THE Preserve our Forests Steering Committee has criticised the timing of VicForests’ community engagement period for its plans to log sections of forest near Mirboo North.
VicForests (VF) called for community engagement right at a time when people were least able to properly respond – from December 4 until January 12.
The community engagement concerned changes to the proposed Timber Release Plan (TRP), which will be considered by the VF Board in the hope of gaining final approval to log the native forest coupes in Mirboo North.
Notification of the consultation to the Mirboo North community from VF came late and was cited as “a technical glitch”.
The Preserve our Forests Steering Committee (PoFSC) discovered that many had indeed not been notified at all and undertook a concerted effort to notify as many people as possible and asked them to lodge submissions to VF.
PoFSC asked for an extension to the consultation period both of the Minister, Jaala Pulford and VF however, the request was refused by VF and the Minister has still not responded.
PoFSC chairperson Marg Thomas said she was heartened to find that this community has once again “stood up to be counted” and submitted many knowledgeable and eloquent submissions to VF in the hope of preserving our native forests.
“Many residents also shared their submissions with our committee and we thank them for doing so and making the time to respond.”
Long term Mirboo North resident and teacher, Marg Smith was among the submitters.
“Our land borders the Doug’s Track Coupe and no notification was received from Vic Forests.
“First awareness of this was when I read it in our local paper; co-owners of this property live in Frankston so they were totally unaware of the situation.
“Doug’s Track Coupe is situated on Old Thorpdale Road which is part of the Tourist Drive that is featured on the Mirboo North Country tourist brochure.
“Not only do individual tourists enjoy this scenic drive but tourist buses also include this drive with a trip to the Grandridge Brewery as well.”
Ms Smith in her submission to VicForests, also highlighted the importance of preserving these precious forests.
“Mirboo North is typical of many small towns that have to struggle and fight for their existence and their facilities.
“Over the last couple of years the secondary college has lost 100 students causing two staff members to lose their positions. Therefore, it has been very heart-warming to see the township come alive with the increasing number of tourists.
“On the tourist brochure the main attractions listed all relate to the beautiful bush that surrounds the town area; Grand Ridge Rail Trail, Mount Worth State Park, Grand Ridge Road, Dickies Hill Tourist Drive, Baths Road Reserve and the Lyrebird Walk.
“A lot of locals and tourists use these areas for walking, bike riding and horse riding. I can vouch for the fact that the Rail Trail, Lyre Bird Walk and Doug’s Track are extremely well used.”
Voicing her complete dismay, Ms Smith cites Mr Spencer’s (VF) statement, at the initial community meeting in Mirboo North – that after clear felling the coupe it would take 70 to 100 years to be regrown but, it would never be the same as the original old growth forest.
“So, to put that bluntly, I am 65 years old, my children are all in their 30s and my oldest grandchild is 10 years old, and that means three generations would be deprived of our beautiful forests within our township for the sake of a paltry $8 million! (VF’s postulated value of the coupes’ timber to Victoria)”
“The long term cost of logging these coupes to the community would be immense; people have chosen to live here and will continue to shift here from Melbourne and the suburbs because of the serenity and the beauty the forests bring to the Mirboo North township.
“The uniqueness of Mirboo North is that it has beautiful bush within the town surrounds for the locals and tourists to enjoy.
“If you log this area you will rip the heart and soul out of our town.”
Strong sentiments opposing logging of these coupes were a constant theme throughout the submissions PoFSC saw, highlighting the determination this community has to preserve these forests.
“In PoFSC’s submission, the committee shows that VF has not fully complied with its statutory requirements and policy guidelines concerning both community consultation and field studies; therefore it is inappropriate for this TRP and amendments to be in the public domain and should be immediately withdrawn until all statutory obligations are fulfilled.,” Ms Thomas said.