Wombat logging ‘threatens town’s water’

February 15th, 2023Wombat logging ‘threatens town’s water’

LIKE a never-ending game of chase, the campaign to protect the Wombat State Forest manages to save some trees, then logging starts elsewhere in this vast area.

Words: Kevin Childs | Image: Contributed

LIKE a never-ending game of chase, the campaign to protect the Wombat State
Forest manages to save some trees, then logging starts elsewhere in this vast area.

Now it appears to enter a new phase with a threat to Daylesford’s water.

And one of the many odd aspects is that taxpayers subsidised VicForest’s logging with $54 million
last year, a figure predicted to double this year. The increase is expected to come from the cost of paying
retainers to contractors, who may have no work.
Another curiosity, according to Daylesford forest activist David Stephens, is that it is 21 years since the
local ALP branch voted to have the forest managed as a national service, providing clean air and water.
That same year the party pledged to create a Wombat National Park.
Instead, according to Mr Stephens, the most massive equipment to enter the forest has been
clearing swathes. “There has been overwhelming forestry reduction, with the greatest damage ever
seen,” he says.
“Muddy water is running into the Wombat Dam, which is Daylesford’s water supply.
“Removing ground cover leads to erosion and pollution. Then the fine regrowth increases the fire
risk because there is more fuel. It takes 40 years to get sufficient regrowth.”

Intriguingly, VicForests did not comment on the water supply threat but acknowledged that it has
paused all commercial harvesting while a new survey is done, while insisting that its work is recovery, not harvesting, subject to external audits and independent sustainable forest management standards.
Another worry for locals, says Mr Stephens, is that six B-double trucks have been seen on narrow bush roads, concerning parents of children at Bullarto Primary
Such was the worry that a woman, pictured, supported by about 20 peaceful
protestors chained herself to some equipment on January 30. After talking to
authorities she undid her lock and was allowed to leave but is expected to be charged
by police. Logging has stopped in this area.
Mr Stephens, long a community activist and mentor to forest community groups,
says up to 20 hectares have been cleared at Barkstead, off the Daylesford-Ballan road.
“We would like to see a moratorium on all industrial-scale extraction until laws
are introduced to protect Wombat Forest.
“We have seen logging protection lifted in 2019, allowing drainage lines to run
into Wombat Creek. Anything dead on site is washed by rain into the catchment.”
After an exacting inquiry, state government agreed to adopt almost all
recommendations, including preserving and protecting the forest, but no laws have
been introduced.
The Supreme Court agreed to protect the vulnerable greater glider in the Central
Highlands, but there is no such protection in the Midlands.
Logs from here go to mills in Sale, Orbost, Beaufort and Heyfield. “This,” says
Mr Stephens,” is the last resort.”
And the future? More than 7000 hectares are listed for logging. As for VicForest,
it said “recovery work” in the forest is in response “to removing debris and treating
hazardous trees” after the 2021 storm.
“Timber removed through these operations will be going to the highest and best
end use. This potentially includes community use, utilisation by traditional owners,
customers, as well as community firewood.”

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