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Tuesday, 16 February 1999
Page: 2919

Ms BAILEY (10:44 PM) —In speaking in this place on many other occasions, I have detailed the benefit of the scientifically based assessments of the regional forest agreements. I have highlighted the benefits of providing for the first time security of resource that in turn provides certainty of investment for the next 20 years. That of course is vitally important in maintaining and providing more employment in our regional areas.

In the Central Highlands region of my electorate, there are already 4,000 people involved in employment in the timber industry. I hasten to add that, with the signing of the Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreement last year and with the legislation that has passed through this chamber, the levels of employment are going to be far greater in the future.

Tonight I want to talk about another aspect of the timber industry. As well as providing timber for the domestic and export markets, the Central Highlands have some of the most magnificent stands of mountain ash—absolutely majestic trees—some of which are many hundreds of years old. I would say, without any bias on my part, they certainly rival the Western Australian karri and the Californian redwood.

This evening I want to particularly highlight these magnificent tall timbers and how they will very soon, many of us believe and hope, earn important revenue for the region and provide further employment. The Shire of Murrindindi has a concept to develop the Tall Timbers Touring Route and Trails throughout the Yarra Ranges National Park. Just imagine, only an hour from Melbourne, being able to leave behind the frenetic pace and sounds of city life and enjoy cool, green fern gullies, tall timber forests and small towns that have retained both the character and ambience of a past history. The concept covers both a drive and a walk throughout the region, as well as a spectacular elevated forest walkway where visitors will be able to enjoy and learn more about the natural environment high among the treetops.

The drive is envisaged to link the visitors centres at Warburton and Marysville and wind through the Yarra Ranges National Park and Lake Mountain. Along the route, tourists will be able to experience a mountain ash forest with its numerous waterfalls and fascinating understorey of flora and fauna. Some of the highlights will include the area around the Camberville Mill where they will learn the history and importance of timber production in the area, as well as hear about the tall tales associated with gold mining in the Cumberland district. They will hear about towns like Ten Mile Creek, which of course these days lies well beneath the waters of Lake Eildon. A visit to the Jamieson Museum is an absolute must.

The walk will involve a track between Lake Mountain and Rubicon where people will be able to enjoy summer walking and winter cross-country skiing, Lake Mountain being Melbourne's closest alpine area. As well as experiencing the tall timbers and unique examples of alpine flora and fauna, people will be able to learn the history of hydro power and experience the tramway museum at Alexandra which houses the best examples of machinery used in the area's early history. There is also a wonderful opportunity for private investment to become involved in providing accommodation to enable tourists to stay longer and enjoy these experiences.

In just a few minutes it has been almost impossible to adequately paint a picture of the scale of magnificence of the natural environment of the Yarra Ranges National Park, and in particular the hidden treasures of the towering mountain ash tall timbers. However, I hope that I have at least whetted the interest of those listening so they will explore the mystic mountains.