The Guardian July 12, 2000


Victorian forests face woodchip onslaught

The Gippsland forests in the south-east of Victoria are facing a renewed 
threat of massive clearfelling of timber for woodchipping. Over the last 
ten years much of the State's forests suffered massive de-forestation 
because of conditions imposed by the Kennett Government which made the 
felling of native forests more financially attractive than the cultivation 
of plantation timber.

Recently, a slump in the price of timber for woodchipping has meant that 
the forests have actually had a short respite, with only 114,000 tonnes of 
woodchip logs being exported last year.

However, the re-opening of the old Bairnsdale rail link by the now-
privatised V/Line Freight Corporation has made the clear felling of 
Gippsland timber for export profitable again, by reducing the cost of 
transporting logs to port.

As a result some 40,000 tonnes of timber from the Bairnsdale timber 
stockpile are now being loaded for transportation to Geelong.

A spokesperson for the Bracks Government said that the use of timber for 
woodchipping was justifiable because the logging yield included timber of 
inferior quality which would otherwise be left to rot on the forest floor.

However, the Government has also called for tenders for the felling of 
600,000 tonnes annually. Timber gathering on this scale is usually 
associated with clear-felling, a process that maximises the profits for the 
woodchipping industry.

Clear-felling for wood chipping is absolutely rapacious and frequently 
wasteful, and provides a short-term perspective for employment for a small 
workforce.

The timber milling industry, on the other hand, uses selective tree 
felling. Timber milling in the Gippsland area has happily co-existed with 
other local industries, such as bee-keeping for the last 150 years. Both 
industries are relatively labour intensive.

Renewed clear-felling in the Gippsland area would result in the loss of 
vast areas of forest, with a devastating effect on flora and fauna.

The renewed rail line has potential access to three times the currently 
utilised area. Clear-felling would also wreak havoc on the area's thriving 
honey-making industry and deprive the woodmilling industry of timber from 
clearfelled areas for decades to come.

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