Otway Ranges Environment Network



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Garbutt Media Release


DATE: Wednesday, April 17, 2002


The Minister for Environment and Conservation, Sherryl Garbutt, today announced that Victoria's three Regional Forest Reference Groups would be suspended pending a further consideration of more effective ways to engage regional communities on forestry matters.

Ms Garbutt said new approaches to consultation, as outlined in the recently-released Our Forests, Our Future policy, meant it was time to explore new ways for the community to participate in decision-making about Victoria's forests.

Regional Forest Reference Groups were formed for the Midlands, Otways and East Gippsland areas in early 2001.

"The Regional Forest Reference groups were intended to provide a forum for raising forest management issues and an exchange of views between stakeholders and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment," Ms Garbutt said.

"Unfortunately, the reference group process has been significantly undermined by some members of the groups and now it is time to look at whether new approaches will provide stronger, more effective models of community participation.

"But, while some members have taken a more responsible approach to participation than others, I believe the groups' input has led to more understanding of local forest issues across government."

Ms Garbutt said the Bracks Government had confirmed its commitment to strengthening consultation and to developing options for community participation in forest management as part of the Our Forests, Our Future statement.

"With the release of this new policy direction, the landscape of forest management in Victoria has been indelibly changed," Ms Garbutt said.

"The Bracks Government is committed to acting decently and responsibly by getting the balance right between the community, jobs and the environment. Community consultation and information sharing is a key facet of this approach.

"We now need to think about how to develop the most appropriate mechanisms to ensure all stakeholders have a say on forest management. I will seek the views of the remaining Chairs and members about how best to achieve this."

Ms Garbutt said implementation of the wide number of reforms announced by Bracks Government would require comprehensive consultation with industry and affected communities and pointed to the development of a community forest management model in the Wombat Forest as key example of this.

"A group will be established in the Wombat Forest to determine the most appropriate ways of involving the community in decisions on the management of the forest into the future."

"Should the Wombat experience prove workable, this sort of model could be applied to other selected parts of the State."

Ms Garbutt thanked the members for their hard work and commitment and, in particular, praised the three Chairs for striving to make the groups an effective community forum in often-difficult circumstances.



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