O’Farrell winds back river red gum protections: Murray Valley National Park now open for firewood collection

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The NSW Labor Opposition has slammed the O’Farrell Government’s decision to weaken protections for iconic river red gum forests and wetlands – after it changed existing restrictions and opened the Murray Valley National Park for firewood collection.

The O’Farrell Government will now allow firewood collection in the Gulpa, Millewa and Moira precincts of the Murray Valley National Park – which are famous for the river red gums.

“Environment Minister Robyn Parker is rolling back the historic conservation gains of 2010 with her decision to open up the Millewa block of forests for firewood collection,” Shadow Environment Minister Luke Foley said.

“The former Labor Government restricted firewood collection to a few small areas in the Murray Valley National Park, where it would not reduce the amount of fallen timber on the ground below a recognised threshold of 40 tonnes per hectare.

“The O'Farrell Government's roll back of river red gum forest protections won't stop here.

"In opposition, the Coalition fought Labor's historic protections for the river red gum forests every step of the way.

"The Member for Murray-Darling, John Williams has already admitted lobbying Premier O'Farrell about allowing loggers into the river red gum national parks.

"It is obvious the National Party are running riot and the Premier and Robyn Parker are giving them the green light to do as they please by winding back environmental protections.”

In May 2010, the then Labor Government passed legislation to protect more than 100,000 hectares of iconic river red gum forest and wetlands in what was described as one of the most significant national park decisions in the history of NSW.

The legislation is supported by up to $97 million to assist timber industry workers and regional communities and to set up and manage the new parks.

What impact will the firewood collection have? *

  • Large fallen timber - known as coarse woody debris - is very important fauna habitat. The Natural Resources Commission has identified 13 threatened species in the river red gum forests that use coarse woody debris and are likely to be affected by firewood collection.
  • The Natural Resources Commission has also found that 'given the ecological benefits provided by coarse woody debris, firewood collection is generally inconsistent with management objectives in conservation areas.’
  • The three key threatened species most likely to be impacted in the Millewa forest are all declining woodland birds - the Gilberts Whistler, Speckled Warbler and Diamond Firetail.
  • Coarse woody debris is also very important during floods to support fish breeding and shelter.
  • The entire Millewa forest is a Ramsar listed wetland of international significance.

 

*Source: http://www.nrc.nsw.gov.au/Workwedo/Forestassessment/Riverredgumforestsassessment.aspx