West Victoria RFA Independent Panel
PO Box 502
East Melbourne Vic, 3002.
Chair RFA Independent Panel.
I wish to place the following submission
for your perusal.
Please note my aim is to raise grave doubts
as to the integrity of the whole RFA as it stands to date,
you will also find attached collaborating data for many
of my statements.
Trees and forests provide homes for wildlife;
rivers and streams are kept cold and silt-free by surrounding
trees and thereby retain supportive habitat for many of
our native fish species. Entire ecosystems are sustained
in the unique canopy environment of old growth forests.
The many levels of a forest ecosystem, with varying light
and moisture, allow multitudes of habitat to co-exist in
a small area, and promote biodiversity.
To list all areas of concern regarding our
native animal and plant life would take a report at least
the size of the West Victoria – Comprehensive Regional Assessment,
volumes 1 & 2, so will concentrate on just a few areas
of most concern within the CRA itself.
Australia’s Native Fish.
Many of our native fish have already vanished
from our rivers and streams with many more under threat
of extinction due to both the European Carp and Clearfell
Logging within the catchment areas of our rivers and streams.
Warming waterways, damaged and reduced habitat,
natural food shortages, salinity, and silting of our rivers
and streams, have all contributed to the stresses placed
on our native fish and the logging industry can, at least
in part, be blamed for all the above and the situation our
fish find themselves.
Those responsible for the RFA have either
put this problem into the too hard basket or consider our
native fish as too unimportant, as they do not warrant a
mention within the CRA.
However, native fish do receive a small
mention in the West Victoria, RFA Consultation Paper. But
implementing a "40m" buffer along parts of some rivers and
streams (as stated) is totally inadequate, (by comparison
China has recently implemented a ‘one mile’ buffer along
both the Yellow and Yangtze rivers to alleviate silting).
Also no details of what protection measures, if any will
be put into place to safeguard their habitat and/or food
supply, (refer Australia’s Invertebrates below).
Australia’s Invertebrates (animals
I would like to make a quote from an article
in the Age 3rd Jan’ 2000, that quoted Dr Geoff
Clarke, project leader at the CSIRO.
Dr Clarke said, attempts to protect threatened
invertebrates were often met with incredulity by non-scientists
who did not understand how integral these animals were to
Australia’s ecology. "There’s a whole range of things invertebrates
do in terms of ecosystems, such as pollinating plants, turning
over soils, cleaning water and cleaning air. Because they
make up such a huge percentage, 80%, of total biodiversity,
if we start to lose invertebrates we start to go into ecosystem
collapse. (end of quote).
Of cause invertebrates are also a major
source of food for many of our native fauna species.
A single fallen dead tree in an ancient
forest may shelter as many as 1,500 species of invertebrates,
many of them containing still undiscovered medicinal properties.
As habitat for invertebrates, forest ecosystems
serve as a critical medium for evolution. Without them,
much of life on the planet would be unable to adapt and
evolve into new forms.
As many as 100,000 of Australia’s estimated
1 million species of invertebrate, are threatened with extinction
and once again clearfell logging of our old growth forests
is the major culprit. And once again those responsible for
the RFA have failed to grant them more than a mere mention
within the CRA.
Hence little or no effort has been made
to compile a comprehensive list of endangered species within
In fact after reading that "debris remaining
after harvest is burnt" anyone could be forgiven for believing
that the whole purpose behind clearfell logging is to wipe
out as many of our invertebrates as possible and in turn
many of our bird and fish species as well.
Australian flora and fauna
Here we can discredit the whole RFA process
by using their own figures within the CRA volumes 1&2.
CRA volume 1, P/166: Tells us that 96 Ecological
Vegetation classes have been identified in the Midlands
CRA volume 1, P/174: Tells us that 74 EVRs
are classified as endangered, vulnerable or rare.
Sum: From a total of 96 EVRs, only 22 are
considered to be not endangered, and that’s without any
There is a list on page 184 of the CRA,
volume 1, which lists all of the fauna species within the
West Victorian Region (not including native fish or invertebrates)
with a list of various activities and processes that may
threaten particular species. A scoring system has been used
to determine which processes cause the most threat to a
particular species. The scoring is from "0-3", with "0"
representing "not a threat", to "3" representing a "major
threat". In the scoring system there is also a "_ " which
represents, "effect unknown", this scores the same as a
"0" or "no threat". In short this whole chart is nothing
but a farce and a sham.
Page 20, CRA volume 1, tells us that, generally,
debris remaining after harvest is burnt. In other words
the site is "cleared of native vegetation" and "fuel reduction"
would take place at the same time, yet this chart gives
a separate score for "timber harvesting", "fuel reduction"
and also for the "clearing of vegetation". Obviously, as
both fuel reduction and the clearing of vegetation are part
of the timber harvesting process, timber harvesting should
be given the highest score attributed to either of the other
Using this same criteria, timber harvesting
would score 105 instead of 72, also it would be a "major
threat" to 22 out of the 42 different species, not 6 as
the chart shows.
Even so, this chart is nothing more than
a very bad joke.
The Hooded Robin, that lives in the lower
branches of trees or shrubs has been given a "_" (effect
unknown or zero score) for timber harvesting! Obviously
the score should be a "3".
At previous RFA meetings I’ve been prevented
from bringing up items of a "national" concern, as the speakers
would only discuss regional, West Victoria, issues only.
This is totally contradictory to the transparency of the
RFA as many issues are of both national and regional concern.
I list just a few of these concerns.
- All Australian Governments have shown
themselves to be untrustworthy in dealing with the environment
and with this in mind, any changes should only take place
after close scrutiny by the public. Because both State
and Federal Governments, either will not, or cannot supply
accurate answers to relative questions this has not been
- This Bill would also hand over the control
of logging to the states, what a disaster this would be.
Even PM Howard stated when he made the changes to the
gun laws, "that all items of national importance needed
to be controlled from Canberra". I can only assume
from PM Howard’s statement that he believes that Australia’s
environment, forests, water ways, flora and fauna are
not of national importance.
- In 1998, more than 30 of Australia’s
largest companies spent a total of over $14 million in
an attempt to offset the lack of action by the Federal
Eg: In a speech at a conference in Sydney
Dec’ 98, the regional director of BP Amoco Mr Greg Bourne
said that the Kwinana refinery near Perth had set up partnerships
with regional landowners to establish tree crops to reduce
land salinity and provide carbon dioxide offsets for the
refinery. Some 500,000 trees were planted in 1998 on 34,000
hectares of land at a cost of $500,000. This is all very
good, but really what is the point when many times this
amount of old growth forests are destroyed by the logging
industry every year. It should be obvious, with some of
our drinking water already at sub third world standard,
soil salinity increasing, and our dwindling forests, that
there should be a moratorium on logging of our old growth
forests and water catchments before the damage is irreversible.
- Under no circumstances should any logging
company be entitled to compensation should they lose to
conservation (or for any other reason) any areas that
are currently allowed to be logged. In fact the opposite
should be the case, the Australian people should be granted
compensation for any environmental vandalism.
- As well as all the environment bodies
throughout the world, the present Australian Government
has been individually criticised by the leaders of the
USA, Japan, Germany, Malaysia and even the United Nations
and National Geographic for their mishandling of the environment.
The only answer that PM Howard and the Environment Minister
Robert Hill have been able to come up with for this criticism,
has been "that this criticism is unfair and that the rest
of the world is singling Australia out to be criticised".
With an attitude like this, it’s obvious that both our
PM and Environment Minister are totally blind to the requirements
of the environment and as such how could anyone trust
them to bring down any bill on the environment that was
to the betterment of the majority?
- Apart from the environmental implications,
why should the Australian people subsidise a totally uneconomical
industry? The federal government has not been forthcoming
with the true figures but it’s been estimated that the
timber industry is costing the Australian people somewhere
between $80 and $375 million per year.
Page 17, of the CRA volume 1, states that
forest management "will be economically viable", this
is an admission that it is not economically viable at
Page 57 tells us that this situation will
not significantly improve for ten years.
The CRA states that the State received
a total of $5.2 million in royalties and paid back $1.5
million in subsidies. It appears that this is incorrect
as the, then Premier Jeff Kennett, admitted prior to the
last state elections that these royalties had not been
paid for the last 3 years, with a total of some $18 million,
plus interest, still owing to the state. Once again the
full figures have not been forthcoming.
7. Overseas countries and international
companies have contracted to spend over $50 million per
year for at least the next ten years, to plant eucalyptus
plantations within Australia to promote an environmentally-friendly
image and to set up for a possible future carbon trading
system. At the very least this is an embarrassment, at
a time when our own government is spending up to $375
million of taxpayer’s money per year to rid our landscape
of our old growth eucalyptus forests.
8. The logging industry claim that
more land is revegetated annually than that cleared by
logging. This is untrue, in fact 71% of West Victoria’s
forests have been denuded since European settlement and
nationally; we are clearing some 309,000 hectares per
year but only regenerating 120,000 hectares annually.
9. The CSIRO predicts that Australia’s
2.5 million hectares of salt-affected land is costing
farmers $1.5 billion a year in lost production. At the
present rate of deterioration, it is predicted that 15
million hectares will be lost to salinity by 2050.
The only way to alleviate this situation
is to lower the water table and the only, successful,
long term way of doing this is with strategically placed,
mature eucalyptus forests (or simular trees with a long
Australia cannot afford to have
an addition 40% of our old growth forests desecrated.
In fact Dr Denis Saunders, of CSIRO’s
wildlife and ecology division, has stated that land clearing
is even changing weather patterns, with an average drop
in rainfall of 4%. He also believes that Australia needs
to regenerate 16 million hectares within a decade just
to regain some balance in the ecological equation, while
some other scientists believe that even 27 million hectares
10 Those that push to have the RFA
ratified would have us believe that we will only be handing
over an additional 40% of today’s old growth forests plus
10% of today’s high quality wilderness forests for clearfell
Nothing could be further from the truth!
The CRA clearly states that, the criteria
are only to "aim" to achieve these figures,
it also states that all these figures are flexible.
In fact the only thing that the RFA guarantees,
is that massive compensation payments will be given to
the logging industry, if for any reason, they do not get
access to at least 40% of all existing old growth forests,
plus 10% of all existing high quality wilderness areas
over the next 20 years. Also the areas open to logging
can be reviewed upwards at any time within the 20 year
agreement but not downwards without incurring compensation.
If you doubt the credibility of these
statements, I would like to quote just some of the comments
attributed to the Minister for Forestry and Conservation,
Mr Wilson Tuckey, in the Age 28th May ’99.
I quote from the article –
The commitment on conservation reserves
was not a minimum, but a target that need not be met.
No one is entitled to say we have to
make the target, discretion is there in black and white
and we are resurrecting it.
Reserving 60% of old growth, in some
cases, was too much timber to be excluded from logging.
End of quote.
At the last RFA meeting in Geelong, several
others and I raised this issue with the speakers and they
made a note of it, "strange", no mention of it in chapter
6 of the RFA Consultation Paper, "Public Consultation
Issues". Stranger still, in the Consultation Paper the
word "aim" has been removed from the criteria relating
to both old-growth and wildness forests. Only to be replaced
with some of the following phrases; "should be protected",
"would be protected, consistent with a flexible approach
where appropriate", and "should seek to maximise the area".
Different words but still no commitment to achieve the
minimum conservation reserve targets.
If the RFA is committed to reserving
a minimum of 60% of old growth and 90% of high quality
wilderness forests, why not use the phases, "will be protected"
or "must be protected" and then, putting in place laws
to severely prosecute those responsible if the targets
are not achieved.
- The Federal Government states that the
logging industry must be assisted to expand, to offset
the timber products we have to import every year, this
statement is at best misleading.
Australia does not have a wood deficit.
We log 20.2 million cubic metres of wood per annum, and
we consume wood products that require 19.0 million cubic
metres of wood to make.
Our deficit is in domestic processing
facilities – not wood.
- Benefits of mature eucalypt forests
as opposed to plantations and regenerating forests.
A A healthy eucalypt, of 80 years of
age will absorb and tie up more than 36kg of carbon dioxide
per year, the average amount emitted by a car travelling
25,000k. By comparison a young forest will take 15 to
20 years just to brake even with the CO2 produced during
the clearfelling process. It would take at least 17 trees
20 to 50 years old to absorb the CO2 emitted from one
B A mature tree releases about 7kg
of oxygen per year, enough to meet the breathing needs
of a family of four. An average tree of 20 years old will
release less than 1kg of oxygen.
C Mature forests collect and filter
rainwater, and from it generate and store ground water.
The porous soil created by decomposing leaves, bark, and
tree trunks act as a huge sponge, absorbing water and
purifying it as it seeps into the ground surfacing later
in springs or bores.
D Forest trees, on average over 20
years old, will reduce erosion by cutting down the speed
with which wind and water rush across the landscape. This
stabilising effect helps keep soil in place. Soil washed
into streams and rivers makes them shallower, and forces
the rising flood waters more quickly out of normal channels.
E Mature forests also help prevent
droughts by –
Trapping ground water until needed.
Reducing evaporation of rivers and streams.
Alleviating salinity by lowering the water
As stated previously to list all the anomalies
of the RFA and the CRA would take many pages. But I believe
that enough items of concern have been raised for anyone
to realise that the RFA as presented within the CRA is not
compatible with a healthy, balanced biodiversity or economically
viable industry within our Australian old growth forests.
All this and more, but still the Federal
Government wants to hand over a further 40% of our old growth
forests to be desecrated. Remember also that these forests
belong to all Australians, not the Federal Government or
the Logging Industry.
Although I firmly believe that the optimum
situation would be to cease all logging in old growth forests,
I realise this would be impractical at this time.
My proposal for the future and for what
I believe to be for the betterment of all concerned would
be to cease all logging in water catchments and sensitive
areas immediately. But still continue logging in all other
areas in line with the RFA as it is, (but without the compensation
clause) for the next 20 years. This concession would
be with the strict understanding that all logging would
be carried out in plantations only, after the 20 years had
Please note I wish to participate in the
public hearing process.
B C Fletcher