09 November, 2010

Chip backflip

Kath Gannaway
Upper Yarra Mail (article), 9th November 2010

Ray Lewis wants a halt to clear-fell logging of native forests for wood chips.

TOOLANGI resident Ray Lewis is calling on John Brumby to keep the pre-election promise he made in 2005 to ban wood chipping of native forests timber.

He wants the Premier to stand by the election pledge to end native forest woodchipping exports.

However, last week the Premier's office issued a statement saying the government backed the industry's woodchip paper deal.

As Victorians head to the polls, Mr Lewis said he wanted all political parties to commit to ditching clear-fell logging in state forests, and in particular in the water catchments.

And, keep those promises.

“I'm not a greenie, and I have no objection to selective logging, but what you see here is just ripping the guts out of the forest,” Mr Lewis said looking from the hill above his home to a coupe of Silvia Creek Road.

It was at a pre-election rally in Melbourne fifteen years ago that John Brumby, as Leader of the Opposition labelled wood chipping of native forests “a total disaster” in terms of the economic return and the environment.

Slating the Kennett Government for its record on the export woodchip industry before the surprise ALP win, Mr Brumby said: “We need a new direction, we have the opportunity to head in a new direction, a new direction that says no export woodchips from our native forests.”

Mr Lewis says it's time that promise was honoured and that the time is right, with the Tasmanian timber industry's recent announcement they plan to move out of native forests in favour of plantation timber, for all Victorian politicians to bite the bullet on an industry he says sends more native timber overseas as woodchip than it turns into high quality timber products.

While the Department of Sustainability in August reduced the number of coupes approved in its Timber Release Plans by 47 in the Marysville District which includes Toolangi, he says it is not enough.

“They are clearing remnant forest, untouched by the Black Saturday bushfires and when you challenge VicForests or DSE they just tell you they regenerate it,” he said. “You only have to go up to the Monda Track (Toolangi) and see what's been done there. When they clear-fell they take everything, including tree-ferns, some decades old. You can't reseed them.

“They left a buffer zone, but months later came back and cut it all down resulting in damage to trees and ferns on the other side of the road.

A VicForests spokesman in response to questions put to the organisation in July in relation to logging in Toolangi told the Mail while in some instances the Forest Management Plan requires a scenic buffer of specific roads there was no requirement for one on the Monda Track coupe.

He said the section, which Mr Lewis refers to as a buffer, was not logged during the initial harvesting in 2008/09 but was cut in 2009/10 as planned.

In relation to tree-ferns, he said “VicForests does not remove tree ferns from the forest as part of its operations”, but added that “not all ferns survive the harvesting process”.

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