Otway Ranges Environment Network



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Environment Minister Garbutt’s support for clearfell logging Otway Water Supply Catchments

ALP policy to conduct hydrology research

The State ALP Government was elected in September 1999 with policies to conduct hydrology research in the Otways. However such policies have had no impact on actually preventing logging in the domestic water supply Otways Catchments in the Otways.

RFA signed without consideration of hydrology issues

The Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) was signed by the State and Federal Governments on the 31st March 2000 without any consideration of detailed Otway hydrology research. This decision to sign away the forests for woodchips went against advice from the West Victorian Independent Panel and many public submissions put into the RFA process that requested hydrology research be conducted and considered before the RFA was signed.

Minister Garbutt lied about protection of water catchments

Sherryl Garbutt, Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, made misleading assurances that the RFA process would provide domestic water supply catchments with additional protection from logging practices. In a Press Release dated 31 March 2000, the Minister stated,

"Ms. Garbutt said additional restrictions had been placed on timber harvesting in the Otways in preparation for a hydrology study into the effects of logging on water yields and quality in catchments."

Logging prescriptions specified in the 2000 Regional Forest Agreement to protect water yield are exactly the same as the existing prescriptions in the 1992 Otway Forest Management Plan.

See Article from The Age.

Hydrology research

As a part of its election promises the State Government set up the Otway Hydrology Reference Group (OHRG) to oversee hydrology research. OHRG was made up of community stakeholder groups that included:

    • local Government (five Shires)
    • conservation groups (three)
    • water authorities (three)
    • native forest logging industry representatives (five)
    • plantations industry; and
    • DNRE

The Terms of Reference for the hydrology research required a two stage research program to be completed. Stage 1 of the research is to be completed by 31 October. Terms of reference for Stage 2 to be completed by end January 2001.

The OHRG selected Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) to conduct hydrology research. The research showed significant increases in water if logging is stopped. PRESS RELEASE UNLINKED

See Age Article

Garbutt lied about logging impact on water

When the SKM hydrology research was completed, Minister Garbutt went into denial about its findings. The report was finalised in December 2000 but not released until 19 January 2001. The Minister released a press release that argued wildfire is a greater threat to reducing water yields in domestic water supplies than current logging practices.

This ministerial view did not represent OHRG opinion. The Minister's statement contradicted the SKM research and other research that demonstrates the wet forest of the Otway catchments are not fire prone. In fact it is logging practices that are increasing the risk of wildfire burning the wet forests of the Otways.

Minister Garbutt's interpretation of the SKM hydrology research avoids giving any government sanctioned validity towards the argument logging should stop in Otway water supply catchments. The Minister and her political and departmental advisors are trying to protect the current management regime in the Otways that regards the logging of forest for woodchips as more important than managing forests for water production

Garbutt refuses to continue water research

The Otway Hydrology Reference group was not re-convened. The promised Stage Two of the hydrology

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