October 13 2006: Strzelecki Cores and Links Rainforest Reserve announced by Victorian Conservation Minister John Thwaites (fella in grey suit standing). Key people involved in the announcement photoed by 'The Big Tree'. Australia's largest tree by girth (21m+) in the Franklin River catchment.
This historic agreement was eventually overturned by Minister Gavin Jennings and Hancock in May 2008. Jennings announcement allows for 1500ha of rainforest reserve to be gutted.
October 2006: College Creek - now protected from logging! (Thwaites decision was overturned by new Conservation Minister Gavin Jennings in May 2008. Jennings supported gutting of 350ha in this catchment alone!)
Media Release Friends of the Earth Melbourne/Friends of Gippsland Bush
Strzelecki Forest Buy Back
A Step in the Right Direction for Victorian Rainforest
Environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Friends of Gippsland Bush welcome the Victorian State Government's decision to buy back key wet forest and rainforest areas in the Strzelecki Ranges, known as the Cores and Links.
Friends of the Earth Campaign Coordinator Cam Walker said, "John Thwaites needs to be congratulated about the buy back. He is the first Minister in many years to show an active interest in the region. Friends of the Earth has been working in the region for the past decade and over that time it has been apparent to us that the Strzeleckis are a misunderstood and very poorly protected part of Victoria. We call them Victoria's Hidden Treasure as there are some wonderful places here" said Mr Walker.
"Friends of the Earth understand very well how difficult it is to get a great result in a region that was effectively privatised under the Kennett Government. We also understand how difficult it has been for the Government to protect an area which was already over allocated to the Maryvale pulp mill" said Mr Walker.
Susie Zent, from Gippsland based conservation group Friends of Gippsland Bush added, "The decision will see immediate protection for large areas of the cool temperate rainforest of the Strzeleckis, with the government buying back the leasehold from Hancock Victorian Plantations. Key rainforest catchments to be immediately protected include; Agnes River, Franklin River, College Creek, Jack River, South Middle Creek and Merrimans Creek. As well as logging being stopped in these catchments, buffer zones of 60m and 100m will be granted on rainforest in the Morwell River and Albert River catchments. Long term management of the area will be conducted by Trust for Nature whom Friends of the Earth and Friends of Gippsland Bush have every confidence in.
"It was a very very tough deal for the government to negotiate and this should send a clear warning about any future plans to privatise Victoria's forests. Once in private hands it makes it very difficult to claw back areas from the chainsaws. Local member Brendan Jenkins should also be congratulated on supporting the cores and links proposal from day one" said Ms Zent.
"The eventual reserve will be 8000 hectares in size with a proportion of planted forest being subject to once only logging. All areas logged will then be re-established with indigenous species and retired from timber production" said Mr Walker.
"Although it is not a perfect outcome, this agreement will secure a reserve system, linking Tarra Bulga National Park to the Gunyah Gunyah Reserve, a distance of almost 30km, for the Gippsland community and all Victorian's to enjoy" concluded Ms Zent.
"Friends of the Earth also have concerns that other key rainforest and old growth forests are threatened throughout eastern Victoria and hope that the Bracks Government will place an immediate moratorium on the logging of these areas" concluded Cam Walker.
September 1, 2006: Darlimurla Forest Strzelecki Ranges. Friends of Gippsland Bush (FoGB) about to be set up by 4 Corners. ABC journalist Sally Neighbour (in white) already 'lining up' up FoGB's Susie Zent, despite the fact that FoGB networks were providing 4 Corners with a free guided tour of the Strzeleckis and provided much of the information used in the 4 Corners Program 'Spies in the Forest'. It was great to see the A-Team get finally exposed, however how Ms Neighbour treated FoGB in the final edit of the show was quite pathetic. 4 Corners also refused to look at current forestry issues, despite former A-Team staff still being employed in the current industry. Ms Neighbour preferred to promote the environmental position of 'plantation pushers' and stale boring greenie clichés, instead of properly listening to the people at the coal face battling plantation companies. A great opportunity lost.
Aunty – Shooting Down the Messenger
Spies in the Forest (4 Corners October 2, 2006)
Your ABC – Don’t bet on it!
Community Group Shafted by 4 Corners
You really have to wonder. 4 Corners are supposed to have a good reputation. 4 Corners are supposed to work with integrity. But can 4 Corners be trusted to properly cover a story and more importantly look after and respect the sources of the information that they present to the Australian public? I think not.
Imagine if you were sitting on a massive story regarding leaked corporate information. This information had been sitting there for years waiting for an opportunity to be heard. Would you want local media, state media or national media to cover the issue? You would probably opt for national media as this would grant you the opportunity of reaching more people. If you had integrity you would probably work through journalists who work for the ABC as it would be hard to trust corporate media and 4 Corners have the reputation of being ‘honest brokers’.
This is exactly the scenario that faced our networks which included in this instance three key people. We naively contacted 4 Corners in the hope that they would shed some light on both the leaked corporate information and current state of play of dirty tricks and environmental degradation associated with plantation management and the Maryvale pulp mill based in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. Most importantly of all we wanted to show the Australian public that corporate dirty trick campaigns can be overcome and we had a very good example of that. Our key network included people who had deal face to face with the industry and live in communities that had been placed under enormous stress by industry infiltrators. These peoples’ lives, one person in particular who was interviewed in the show, had been turned into a living hell by the industry and certain environment groups alike. This stress had been going on for years. It is non stop 24 hours a day.
4 Corners agreed to do the story with Sally Neighbour doing the reporting. Not only did we have to arrange 2 meetings in Gippsland with 4 Corners to discuss the issues surrounding the story, but we also had to guide the film crew through a long day filming in the Strzelecki Ranges. Another key contact was interviewed and filmed on another day as well. This placed us under some stress as our resources and time is limited.
Our networks also provided 4 Corners with almost all of the leaked information that eventually made its way to air on October 2nd . The filming appeared to work well and the issue of manipulation by the A-Team and how it was overcome by a small community group appeared to getting interest from Ms Neighbour. She also made it clear to us that a large part of the story was going to centre on plantation logging in the Strzelecki Ranges and a deal that was called the 8 Point Agreement that was signed in March 1997. She also stated that this wasn’t a story looking at logging elsewhere ie East Gippsland. (However we were disappointed to hear the 4 Corners didn't want to focus on current forestry issues and ownership).
We were confident that we would get a good airing from 4 Corners, especially after a large Melbourne newspaper gave the issue front page on October 2. Imagine our surprise and anger when the show was aired. There was a lot of footage regarding the leaked information but we smelt something odd when old footage from East Gippsland forest protests was being aired, including odd footage of a person having a shower, a woman dancing with her eyes closed and another woman, possibly drunk lieing on the floor and laughing. The old stale boring greenie clichés. What did this have to do with the Strzelecki Ranges and the 8 Point Agreement? The show also aired alot of interviews with environmentalists who don’t work in Strzelecki Ranges and some had been retired for almost a decade. All of these people have also been very active in promoting plantation forestry. Where was the 2 days of footage we worked hard to organise?
Then it came, the moment we were waiting for. At last our part of the story would be told. (Note: Our contact here is Susie Zent).
The transcript went;
SALLY NEIGHBOUR: The attack on Environment Victoria entered a new phase, when Amcor applied to clear nearly 2,000 hectares of forest, in Gippsland's Strzelecki Ranges, for plantations, to feed a planned new paper machine at Maryvale. Environment Victoria came out against it. So, that included this whole area that we're in now.
SUSIE ZENT, FRIENDS OF THE GIPPSLAND BUSH: That included this area, and this area is a site of national significance for its flora and fauna attributes, and that includes…
SALLY NEIGHBOUR: The company saw an opportunity when Suzie Zent and some other local residents formed their own group - The Friends of the Gippsland Bush. Amcor bypassed Environment Victoria and began talking to the local group.
ROD ANDERSON, FOREST CAMPAIGNER, ENVIRONMENT VICTORIA 1997-2000: We thought immediately that Amcor had used splitting technique, pretty much textbook splitting technique, to destroy the local conservation group, to sideline Environment Victoria, and get both the local conservation group and Environment Victoria off their back.
SALLY NEIGHBOUR: The company reached an agreement with Suzie Zent's group for the clearing to go ahead, subject to certain guarantees, including an independent ecological assessment. A furious Environment Victoria attacked the deal. It drove a wedge between the green groups and split the local group apart.
SUSIE ZENT, FRIENDS OF THE GIPPSLAND BUSH: It was very damaging locally, because the local community didn't know which group to believe. So, it was an incredibly vitriolic attack on myself and the president of the organisation at the time and it was just very confusing for the community.
SALLY NEIGHBOUR: The split left the green groups in disarray, at a very convenient time for Amcor, during talks on a new Regional Forestry Agreement for logging in the Central Highlands.
ROD ANDERSON, FOREST CAMPAIGNER, ENVIRONMENT VICTORIA 1997-2000: I think Amcor was...was successful in that it was able to sideline Environment Victoria by picking out those people who would negotiate with Amcor. And so Environment Victoria was sidelined, it was almost pushed out of the process, and I think that was probably important to Amcor in the lead-up to the Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreement.
SALLY NEIGHBOUR: So you think that was a deliberate strategy?
ROD ANDERSRON: Oh, I'm sure it was, yeah.
SALLY NEIGHBOUR: The strategy was later confirmed by Derek Amos, who wrote that Susie Zent's group had been "selected as a reasonable group to manipulate for Australian Paper's objective" and "to work against the interests of other groups".
SUSIE ZENT: After having read that, I find that deeply disappointing, that the industry would go to those lengths to undermine a community group's integrity and reputation.
There is it. The messenger was shot down and Susie Zent’s interview was edited short. What Susie Zent went on to say in the interview was that, The A-Team tactic backfired and actually Friends of Gippsland Bush by doing the deal actually managed to save 90% of the bush in question. The 8 Point Agreement had nothing to do with the Regional Forest Agreements, as the 2000 hectares of forest that Amcor wanted to clear was private land, exempted from the RFA's. Private land comes under a completely different legislative framework. Amcor was also granted 34 year resource security through the 1996 Wood Pulp Agreement signed by the Victorian Government and Amcor. This predated the 8 Point Agreement by one year.
Friends of Gippsland Bush won against the company by outsmarting them via the 8 Point Agreement. I was in Susie Zents’ living room when the interview was done so I heard everything that was said. Yet Sally Neighbour edited Susie Zents' crucial part of the story out to make it appear that Friends of Gippsland Bush were at best manipulated by the company and at worst corporate patsies. Sally Neighbour lost her integrity when this was done. She decided to use the words of a large environment group against the words of a woman who had helped bring to the surface all of these corporate dirty tricks and a woman who has been battling the corporation for over a decade. Why didn't Ms Neighbour ask the Environment Victoria people what actually happened to the 2000 hectares that Amcor wanted to clear?
In 1997, shortly after the 8 Point Agreement had been signed, Amcor realised that they had made a great mistake. The deal was too good for the conservationists! The manager responsible for the deal was sacked and Derek Amos was dragged over the coals by the company. This was the first nail in the coffin for the A-Team and it was the first time they had been defeated and out-smarted. (Yet the viewers of 4 Corners, weren’t told anything about this crucial turn of events, even though it had been explained thoroughly to the reporter beforehand).
Then things got nasty. The A-team decided that the 8 Point Agreement had to destroyed. Not only this, but the environment group mentioned at great length in the 4 Corners show, Environment Victoria also inadvertently lobbied to get the 8 Point Agreement overturned. They used their members in Friends of Gippsland Bush to attempt to stymie the deal. We then had a scenario of the A-Team and Environment Victoria working towards the destruction of the deal that actually stopped the logging occurring by setting up a scenario where locals battled locals. This caused massive stress in the local community and ten years later those scars can still be seen.
Sally Neighbour was aware of all of this. She apparently chose not to properly investigate, claiming in an email to me that the issue was "too complicated". I thought investigative journalists were supposed to unravel complicated issues.
The source of the corporate data and the mastermind who brokered the 8 Point Agreement, was interviewed at length by Sally Neighbour the day after Susie Zent was interviewed for several hours. None of his vital footage was even aired. It took us 7 hours to guide the 4 Corners film crew through the Strzelecki Ranges on September 1st, yet only a paltry 30 seconds of this footage was aired. Why?
Ms Neighbour preferred to air images of hippies instead of a detailed interview with the outwitters of the A-Team. 4 Corners at length covered the issue of two spys being sent into an East Gippsland forest campaign for 2 days, yet refused to tackle the hard questions about what its like to be in a community that suffered from these dirty tricks not for 2 days but for 10 years!!! It was also alarming to us that 4 Corners refused to tackle current issues in the Strzeleckis, which effectively has been privatised and is now under the control of a US Insurance Company. 4 Corners preferred to opt for dealing with issues a decade old, rather than tackling the inheritors of the A-Team.
In summary, the next big media story that comes my way will not be going to 4 Corners or the ABC. I now feel that I will have a better chance with the corporate media. 4 Corners has blown it and have done themselves a massive disservice in opting for the soft option in this case. People in Gippsland who know the good work that Friends of Gippsland Bush does have been disgusted by the treatment granted them by 4 Corners. What protection is there for anyone involved in getting a story to air when they can be disposed of so cheaply?
Anthony Amis - Friends of the Earth Melbourne.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Morwell River Catchment. Spur Track. Livingston Block 'Plantation'. Hancock intend to start logging in Strzelecki Reserve linkage areas this month. Spur track has a number of hectares of Mountain Ash planted in 1972.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Morwell River Catchment. Spur Track. Livingston Block 'Plantation'. Another view of the linkage area which Hancock intend to log in the very near future. 34 year old trees for the Maryvale pulp mill.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Morwell River Catchment. Snakesback Track. Livingston Block 'Plantation'. Another area where Hancock intend to log inside the Strzelecki Cores and Links Reserve during October. This view shows what will happen after logging.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Morwell River Catchment. Snakesback Track. Livingston Block 'Plantation'. A view of 34 year old forest that Hancock intends to clearfell this month.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Morwell River Catchment. Snakesback Track. Livingston Block 'Plantation'. Weird fungus? inside the forest.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Morwell River Catchment. Snakesback Track. Livingston Block 'Plantation'. Another view of the forest from the Grand Ridge Road, much of which will soon be clearfelled by Hancock.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Turtons Creek Catchment/Central Track. Boolara South 'Plantation'. Warm Temperate Rainforest? in close proximity to Hancock 'plantations'.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Turtons Creek Catchment. Turtons Creek Plantation. Photo taken from Anyos Track of 31 year old pine plantations after being cable logged. THIS PLANTATION LIES WITHIN TARWIN RIVER (MEENIYAN) WATER SUPPLY CATCHMENT. PROCLAIMED 24/4/90. Plantation to be sprayed with herbicides soon.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Turtons Creek Catchment. Turtons Creek Plantation. Photo taken from Anyos Track of 30 year old pine plantations after being cable logged in 2005. THIS PLANTATION LIES WITHIN TARWIN RIVER (MEENIYAN) WATER SUPPLY CATCHMENT. PROCLAIMED 24/4/90. Plantation to be sprayed with herbicides soon.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Turtons Creek Catchment. Turtons Creek Plantation. Pines replaced with Shining Gum and planted in very close proximity to drainage line. THIS PLANTATION LIES WITHIN TARWIN RIVER (MEENIYAN) WATER SUPPLY CATCHMENT. PROCLAIMED 24/4/90. Plantation to be sprayed with herbicides soon.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Turtons Creek Catchment. Turtons Creek Plantation. More recently clearfelled pine plantations established in 1975. THIS PLANTATION LIES WITHIN TARWIN RIVER (MEENIYAN) WATER SUPPLY CATCHMENT. PROCLAIMED 24/4/90. Plantation to be sprayed with herbicides soon.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Little Franklin River Catchment. Turtons Creek Plantation. This large landslip has occurred after Hancock logged 28 year old pine plantations in very close proximity to the Boolara Foster Tourist Road. This road is now exceptionally dangerous for tourists.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Little Franklin River Catchment. Turtons Creek Plantation. Landslip causing a blockage on the Boolara Foster Road.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Little Franklin River Catchment. Turtons Creek Plantation. Another stunning tourist vista on the Boolarra Foster Road.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Little Franklin River Catchment. Turtons Creek Plantation. Recent logging of narrow pine plantations. Could there be Warm Temperate Rainforest in these gullies in the upper catchment? There is certainly rainforest just down the road from where this photo was taken.
October 2006: Strzelecki Ranges - Little Franklin River Catchment. Turtons Creek Plantation. Removal of native vegetation for road construction.
September 06 Mt Robertson Plantation: King Parrot Creek Catchment, north of King Lake West. 1000 hectares of pine plantation lies in the headwaters of King Parrot Creek. Herbicide application occurred in this plantation in the last few years. Hexazinone is likely to be used again soon. Total hexazinone usage in this plantation could total 4 tonnes over the space of a couple of years. Hexazinone in especially susceptible to leaching off site, particulraly in high rainfall events. Traces of hexazinone have been detected 50km downstream in plantations located north of Geelong.
September 06 Mt Robertson Plantation: King Parrot Creek Catchment,September 06 Mt Robertson Plantation: King Parrot Creek Catchment. Steep track located over gully line. In the event of heavy rain sediment and pesticides will easily enter gully at this location.