Friday, May 21, 2010

logging in the central highlands

Last week I attended a roundtable with Environment Minister, Gavin Jennings, hosted by Tammy Lobato. It gave me the opportunity to raise some concerns about logging in the Central Highlands.

I talked to the Minister about the amount of salvage logging that has taken place in the last year. Since the bushfires last year, 715,000 m3 has been logged in Yarra Ranges and Murrundindi, double the intake of any standard year.

This is a logging coupe at Starvation Creek. Logging is changing the make up of our forests and increasing fire risk throughout the region.

Given the increase of logs available I to mills asked the Minister if the salvage wood currently in the supply chain is being delivered under deferred payment arrangements or at discounted rates?

I went on to talk about the audit process, my concern is that audits have not taken place since 2007 or if they have taken place they have not been made publicly available. This is contrary to the commitment to public transparency made by Minister Jenning’s predecessor, John Thwaites under the Our Forests Our Future policy. I went on to talk about concerns that the Auditor General no longer has the audit function as it will now be carried out by the Department of Treasury and Finance.

I also talked about the amount of logging trucks that are travelling laden on roads outside of the hours permitted (in accordance with the Code of Forests Practice). The code is specific in that trucks must not operate between dusk and dawn. At the roundtable I referred to a logging truck in Lilydale at 1:39am on Wednesday 12 May. I asked the Minister to clarify how the provisions of the Code of Practice are being enforced, as logging trucks on road late at night are a regular occurrence in Yarra Ranges.

Even this week, laden logging trucks were spotted on the road travelling in the wee small hours. This is an ongoing issue as it is commonplace to sight logging trucks operating in the dead of night and it will be good to get clarification on whether the code has been breached.

Community members took great interest in the roundtable and raised many far ranging environmental issues from the Climate Change White Paper, weeds, logging in water catchments, renewable energy, waterways and Container Deposit Legislation, to name a few. Local government also raised the issue of public street lighting and the cost impost of changing to more energy efficient lighting without any support from state government.

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