Hancock Watch

September 2006

Sept 25 06: Strzelecki buy back Update: Community and Victorian Government patience wearing thin due to Hancock senior management continually 'changing the goalposts' and deliberately stalling on achieving trust, common ground and a mutually acceptable outcome. Friends of the Earth fear the worst for the buyback! Negotiations enter 4th week. Community has been waiting 7 years!!!

Smiths Creek - More Strzelecki Cool Temperate Rainforest Under Imminent Threat

Also on this page 'Poison in Water Supply'

Smiths Creek is located on the northern side of the Strzeleckis, west of College Creek. As with College Creek, the Smiths Creek rainforest is located in the Parish of Jumbuk in land set aside in the old Agricultural Reserve. It flows into Middle Creek. It contains a small patch of cool temperate rainforest. This rainforest is currently under threat through the logging activities of Grand Ridge Plantations, a subsidiary of Hancock Victorian Plantations.

The western edge of the Smiths Creek rainforest can clearly be seen by the photo taken from the Midlands Highway. The rainforest seen in the gully is surrounded by planted Mountain Ash and remnant native forest. The Mountain Ash was established by Australian Paper Manufacturers in the mid 1970's. Most of the rainforest is located on the Agricultural Reserve Leasehold (Parish of Jumbuk) which is now held under 60 year leasehold by Hancock Victorian Plantations. The Agricultural Reserve is bounded on the western side by private land allotments (Parish of Budgeree) now owned by Hancock Victorian Plantations.

The western edge of Smiths Creek cool temperate rainforest. Recent logging of 30 year old Mountain Ash has exposed the southern side of the rainforest. Cool Temperate Rainforest requires adequate buffers in order to protect the ecological intergrity and microclimate of the rainforest. By exposing the rainforest to light and wind, damage can be incurred on the rainforest, making it more susceptible to disturbance and disease. The disease Myrtle Wilt can enter Beech trees through wounds created by tree fall. Small buffers create edge effects where buffer trees can be buffetted by wind and fall into the rainforest, wounding beech trees. The wilt pathogen, itself can be stirred up by logging activities, can enter wounded Myrtle Wilt trees, eventually killing that tree and spreading to other Beech trees via the root system. The entire rainforest stand can be killed this way.

Hancock have only granted 20 metre buffers on the rainforest at this location. Such small buffers have not passed independent scientific review. Hancock announced its rainforest policy in July 2006, yet the process appears to have now stalled. Because Hancock is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC have expressed the view that a Rainforest BMP (Best Management Practice) needed to be forthcoming in order for Hancock to maintain its certification. The BMP has been presented to the community by the company, but the BMP and its lack of buffers, does not have the support of the community or the independent peer reviewers. Despite this lack of approval Hancock have deliberately inflamed tensions by granting only minimal buffers on Smiths Creek. Cool temperate rainforest in Morwell River East Branch has suffered a similar fate. Why has the company been allowed to keep its FSC certificate when its treats protection of rainforest in this poor way?

Minimal rainforest buffers on Smiths Creek.

Rainforest indicator species Smiths Creek, located 20 metres from the silver wattle buffer.

Further inside the rainforest. Fieldia Australis.


Looking out from the rainforest at Smiths Creek. Note the edge effect with the increase of light and wind.

A recently knocked down limb on a Myrtle Beech tree inside the rainforest but very close to the minimal buffer.

The flower of a Sassafras Tree (Atherosperma moschatum) on the rainforest floor. The Strzelecki rainforest is the most south westerly aspect of the Southern Sassafras. Strzelecki rainforest and Central Highlands Rainforest contain Sassafras and Myrtle Beech, wheras Otways Rainforest has the Beech without the Sassafras. East Gippsland cool temperate rainforest contains no Beech.

A view of the conical tree heads of Southern Sassafras in a gully that feeds into Smiths Creek. Blackwood and Myrtle Beech can also be seen in this photo.

Same gully taken from further south.

Smiths Creek looking east. Logging is currently being undertaken in the headwaters of this creek. After logging, the area will be sprayed with herbicides. The rainforest is likely to be threatened from the eastern side as well.

Smiths Creek catchment: Large amount of sediment displacement after the opening of logging tracks - Allotment 22B Parish of Budgeree.

Parish of Budgeree - Strzelecki Ranges. Recent clearfelling of pine plantations, established by APM in the 1970's. Morwell River East Branch. This site will be sprayed soon.

Logging track punched through head of gully in the Albert River catchment - Strzelecki Ranges. Large soil displacement.

Removal of native vegetation off Franklin Track in the Franklin River catchment.

The Agnes River. The jewel in the crown of the Strzelecki forests.

Pine wildings - Merino plantation, south west Victoria.

Poison in water supply (Geelong Advertiser 25 August 2006) By Peter Begg.

for more details see here

Barwon Water has taken action against a pine plantation operator in one of its catchments after a poisonous herbicide was detected in drinking water.

The water authority confirmed yesterday it took action against a plantation operator in April 2005.

In a first since the relevant act came into force, Barwon Water issued Hancock Victorian Plantations with a notice of Contravention for Water Protection.

The water authority has since reached agreement with Hancock plantations not to use certain herbicides in its catchment areas.

This followed low-level detection of the herbicide hexazinone in raw water samples from the Korweinguboora Reservoir catchment, near Ballarat.

Barwon Health said the amount of the herbicide detected in tests was such a low level that it did not threaten public health.

Hancock plantations confirmed yesterday that they have since agreed to use other herbicides that were less persistent.

But environment group Friends of the Earth said yesterday the herbicide hexazinone had been used for a number of years, and there was little known about its long-term effects.

A spokesman for Friends of the Earth, Anthony Amis, said the group learned about the pollution from a Freedom of Information request to Barwon Water. Mr Amis said information gained from the FoI showed Barwon Water had detected hexazinone on 34 seperate occasions since December 2004.

"It has shown up consistently now for 18 months," Mr Amis said. 'Ten samples during that time have been detected at the inlet to the Moorabool Water Treatment Plant near Meredith."

Barwon Water wrote to Hancock Victorian Plantations in April, 2005, informing the operator they were in 'Contravention of Water Supply Protection".

Barwon Water executive manager water systems Carl Bicknell said yesterday that providing safe drinking water and protecting customers' health were Barwon Water's highest priorities.