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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2511


Senator POWELL(5.34) —In speaking to the report of the Australian Forestry Council, I draw attention to page 12, which gives the situation report of my home State of Victoria. That part of the report notes that in Victoria the conservation movement is seeking a number of large new national parks in east Gippsland. The report states that the adoption of these proposals would lead to a substantial reduction in timber available to industry and would have significant social and economic implications. In that context, I wish to refer to reports that yesterday the final recommendations of the Land Conservation Council of Victoria on east Gippsland were made to the Victorian Government. It is disturbing to note that, while those final recommendations call for a new national park in the controversial Erinundra Plateau area, a new coastal park and other smaller parks, they still put at risk a substantial number of areas which are proposed for National Estate listing. If the Land Conservation Council's recommendations are accepted by the Victorian Government, these areas would be opened up for logging and woodchipping. East Gippsland, as the Australian Conservation Foundation noted in its response to the Land Conservation Council's recommendations, forms the last major forest area in south-east Australia which is still uncommitted to woodchipping. Obviously, the push by the giant Japanese woodchipper, Harris-Daishowa, to gain access to more of the south-eastern Australian area is having an impact. This is of deep concern.

I have recently travelled in the area and I am conscious of the problems in that local community. There is an apparent conflict in people's minds, and some of that conflict has been mentioned today by other speakers on this paper. There seems to be an either/or attitude-either we can preserve substantial areas, particularly of native forests, which are currently untouched, or we can log them, carry out woodchipping and create jobs. That is not really an attitude which should be adopted. When I travelled in that area I was encouraged to find that the local community has formed an east Gippsland economic and employment development committee. It is the sort of local committee, with the sort of co-operation between people working in the timber industry, people living in the area and people concerned about the retention of our natural heritage, which should be able to come up with innovative suggestions and ideas for continuing employment along with the preservation of our natural heritage. A balanced solution could be arrived at so that there would be no threat to areas such as the Erinundra Plateau, which the Victorian Herbarium has classified as of international botanical significance. It is also an area of national zoological significance, and it is on the interim National Estate list.

The recommendations leave large areas in east Gippsland open to logging in the coastal range and in the Brodribb River catchment. In addition, sections which encompassed previous recommendations for Erinundra and Rodger River national parks have been excised for logging. That either/or approach has led to some totally inappropriate recommendations. Significant stands of mature mountain ash will be able to be clear felled. Yet I am informed that the Rodger River excision, under these recommendations, will provide timber for only two weeks milling-two weeks of employment-every 150 years. It seems to me to be a quite inappropriate decision.

As I know from my travels and discussions in that area, and as we know from the operations of the woodchip industry, woodchipping does devour high quality logs in order to be economical. The proposal is not simply to use waste for chipping in east Gippsland. Millers in the area have told me that that is just not economical. Just over a week ago, when it looked as though the Federal Government would take a stand on half of the forests of Tasmania, I called for firm action on behalf of Victoria's forests, particularly those in east Gippsland. Today I join the Australian Conservation Foundation in calling, as it has, on the Federal Government to use all its power to protect these areas.