You might have seen the government telling us they protected 20,000 ha of South Gippsland’s long-suffering forests. There are only tiny remnants left of this once vast expanse of tall wet forest that supported the tallest trees on earth.
Conservationists down that way mapped out what they call the Cores and Links in 2001 – the bits left in the Strzeleckis that are critically important for protection. As part of this latest ‘protection’ deal, 1,500 ha of Mountain Ash forest inside the 8,000 ha of Cores and Links will be clearfelled, mainly for woodchips, over the next 20 years. Only after the logging companies have pocketed their profits, the 8,000 ha will then be fully managed as a reserve.
The Kennett government leased South Gippsland’s public forests to the Hancocks plantation company in 1998. They were meant to only log the state-owned plantations, not the rare public forests. However, due to deliberately mis-defining regrowth ash forests as plantation, Hancocks has logged them for years, against government policy but with government approval. They have been shameless about this. Even the government experts in the Land Conservation Council told Mr Kennett that these forests were in fact FORESTS, not plantations.
It has been government policy for years to outlaw clearing of native forests to replant a commercial plantation. In June 2008, Mr Brumby formalised this very activity as a ‘conservation win’! About 12,000 ha of forest that Hancocks said it didn’t ever intend to log anyway will be put into some sort of reserve. The important 8,000 ha of Cores and Links will still have 1,500 ha cut down over the next 20 years in this plan. Then the area should finally get protection. What a ‘win’. At least they have agreed to buffer the rainforests with 60 metre buffers when they log inside the proposed reserve.
The government’s Green Paper on Biodiversity was being paraded around the state while it made this sneaky deal on forests.
Environmentally concerned voters are exasperated by similar announcements – whether it’s bay dredging, the desal plant, gas plant on the Snowy estuary, bulldozed firebreaks in parks, massive burns, or old growth logging … it all comes with huge spin to cover the ugly reality.
With this agreement, Hancocks will retain the rights to any future carbon credits from the protected areas. The Strzelecki Cores and Links reserve will be managed by Trust for Nature, which is unusual. Why not a gazetted park? The government says the proposed areas ‘offer mandated protection’. We’re not sure what this jargon means. Is it for sure or is it just ‘maybe’?