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Stop clear-felling in Bellingen's Tarkeeth State Forest

This petition had 15,342 supporters



Bellingen is surrounded by thousands of hectares of beautiful rich and diverse forests and three main rivers: the Kalang, the Bellinger and the Never Never. These rivers meet the sea at Urunga. Local residents rely on the quality of this water for their lifestyles and livelihoods, including: tourism, irrigation for local farms (cropping, dairy, livestock, oyster farms).

These forests are home to a rich and diverse range of flora and fauna including wildlife on the threatened species list such as: Koala, Quoll, Giant Barred Frog, Powerful Owl, Sooty Owl, Black Necked Stork (Jabiru), Glossy Black Cockatoo, Red-tailed Cockatoo, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Rose Crowned Fruit Dove and Superb Fruit Dove.

Tarkeeth Forest contains areas of significant indigenous culture of the Gumbaynggirr people – the traditional landowners, who have identified scar trees, artefacts and sacred sites, and stand to lose this precious history if this forest is destroyed.

Forestry Corporation has commenced a five year operation in Tarkeeth Forest. Their method involves extensive clearfelling using massive machine harvesters, to be followed by the burning of the remains in windrows and widespread spraying using a cocktail of herbicides.

This forest is registered as a ‘plantation’ however over the forty eight years since planting took place, the Flooded Gum crop has failed to flourish due to the rigorous grow back of the native species, and now has a rich and diverse lower story of native trees that supports threatened wildlife.

The plantations in Bellingen were originally owned by Australian Paper Mills (APM), who planted the Flooded Gum trees for paper production. The land was acquired by the Crown and dedicated as State forest in 1984, and is now managed by Forestry Corporation which came into being on 1 January 2013, when Forests NSW was corporatised. There was no community consultation about the land management practices they were going to use for their business. Forestry Corporation has a twenty year exemption that prevents it from being sued by anyone for any wrong doing.

Forestry Corporation is currently harvesting Blackbutt, which they claim was planted by APM, however APM planted Flooded Gum for use in paper production. Why did they lie about this in their plantation plan?

Forestry Corporation has admitted there will be no profits made from this harvest. Flooded Gum is unsuitable for construction purposes, and as such will be sold off to make pallets and to offshore pulp markets.

Forestry Corporation’s methodology and practises are unsustainable and unsafe for our community and environment. The Tarkeeth plantations are situated on steep slopes, too close to our main waterways and farms. Our region has a very high rainfall and is subject to severe flooding. Clearfelling is a complete desecration of our forest, everything is destroyed in the process ­– unlike selective logging. The fallout of this methodology is three fold; there is enormous destruction of native flora and lower under-story natives trees and shrubs, loss of vital habitat for threatened wildlife and birds, and exposure of thousands of tonnes of top soil which could potentially wash into our river system when heavy rains come, as was the case last year in the Never Never River, which resulted in an environmental disaster for our river system and a $15,000 fine from the EPA.

Forestry Corporation claims to use sustainable methods (however this term only refers to the fact they will replant the clearfelled area with seedlings for the next harvest). It does not refer to methodology. Forestry Corporation plans to apply a chemical cocktail including Glyphosate and Metsulfurin, and two accelerants, Liaise and Pulse Penetrant, to manage weeds over several applications. Several of these chemicals have been banned in Europe, and no one has done any research anywhere in the world to determine the impact of using these chemicals in their proposed combination. Forestry Corporation plans to use synthetic fertilisers with each replant. Our steep slopes and high rainfall make this a recipe for disaster, as these chemicals will move off site and wash into our main two waterways. Contamination of our waterways and impact on our threatened native wildlife is a serious concern for our community.

Forestry Corporation has betrayed our community consultation process, and has rejected all of the concerns and requests put forward. The community asked for no clearfelling, to use selective logging methods to preserve the delicate ecosystem. They requested bigger buffer zones for our waterways, and additional wildlife corridors to protect habitat for threatened native wildlife. They asked for buffer zones to protect neighbouring families from clearfelling. They asked for no chemicals to manage weeds, knowing that if they replanted the Blackbutt crop promptly after harvesting, chemicals would not be needed. Blackbutt is the dominant tree in the Tarkeeth plantations. It is extremely fast growing and does not require fertiliser.All of these requests were denied. Clear felling itself, creates a weed problem, adding to the non-sustainable chemical dependent monoculture plantations that are currently being managed.

Our community understands and supports the need for responsibly managed plantations as a means of protecting our native forests, and being able to provide for our own timber needs here in Australia.
We support sustainable selective harvesting to provide a permanent supply of quality timber to local mills and small businesses, to support and create local jobs.

However, we do not believe that Forestry Corporation is engaging in best practise. They are operating within the state-wide minimum standards. This is not good enough for our community or environment, and particularly on the steep slopes these plantations are situated on. Privately owned plantations require far greater scrutiny and conditions then our governments forestry corporation...why should there be two standards? Why does Forestry Corporation not have to provide an environmental Impact assessment nor a threatened species assessment for their plantations? Whilst everyone else has to?

Whilst Forestry Corporation refuses to listen to our community and adopt more ethical standards for its plantations, we are asking our government to put a stop to all plantations in Bellingen (Gladstone, Kalang, Newry, Tuckers Nob and Tarkeeth) and to relocate this business to a safer, more suitable location.

The Bellingen community wants these forests preserved and to be used for our thriving tourism industry – a mainstay of our local economy. We believe there will be far more consistent jobs and income via soft eco-tourism from walking trails, hiking, camping and adventure sports. We believe that the community stands to benefit far more from the sustainable management and preservation of these forests than from timber plantations.

We are asking our government for a complete stop to clearfelling in Bellingen. The aggressive nature of this methodology, along with the use of chemicals, is too destructive for our threatened native wildlife, waterways and community’s health.
Our community wants a full enquiry and assessment in consultation with our key stakeholders, to develop more sustainable and ethical methodologies to be adopted if business is to continue in this region.

Concerned citizens of Bellingen

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