Hancock's logging practices -
Update January 2002
Hancock Watch have recently been informed about plans by Hancock owned Grand Ridge Plantations Pty Ltd, to sell high conservation forest to potential developers. We view this as a major setback for the company in terms of gaining FSC certification. How can a company even consider certification when they are actively promoting the sale and probable destruction of forests of national conservation significance? It appears that ex-senior management of Australian Paper Plantations (APP) are now calling the 'shots' in regards to Hancock forest management in the Strzeleckis. Hancock Watch have feared this situation since the sale of APP to Hancock in August 2001. We fear that this sale could just be the just 'the tip of the iceberg' with further 'bad news' emerging in the near future.
The proposal was presented by APP to the Planning Department in July 2001 and lodged on 27th November 2001. The Applicant: Grand Ridge Plantations c/- Fisher Stewart Pty Ltd
The Land: Crown allotments 59c, 60a, 60b, 81, 82, 82a and 108.
The landowner seeks to re-subdivide the existing Crown allotments in order to consolidate current plantation timber production activities onto 2 lots and to sell the remaining 5 lots.
The proponent requested that public advertising would not be required as technically the proposal was for a re-alignment of existing boundaries.
The intent to sell the land which is zoned Rural Zone (RUZ) allows for the blocks to be developed for urban use.
Even if this involved minimum clearing, exemptions in the Native Vegetation Retention Guidelines, do not require a permit to remove native vegetation for utilities and services, houses, access, wildfire protection, dams etc.
This would compromise the Biological integrity of this site, known as Darlimurla.
Section 14 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 specifies the following, in the duties of a responsible authority:
(a) to administer and enforce the planning scheme; and
Section 4 of the Planning and Environment Act specifies that one of the main objectives of planning in Victoria is "to provide for the protection of natural and man-made resources and the maintenance of ecological processes and genetic diversity."
Section 6 (1) (b) further states that a planning scheme "may make
provision which relates to the use, development, protection or conservation
Friends of Gippsland Bush was formed in 1996 as a community response to AMCOR's application to clear 1995 hectares of native vegetation for establishment of paper plantations. The permit applications covered the shires of Latrobe, Wellington, East Gippsland and Baw Baw.
The panel appointed by the Minister of Planning in 1996 to hear the submissions on AMCOR's application, expressed the view that:
"...any need to clear this vegetation is a private need. Even if it were a community need, it is not so great that it would outweigh all the disbenefits associated with allowing the vegetation to be removed." 1 and therefore recommended that the minister disallow the applications and not grant any of the permits.
Despite community opposition and the recommendations made by the Panel, the Minister granted the permits.
Local accord was achieved through an 8-point agreement2 between Australian Paper Plantations (APP) and FOGB. An advisory group was established to administer the Agreement.
As part of the Agreement, at the insistence of FOGB, an environmental consultant was commissioned, at the company's expense, to assess the flora and fauna values of each of the sites to be cleared. This addressed section 4 (d) habitat protection and section 4 (f) arrangements for the protection of common, rare and endangered fauna during all operations, of the original Planning Permit, the minister issued in 1997.
On the advice of the consultant the decision to clear, partially clear or retain the native vegetation was made.
The advisory group agreed that the areas that were not to be cleared
would be set aside as Nature Reserves.
Flora And Fauna Assessment Of Darlimurla Forest Block
The Report states:
The Gippsland Plain has been largely cleared of native vegetation for agricultural development and larger remnants such as the Darlimurla Forest Block are considered to be both rare and very poorly reserved in this natural region.
On the basis of the available information, the Darlimurla Forest Block is considered to have national significance for flora and fauna conservation. This area supports a diverse flora and fauna, and provides habitat for a number of species that are rare at the national, state and regional levels. The occurrence of Strzelecki Gum within the Darlimurla Block is considered to be of national conservation significance as this site represents one of only five localities where this species is known to occur in relatively undisturbed native vegetation. Intact examples of the vegetation communities Dry Valley Forest and Swampy Riparian Complex and their associated habitats are depleted within the state, while the relatively intact areas of Herb Rich Foothill Forest and Swamp Scrub are considered to be of regional conservation significance.
The Darlimurla Forest Block is considered to be an area of national conservation significance and it is recommended that it be acquired by the State of Victoria to be managed as a conservation reserve.
1 Report on Panel Hearing on Application by AMCOR Plantations Pty Ltd.
September 1996, Page 57