The Age: Catchments face logging, despite promise. May 2000
By CLAIRE MILLER: ENVIRONMENT REPORTER
Saturday 13 May 2000, Page 12
Water catchments in the Otways will be logged as usual despite the Victorian Government's claims there would be greater protection under the west Victoria regional forest agreement.
In a bid to allay mounting community outcry, Environment and Conservation Minister Sherryl Garbutt announced on March 31 that additional restrictions had been placed on timber harvesting in the Otways.
Ms Garbutt said the additional restrictions were imposed in preparation for a study into how logging affected water quality and quantity. But the 20-year agreement's restrictions on the areas that can be logged in any year and decade are the same in 19 of the 21 catchments as required under the 1992 Otway forest management plan.
The Otways Ranges Environment Network has accused Ms Garbutt of misleading the 300,000 people in the state's south-west who rely on the Otways for their water.
A spokesman, Mr Simon Birrell, said the government had ignored recommendations for stricter protection of catchments by the government-appointed independent public consultation panels. "The minister has recognised the growing public opposition to logging in water catchments, but has tried to pull the wool over the public's eyes by claiming there will be reduction of logging in domestic water supply catchments," Mr Birrell said.
Ms Garbutt said yesterday the 1992 restrictions were stricter than required under the Code of Forestry Practice and were now guaranteed for 20 years. She said the area reserved from logging had increased from 58 per cent to 65 per cent of public forests in the Otways while the sustainable timber yield decreased from 44,000 tonnes a year to 27,000 tonnes.
Department figures show about 33,000 tonnes a year has been felled for the past decade, not 44,000. A further reduction was flagged in January in part because of concerns about harvesting sustainability.
Greg Hocking, a convenor of the Wye River Residents Action group, said it would seem Ms Garbutt had been misinformed by her department as to the nature of the special conditions. "We have every reason to expect her intentions are bona fide and, of course, there can be no further logging in catchments while the study is undertaken. Otherwise, it is a nonsense," he said. "I am certain the minister was not aware that the department had set her up to mislead the public in this manner."
Water authorities and several councils, including Geelong, have expressed grave concern about logging in catchments.
Copyright (c) Otway Ranges Environment Network Inc