September 14th, 2023Wombat State Park on its way, finally
Words: Kevin Childs
Signs are emerging that the long-promised Wombat State Park may become a reality.
This comes at a time when the State Government prepares to break up its logging business VicForests. The business lost an unprecedented $52.4 million in the last financial year, blaming the cost on legal actions by community environment groups which stopped logging.
VicForests has been roundly criticised in the Supreme Court, which upheld logging bans.
The court found VicForests breached environmental protection laws by logging the habitat of endangered greater gliders and yellow-bellied gliders. A judge said “serious or irreversible harm” had been caused to the gliders.
The Wombat State Forest is also home to the vulnerable brush-tailed phascogale, carnivorous marsupials.
The government’s decision was greeted by Gayle Osborne, convenor of Wombat Forestcare, as a small step towards dismantling VicForests. “It is not soon enough for the Wombat Forests,” she said “We still have VicForests causing massive environmental damage.”
VicForests’ heavy industrial logging in Central Victoria is blamed by environmentalists for heightened bushfire danger. Research shows that fallen trees from the 2021 storm raise fire risk because of the regrowth of dangerous fire fuel, with Ms Osborne pointing to the ferocity and carnage in the fires of Hawaii, Canada and Greece.
Ms Osborne said that after the 2021 storm, 175 logging coupes were set up over the Wombat area and Cobaw, near Hanging Rock. Starting at Babbington Hill, every big tree was to be removed, beginning with 8000 square metres at Babbington.
“This was ‘overseen and regulated’, but the forest does not have a lot of protection,” she said. “Working under forest fire management, the Department of the Environment cleared 80 to 100 metres each side of every track, taking out every large tree. Piles of bark and small fuel were left, endangering the bush.”
VicForests, which harvests and sells timber, is to be split into different government departments, easing great concern over native logging. This worry grew when the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC), set up to provide independent advice, recently held three small “storm debris community meetings”, at Blackwood, Bullarto and Barkstead. The meetings were seen as an attempt to get community agreement to salvage logging and timber harvesting.
Environmental groups and scientists, including some from Daylesford and beyond, combined to set up a mobile field observation base to record any impact on endangered species. Dozens of people have been involved.
Locally, eagles’ nests at Babbington Hill, near Lyonville, have been threatened by log salvaging.