Like trying to mix water and woodchips

In April 2008, Peter Campbell from EEG attended a ‘Stakeholder Reference Group’ meeting, as part of the government’s “Wood and Water Sustainability Assessment Project”. It was as we expected – a poorly devised process to maintain the status quo.

The group is to look at options to address water loss due to logging in catchments. It was a promise by the Bracks government in its 2004 report “Securing our Water Future Together”. It was also to provide studies and investigations but they remain unfinished.

EEG’s concerns about the process include:

1. Information not available

The following three inputs are now well overdue for release:
* Timber substitution studies
* Hydrological studies
* Water quality review .

We were informed that they were “very close to being released”. But this was also the case last year. The process should not continue without them. .

2. Conflicting criteria

The criteria listed were in conflict. It wants logging to:

  • aim to improve water yield;
  • work within existing government policy; and
  • ensure that current government log supply commitments are met.

Increasing water yield while maintaining the over-logging of critical habitat are at odds. Also – “aim” does not mean “achieve”. .

They also want logging options to include:
• phasing out of logging; (later changed to phasing ‘down’ …)
• a reduction of the net area of logging following the expiration of current legal obligations; (ie reduce logging once the best areas have been trashed)
• substitution of native forest logs with plantation logs;
• substitution of forest logs inside the water catchment with forest logs outside the catchment;
• thinning; (ie treat forests as monoculture plantations)
• various logging rotation lengths.

The government wants to sell logs to Maryvale’s woodchip mill for years to come, thereby protecting commercial interests. However, the error in promising those log volumes in the first place should be reassessed.

3. Poor options for managing forests

Various logging options were tabled, but none suggested ending logging by 2010. Peter stated that this option was essential. The government had raised community expectations by its commitments in their ‘02 and ‘04 reports on water .

We were told that the 2010 option would be “assessed but not presented to government”. Peter reiterated that it must be.

4. Carbon storage in forest

The carbon sink issue was only looked at in a minimalist way – and only tree trunks were counted. Peter pointed out that carbon storage in forests included understorey, tree roots, sub-soil life and humus.

Boycotting the process

The process is structured to keep the logging industry happy. A letter was sent to DSE outlining EEG’s concerns and that we will not participate further if an option for stopping logging in catchments by 2010 is not included. The Wilderness Society, The Central Highlands Alliance and the ACF are also set to boycott this seemingly pre-determined set-up. Our points of concern and the serious failings of this process have been ignored.

Protecting forests to increase water yields is essential in all Victorian catchments including East Gippsland, Central Highlands and the Murray Darling basin.
If they don’t include the 2010 deadline for logging option and release the long-overdue promised reports, EEG will have ‘input’ from ‘outside’ – via community campaigns.

A Victorian logging industry justifications for logging catchments is almost exactly the same as the current government position. Suggested considerations in any review also seems remarkably similar. A coincidence? Have a look for yourself –
http://www.vafi.org.au/documents/VAFIseminar30Mar06combined_000.pdf

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