Submission
to the
East Gippsland
Regional Catchment and Land Protection Board.


The following text was submitted to the East Gippsland Regional Catchment and Land Protection Board in response to the
East Gippsland Draft Regional Catchment Strategy 1996.



4 October 1996

I am writing on behalf of the Goongerah Environment Centre in response to your request for submissions regarding the Draft Regional Catchment Strategy. We have attended public meetings in Goongerah as part of the community consultation process and are pleased to have been given the opportunity for input into how our water catchments are to be managed. However, we are aware of your funding constraints and the fact that you have limited power, except in the advisory sense, in the implementation of these strategies.

Our Environment Centre has long been concerned with issues surrounding the protection of water catchments. We see this as inextricably linked with the conservation of biodiversity and threatened by habitat removal, modification and fragmentation. We are also concerned about the use of fire in this region and its effect on both water and biodiversity. According to your criteria, we fall into the Foothills and Mountains area; however, we are concerned with the management of the whole East Gippsland region, especially the Mountain Plateaux and Lowland Forests as well as our own area.

We are pleased to note that you recognise East GippslandÍs importance as an area for biodiversity conservation and your recognition of nature conservation as an integral part of the landscape. However, we are concerned by your apparent trust in the Department of Natural Resources and Environment to maintain this. You state that in regard to timber harvesting in controlled catchments, studies indicate "increased silt production for up to 12 years for clearfelled and burnt areas."1. Yet you advocate the East Gippsland Forest Mangement Plan, the same plan whose mandate is both the clearfell and subsequent regeneration burn of forest in water catchments, to be the solution to such problems. You recognise the effect of the fragmentation of ecosystems on biodiversity and state that "The smaller and more isolated these fragments are, the more vulnerable they are to invasion by exotic plants and pest animals and other threatening processes."2 Yet the East Gippsland Forest Management Plan facilitates this very fragmentation through the logging of water catchments which is in itself a "threatening process". The NRE's practice of regeneration burns of cleared coupes is also shown to be a threatening process by your own admission as you state that "Stream sediment and turbidity may appreciably increase for 3-4 months following [intense] fires."3 In terms of Native Vegetation Retention, you state that 80% of the region is public land, a major part of which is managed for the conservation of biodiversity.4 However, I would suggest that the majority of this public land is managed to provide the timber industryÍs requirement for future and current timber harvesting potential. I therefore find it ironic that the NRE is given the responsibility for Native Vegetation Retention and for delivering the outcomes on the major land management issues discussed in this strategy.

You state that the Forest Management Plans acknowledge the possible adverse affects of forest management activities on water quality and quantity and therefore require forest operators to comply with the Code of Forest Practices. Although this Code does set out guidelines that would perhaps reduce the effect of timber harvesting on water quality, for example, streamside buffers, the enforcing of this Code by the NRE is inadequate and the penalties for those who breach it are almost non-existent. We would suggest as a remedy to this problem a more stringent application of the Code of Forest Practices by an independent body made up of relevant experts, including environmentalists and concerned local residents, who often have extensive knowledge of management in the forests. As well as implementing the Code of Forest Practices, this independent body would have value in monitoring the activities of the NRE.

We recognise the problem of pest plants and animals effect on our waterways. However we are concerned about the use of poison sprays on Blackberries in this area by both the NRE and private landholders. We believe that releasing these poisons into the waterways is almost as destructive as the pest plants themselves and urge you to advocate the many alternatives, such as steam spraying, for their removal. We are also concerned with the poisoning of dingoes. Although we acknowledge that feral dogs, like all feral animals, have a disastrous effect on natural ecosystems, the dingoes in this area, often labelled "wild dogs" in order to sanction their removal, are among the purest breeds in Australia and should be protected. We are pleased to see that you see the killing of wildlife as a short term solution to the problem.

In your section on Soil Characteristics, you seem to be advocating the use of what I presume are chemical fertilizers to assist the productivity of soils. This seems to be in contradiction to your observation in the section on Water Quality of the effects of high nutrient levels in the water supply, especially in regard to toxic algal blooms. We would recommend that you discourage the use of chemical fertilizers and instead advocate a change to organic methods.

Thus, in conclusion, I would like to re-emphasise our concerns regarding the NRE and the Forest Management Plans they enforce, as well as the lack of enforcement of the Code of Forest Practices. These plans seem to facilitate many of the processes you recognise as threatening our water catchments and the protection of biodiversity. We would therefore like to see your strategy acknowledge this and condemn those practices for the destruction they cause. We would also like to see in your strategy a recognition of the value of old growth forest in the production of water quantity, as it produces a greater volume of water than regenerated forest. Again, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Fiona York
Goongerah Environment Centre


Footnotes

  1. Draft Regional Catchment Strategy, E.G Regional Catchment and Land Protection Board Sept 1996 pg.26.
  2. ibid pg 32.
  3. ibid pg 30.
  4. ibid pg 36.

For a copy of the report write to:

East Gippsland Catchment and Land Protection Board
1st Floor
177 Main St
BAIRNSDALE
Victoria 3875


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