The Tambo or Gippsland forests, north of Bairnsdale, first suffered a 700% increase in woodchipping after its RFA was signed in 2000. On top of that, they were burnt in the 2003 fires and have been “salvage” logged at eight times the legally sustainable yield level since then.
Salvaged to death
Since they lie in between the controversial forest campaign areas of the Central Highlands and East Gippsland, overstretched conservationists have sadly not kept a check on the Tambo forests. The area is Gippsland’s version of “deliverance country”. It has been the favoured killing fields of the woodchip industry, with the Bairnsdale railhead located just to the south. This gives ready rail access to Midways woodchip mill at Geelong – and easy highway access to the Nippon (old Daishowa) woodchip mill at Eden. Since the 2002/2003 bush fires, woodchip interests, associated logging companies and tame foresters have been “salvage logging” these ash forests (the woodchippers’ favoured timber) to death.
The intensity has increased over the last three years until log trucks are now running around the clock. Locals are suffering anxiety disorders from the constant roar of trucks all day and night. Many feel it is unsafe to drive on their own local road.
Live trees classed as “dead”
Reports have been sent to us of live trees recovering well from the fires, and then ending up classified as fire killed by DSE foresters. Original guidelines stated only fire-killed trees could be “salvaged” with logging of a few live trees that were amongst dead trees allowed. Coupe boundaries had to be “neatened” and so more live trees were taken. Then to rub salt in to the wounds, a Swifts Creek forester tells us that he extended the definition of “salvage” to include trees that were lightly burnt at the base as they anticipated the tree would become diseased and die anyway.
24 hour logging
Currently, over a hundred truck trips a day service this logging on just one road alone. These B-Double and mini B-Double trucks can carry between 40-50 tonnes and this logging has gone on seven days a week, night and day for the past three years. Do the simple sums and it comes to a staggering 1.8 million tonnes or over eight times the legal logging rate for the Tambo forests (which is meant to be 72,000 m3 a year and even that’s a questionable rate of clearfelling).
Foresters out of control
Premier Bracks has been alerted to this, yet nothing has been done. This is just one more example of logging companies and DSE forest officers being a law unto themselves and a government that allows the DSE to rule them. Entire landscapes seem to be clearfelled, coupe on coupe, without regard for size limitations, environmental codes or truthful identification of fire-killed forests.
Relative to total area and rate of destruction, this salvage logging exceeds the uncontrolled logging going on in the Amazon and Indonesian forests! The difference is that ours is “legal”.
You can see that the woodchip industry is still driving Mr Bracks’ forest department.
We have been gathering information on these areas and intend to present the evidence to the Minister in the near future. Anyone with additional information can phone it through or write to EEG. All information will be treated in confidence.