IT WAS a small victory in the scheme of things, getting the South Gippsland Shire Council to officially reject VicForest’s logging plans at Mirboo North and to agree to advocate on behalf of the community.
But it was an important win, nonetheless, and those fighting the proposed logging of 112 hectares of native forest close to the town cheered and celebrated after the vote was taken at the council chambers last Wednesday.
On a vote of 7:1 with Cr Meg Edwards abstaining, the council voted that it “acknowledges and supports the Mirboo North community campaign to protect their local forests. Includes an objective in the community plan to work collaboratively with all key agencies and the community to advocate for the preservation and enhancement of the Strzelecki Bioregion”.
The council also resolved “to strongly oppose any logging as proposed by VicForests i.e. the three coupes of native forest near Mirboo North identified by VicForests as the Oscine, Doug and Samson coupes; and write to the Premier and appropriate Ministers advising them of this”.
The council also agreed “to collaborate with the Preserve Our Forests Steering Committee to advocate to stop all VicForests logging in and around Mirboo North and make the transition to sustainable plantation timbers wherever opportunities arise.”
It was carried by Crs McEwen, Rich, Hill, Kiel, Brown, Skinner and Argento with Cr Brunt against, noting that her husband was a former timber worker in East Gippsland, and Cr Edwards abstaining.
Cr Hill led the debate saying the community was asking council to advocate on their behalf.
“This is about engagement with the community like we did with Coal Seam Gas,” Cr Hill said.
He said it simply didn’t make environmental or economic sense to strip the forests around the town when there wasn’t enough land set aside for the protection of “threatened” Powerful Owl while the government hadn’t done itself any favours by not replanting natives.
Cr Aaron Brown argued strongly that it would hurt the area’s tourism sector and also the attractiveness of the town to residents and visitors.
A lengthy report tabled at the meeting backed those arguments about the need to retain habitat for endangered species including Greater Gliders and also the amenity of an area which related strongly with the forests.
The council will now have to consider how to make an impression on the State Government in an election year when the Green vote is likely to be highly sensitive.