The hills around Bellingen could 'burn for a year'

Carol Vernon has expressed her alarm that the NSW Forestry Corporation’s Tarkeeth State Forest is scheduled for harvesting this year, and as the date nears, the disparity in claims between the Greens and NSW Forestry Corporation widens.

GREEN TEAM: Carol Vernon with Dom King.

GREEN TEAM: Carol Vernon with Dom King.

Leading the political charge is Greens candidate for Cowper, Carol Vernon.

Ms Vernon said the planned logging of Tarkeeth between the Bellinger and the Kalang Rivers had broad implications for both the short and long-term.

“Residents have been told by Forestry Corporation that waste vegetation would be bulldozed into windrows and burnt over a period of a year or more,” she said.

“Imagine the smoke pollution right across the Valley. Imagine the waste. Imagine the impact on the residents of Bellingen, Brierfield, Fernmount and Urunga.

“This so called ‘plantation’ has only been selectively logged in the past. It is, in fact a mixed species forest. It contains many old growth trees, some bearing scars where, in times past, local indigenous people cut bark for canoes, shields and generic containers (coolamons).

“Local Elders tell us these trees are of great significance to the original inhabitants of this land.

“In addition, Tarkeeth Forest is an area between the Bellinger and Kalang Rivers. It is tremendously important and disturbance of the soils may have severe detrimental impacts on our waterways.

“The recent clear-felling at the Tuckers Nob plantation caused severe erosion and resulted in a large fine for the Forestry Corporation … this event cannot be repeated.

“Tarkeeth Forest has the potential to be a real earner for the local area. It could be sensitively utilised for eco-tourism, and walking tours. Why log a forest that has so much potential for a tourist industry when hundreds of taxpayers dollars subsidise every hectare logged?”

Disputing much of Ms Vernon’s statement, a Forestry Corporation spokesperson said the timber plantation in Tarkeeth State Forest was former agricultural land planted with a monoculture of eucalyptus grandis (flooded gum), by a private company in the 1970s and sold to Forestry Corporation in the 1980s.

“We undertook a thinning of the plantation in the early 2000s where selected trees were removed so that the remainder had the space and light to optimise their growth,” the spokesperson said.

“The plantations will be harvested over the course of a number of years and will be progressively replanted with local native eucalypt species including blackbutt and tallowwood.

“The original flooded gums will be retained along the streams and watercourses and on steep slopes to protect against soil erosion.

“Some burning of residues is likely to occur, though it will only take a few days to complete any burning and this will be spaced over the course of several years as the plantation is harvested.

“Forestry Corporation employs an Aboriginal Partnerships team that works with local groups around the state to ensure that cultural heritage is appropriately managed in all state forests.”

The date for logging Tarkeeth has not been finalised, with Forestry Corporation still undertaking planning work. The spokesperson said they “will be in contact with neighbours well in advance of any operations”.