the Strzelecki Ranges and to refer the issues raised about the Strzelecki Ranges to the proposed Environmental Assessment Council to examine future opportunities for protection of native forests in the region.These processes will follow completion of the Gippsland RFA.

The Strzelecki issues have not been referred to the VEAC, as its terms of reference have been limited to exclude leased public land.But not even the non-leased State Forest has been referred to the VEAC and the promise to create another process to examine the Strzeleckis has not been kept.

3. Sustainable Yield Review

Society is grappling with the idea of sustainability and the best way to apply principles of sustainability to all our resource use. The State commissioned the Sustainable Yield Review to look into harvesting rates in Victorias State Forests. It found that in many regions logging was unsustainable and in some regions, including West Gippsland, logging rates will need to be halved. Because it is leased, the Strzelecki State Forest was exempted from this Review.

4. Forest Management Plans (FMPs)

The Victorian Government legislated to make FMPs a requirementfor all state forests.Public participation is invited in the development of these plans.FMPs are not compulsory for the leased state forest in the Strzeleckis.

5. Code of Forest Practices (COFP)

As the land they lease is treated as if private land, the company operate under the section of the COFP which applies to private land which is less stringent than the Code for Public land. As the native vegetation they cut is mis-classified as plantation, the code is less stringent still.

Current Forest Management

A major fear held by locals was that a private plantation corporation would not be the appropriate organization to manage our remnant State Forest. We have now had the time to observe if our fears have come true. They have.

The problem was set up by the Government. 

After decades of rough treatment at the hands of the Forestry Commission,and then the VPC, the State Forest was leased off before any environmental assessment had been made, without an adequate reserve system, before any management plans had been made, and in the face of great community opposition. Ash Reforestation and regrowth had its native forest status revoked and was wrongly classified and sold as plantation.  The rate of clearfelling has increased.  The focus has switched from 100 year rotation rates (the time allowed between harvestings) to 20-30 year rotation rates.  The future effects of 3 or more clearfellings per century is unknown.  Areas of native forest restoration are being logged and replaced with non-local plantation species.   Responsibility for policing logging was shifted to Shires. HVP bought into one great big unresolved problem. However, the VPC Act exempts HVPs leaseholds from the Forests Act and a raft of other Acts giving it a great deal of freedom to operate with impunity regardless of these unresolved problems.

The problem made worse. 

Sohow has this corporation responded to these challenges?Does it develop a strategy most advantageous to-

A. The Environment

B. The Community

C. Shareholders

Answer: C

HVP have made it clear that the corporations main objective is to maximise benefits to shareholders. 

HVPs income is largely derived from the cutting and selling of wood. If better conservation and catchment practices need to be adopted to best serve the environment, but these practices diminishes their potential to cut wood, it is viewed as going against the interests of their shareholders and their commitment to their customers. HVP strongly feel that their shareholders should not bear the costs of conservation and should be compensated for any significant losses. 

HVP have chosen to manage the controversial 7,000 ha. of Mountain Ash as plantation, without any concessions to historical and biological evidence.HVP chooses to perpetuate the myth created at the time of sale,by not acknowledging the Native Forest status of these areas.They are taking full advantage of their right to strip these areas at an unprecedented rate and replant in non-native plantation species. This kind of intensive cropping is not what State Forests are for.Locals are deeply disturbed at the loss of this young Mountain Ash forest, forest fragmentation, threats to rainforest and reduction in forest biodiversity.All native forest is at the least regionally significant in this depleted bioregion and should not be treated in this manner.

HVPs reluctance to adopt recommended management prescriptions

In addition to identifying the high conservation value cores and links on leased State Forest, The Strzelecki Ranges Biodiversity Study made recommendations for appropriate logging prescriptions which would serve to halt the ongoing degradation of the remaining biodiversity:

1.Retention of all native vegetation on custodial lands

2.Clear delineation of native vegetation on the ground to minimise disturbance from harvesting activities.

3.250 metre buffer no go zones around all Cool Temperate Rainforest Isolates

4.100 metre buffer no go zones around all Strzeleckis Warm Temperate Rainforest Isolates

5.Minimum buffers of 30 m. from centre of waterways, including the incorporation of a strip of the closest trees, which may widen some buffer zones beyond the 30 m. minimum level.

6.Drainage lines to have20 m. buffer strips, retaining trees.

7.A minimum buffer of 2000 m.around the Spot-tailed Quoll record

8.No harvesting onslopes over 25 degrees

9.The extension of gully strips to ridge lines and widening them to retain eucalypts

10. The planting of a mix of indigenous tree species, especially for koalas in large areas that have recently been harvested.

11.The planting of Mountain ash should be encouraged for any replanting.Hardwood areas should not be replaced by pine trees or any other non-indigenous species.

12. Tracks, etc need to avoid crossing areas of retained vegetation

13.If necessary, only minimal amounts of herbicide should be used in any coupe preparation works and spray drift must be avoided.Herbicides should be relatively non-residual.

The company has indicated they cannot comply with these recommendations, with the possible exception of Nos. 1, 2 and 12.

Rainforest, Myrtle Wilt & Buffers

The Myrtle-Beech that dominates much of the Strzelecki rainforest is being killed by a fungal pathogen. The condition is known as Myrtle Wilt and is now widespread in the region and spread by wind. Exposed rainforest on the edge of logging coupes is particularly affected, and Myrtle trees damaged by nearby logging are extra vulnerable. Buffers (no-logging zones) of 250 metres around all rainforest isolates were recommended in the SR Biodiversity study as a precautionary measure to allow the rainforest to expand; restrict spread of Myrtle Wilt, increase forest diversity as forests mature; and allow populations of rare and threatened species to stabilise or expand.

This privatisation experiment has been deeply tainted by the reckless inclusion of the rare and precious Strzelecki State Forest in the package. 

It needs more protection. HVP remind us that it could be worse.The legislation under which they operate permits activities that even they dare not exploit, such as the right to:

-cut any wood, not just pseudo-plantation

-bar public access to leased public land

-convert 2000 ha. of NF into plantation.

This highlights the insecure status of the Strzelecki forest. Companies may change and commitments falter.It demonstrates again, why Government intervention is necessary to reverse the horrors of this privatisation and protect the biodiversity and heritage of the Strzelecki State Forest.

Enough Dilly-Dally!

1. As a matter of urgency, the Core and Link areas must be formally protected. As part of the Strzelecki Working Group, HVP has supported the cores and links reserve proposal as long as they are compensated. 

Boundaries have been delineated, an agreement has been reached between Shires, Authorities, Industry and Community. A scientific report has been submitted. Public support has been well demonstrated. All this represents nine-tenths of a difficult process provided to the State Government on a platter, free of charge. The only missing element is the money which the State Government provide to compensate HVP so that this land can be taken back and made into a reserve. The Government has known all this since January 2002 and still have not given it any budget or priority. It is ridiculous that the State Government hasnt jumped to take advantage of this perfect opportunity.

2. The areas wrongly classified and sold as hardwood plantation must have their native forest status reinstated. The State should buy back the leaseholds over all these areas (7000 ha.), not just those within the cores and links. Along with this, management of up to 20,000 ha of leased Native Forest in the immediate vicinity should be returned to Public ownership and an appropriate amount incorporated into a formal public reserve. 

Public forest leases acquired by Hancocks from Amcor should also be reviewed. 

As long as their forestry practices are acceptable, the public should not have a problem with HVP owning 76000 ha. of freehold land across Gippsland or leasing 108000 ha. of public pine plantations across the State. However, HVPs leasehold over 20,000 ha. of native forest and 7,000 ha. of native forest mis-classified as plantation will remain a social problem until rectified.

Some Native Forest is within pine plantations (possibly up to 5000 ha. in the Strzeleckis) and for reasons of practicality should continue under HVP management

3.The Government must honour its commitments to the JANIS criteria and the promise to examine future opportunities for protection of Strzelecki native forests.Much of the ground-work for such an examination can be found in:A Proposal for a 30,000 ha. National Park; The Nature Conservation Review; The Cores and Links reserve proposal ; The proposal for the reservation of the non-leased State Forest.

 

"This must be the place for a new National Park"  

said David Bellamy in December 1998 when he visited the Strzeleckis.

 

The Save our Strzeleckis Forest Coalition held a demonstration in front of the Victorian Parliament on Wednesday August 27 2003 to remind the State Government of its promises about the Strzelecki forest and the ongoing crisis. Senator Bob Brown addressed the 300 strong rally. 

 

Write to Minister John Thwaites and Premier Bracks about the crisis in the Strzeleckis. For their contact details click here  

 


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