Mirboo North community hopes to buy Victorian state forest to prevent VicForests logging

A South Gippsland landowner has offered to buy state forest to prevent the timber being harvested by Victorian Government-owned logging company VicForests.

Jon Wood runs beef cattle on the edge of the intended harvest area at Mirboo North in eastern Victoria, and said harvesting the logs would reduce land value.

VicForests has outlined plans to harvest up to 50 hectares of timber near the town.

“It’s a tiny little precinct of a biodiverse eucalypt forest, in a region totally devastated by farming over the last 100 years,” Mr Wood said.

“I disagree with the total premise of milling state forests. State forests are given to the State Government in trust for the community for our future children.”

Government ‘not trusted to look after forest’

Mr Wood said he was investigating developing a fund to buy the state forest from the Government.

“What we’re going to do is try and bring the politicians to account, and make them understand that they have been given these assets in trust for the community,” he said.

“There’s no one in favour of this proposal in the community.

“We don’t trust the State Government to look after our state forest, and these state forests are very important to our community.”

Mr Wood said if successful, he would put a covenant on the land.

“[This will say] ‘It doesn’t matter who gets elected, it doesn’t matter who the politicians are, you cannot mill and you can’t destroy the ecosystem that exists in this forest’,” he said.

“That covenant would then protect it for our children.

“Forested land around here with a covenant isn’t that expensive. The reality is it’s not that expensive to buy, but it’s very valuable.”

VicForests tells community meeting timber is worth $8m

VicForests general manager of stakeholder and planning Lachlan Spencer addressed a community meeting in Mirboo North for two hours.

He said VicForests intended to harvest up to 50 hectares of timber near the town, but those plans could change.

Mr Spencer told the meeting the product harvested could be worth $8 million.

“To put a value on it at this early stage of planning is probably premature, but what was put tonight was to give the crowd some context,” he said.

Mirboo North residents voiced strong opposition at the meeting to VicForests’ logging intentions.

Crowd estimates varied from 250 people to 500.

The community is seeking an urgent meeting with Premier Daniel Andrews to voice their concerns about biodiversity loss, water quality effects and the potential loss of the tourism industry.

‘Last bit of the great forests’

Mirboo North resident Vicki Sinclair said it had been moving to see so many people from her town come together to voice their opposition to the timber harvesting plans.

“Everything of our community is tied up in those forests, which are so close to our town,” she said.

“We do so much of our recreation there and it’s our last bit of the great forests of Gippsland.”

Mirboo North resident Susanne Whiteman said the logging area would be within view of her house.

She does not want logging to go ahead in the small area of bush near Mirboo North.

“I came here tonight because I think VicForests needs to move into the future and start sustainably logging,” she said.

“I get that we need to do some kind of timber industry, I don’t want to stop it all together, but I do believe there is a better way of logging.”

Originally Published at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-18/mirboo-north-community-hopes-stop-logging-state-forest/8954416

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