Letter from Dr Tim Cadman to Bellingen Shire councillors

Dr Tim Cadman

Dr Tim Cadman

Dear Councillors,

I would be grateful if you would read this correspondence as an open letter to all parties present at Wednesday's meeting.

Thank you for bringing this important issue to the attention of the community.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Tim Cadman, and I have been a ratepayer in this shire since 1997. I am not, nor have I ever been a member of the Green Party.

I am a research fellow at Griffith University in forest governance, sustainable development, and climate change. I work in countries and places as diverse as the Amazon, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and India helping local communities, Indigenous people, governments, non-governmental organisations, and all stakeholders to create plans for the sustainable management of their forests.

Part of my role as an academic is to also provide what is called 'service to the community.' This is a voluntary allocation of my time, constituting approximately ten percent of my workload, and included in my approved activities. Three months ago, I was formally requested by the local community to provide my help and advice regarding the management of the forests of the Upper Kalang headwaters.

As an academic, I do not want to speak for or against the motion, nor do I see speaking 'for' or 'against' such motions as a particularly helpful way to discuss how we should manage our natural resources sustainably. But I do want to speak about the motion, and why it is so important.

You will see that that the Bellinger Valley is an island of green amidst a sea of bushfires

Tim Cadman

I don't know if any of you have downloaded or used the "Fires Near Me" app of the NSW Rural Fire Service, but I recommend that you do for obvious reasons, and when you do, you will see that that the Bellinger Valley is an island of green amidst a sea of bushfires, and that the Kalang headwaters are at the very epicentre of that island. The reason why our shire is so verdant, and so free of fire and drought, is because our water catchments are largely being managed for protection purposes.

Sustainable development recognises that the economy, ecology, and society are inter-dependent, and you can't have one without the other. Sustainable forest management, or SFM, acknowledges the same. Our governments, of all political colours, support SFM, and recognise the 1992 Statement of Forest Principles, which is part of Agenda 21, negotiated at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

The reason I am writing about this is because SFM recognises that the environment also has economic value. If you look at the map of the conservation values in the reserve proposal appended to Cr Wright-Turner's motion, you will see that the Upper Kalang and Middle Bellinger River catchments are still filled with ancient, old-growth forests, and rainforests. Such high conservation value forests provide and regulate water quality and quantity. Young forest does not make water, it takes water. The headwater forests of the Kalang River are an important source of what are called 'ecosystem services', or 'natural capital', and are worth far more than the individual trees or timber within them, which can easily be sourced elsewhere.

In the Upper Kalang in particular, Bellingen Shire has one of the largest and healthiest populations of koala left on the eastern seaboard. Imagine the economic potential that lies at the heart of this shire, if these forests are managed for their natural values. To undertake extractive management for a few poles that can easily be sourced elsewhere, at no cost to jobs or the economy, would be a bit like grinding up the Taj Mahal to make marble benchtops.

Finally, I would like to stress the third dimension of sustainability, namely society. SFM also accepts the role of the community in determining how forests should be managed. All of us who live here love Bello shire, we love our forests, and we love our community. We live in a very special place. Let's keep it that way by managing our natural resources responsibly, for water quality and quantity, habitat and recreation, and let's keep agriculture and forestry where they belong, which is outside high conservation value forests. Over one hundred years ago the NSW Lands Protection Board set the Kalang forests aside, recognising their extreme potential for erosion. All that stands between us and the soils of the Kalang are its forests, so let's keep them there, and let's maximise their benefits, instead of minimising their value, and compromising our future.

Dr Tim Cadman

Bellingen