By Westside Wilderness Society
Located just 80km from Melbourne in Victoria’s central highlands (around Healesville, Marysville and Toolangi) are some of the last vestiges of Victoria’s majestic Mountain Ash forests, the tallest flowering plants in the world.
These forests are home to many unique species of flora and fauna including the Sooty Owl, Greater Glider and Leadbeater’s Possum, our State’s faunal emblem. Visiting these forests is a peaceful and restorative experience. While many of the animals in the forest cannot be seen (or heard) in daylight there is enough noise to inspire significant respect for the wonders of nature. Hearing the birds calling out amongst the trees is such a contrast to the endless noise of Melbourne city.
There is another activity happening in these forests that is a brutal contrast to this tranquility – clear-fell logging. Seeing the lush forest that has been decimated by logging is visually confronting, but the saddest aspect of it is the sound of silence. What was once a thriving wildlife habitat in thick tall forest is reduced to a barren wasteland with the sounds of nature absent and unlikely to return for many years even if the area is replanted.
Vic Forests, Victoria’s State-owned timber agency, is allowed to ‘harvest’ (clear-fell) 3,000ha of native forest per year or the equivalent of 5 MCG playing areas per day (ref: About us (vicforests.com.au). This is the sort of activity more commonly associated with deforestation in places like Indonesia and Brazil rather than in Victoria. Paper and packaging manufacturer Nippon Opal Paper are taking state native forests to be wood chipped at a pulp facility at Maryvale in Gippsland. Opal Paper is a wholly owned subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Nippon paper, one of the world’s largest paper companies. It is this company that has the supply contract with the Victorian state government. The community is largely unaware that Victoria’s forests are mostly pulped for everyday products such as paper, cardboard and packaging.
The 2019-20 mega fires decimated Victoria’s forests. It was an unprecedented event. The intensity and scale of the fires has been unequivocally linked to climate change, which is making everything hotter and dryer. Destroying our natural carbon sinks when we are desperately trying to mitigate against climate change makes no sense. These forests clean our air and work as giant air conditioners for our cities. They provide safe, clean drinking water and great opportunities for recreation and relaxation.
Members of the Westside Wilderness Society group are having conversations with our local community about the pulping of Victoria’s tall native forests for packaging, the fact that threatened species can’t wait until 2030 for the pulping of their forest habitats to end and the need to create The Great Forest National Park. We’re asking community members to complete a quick survey to let the government know our community cares about protecting Victoria’s tall forests (see link below). It truly is time to take action and ask the next Victorian government to value and protect our precious tall forests to support wildlife, clean air and water and a positive future for communities, jobs and First Nations and promote a sustainable wood products industry of which all Victorian’s can be proud.
Survey link: http://wilderness.org.au/pulp4packaging
Photo credit: David Hill