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The battle for the red gum forests

By Jennifer Marohasy - posted Monday, 1 September 2008


The RRGA plan is in part-based on the rich oral history within not only the Indigenous, but also the white-fella communities along the Murray.

But the potential for this efficient within-forest water management has been ignored in the VEAC plan that advocates overbank flows; a mechanism that will require much larger volumes of water which some consider unrealistic and inefficient given these dry times.

Commercial timber production is currently permitted within less than 45,000 hectares of state forest which represents just 16 per cent of the total area of public land in the VEAC investigation area. VEAC proposes an 80 per cent reduction in the area of state forest effectively wiping out the timber industry.

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In contrast, the RRGA plan, which many locals want to see implemented, proposes continued timber harvesting and also thinning of trees under the concept of wise-use as explained in the Ramsar Convention of 1971.

Ramsar is the name of a town in Iran where this international convention was signed. Ramsar allows industries in forests and wetlands of international significance under best practice guidelines and appropriate regulation. The Ramsar Convention recognised that the social and economic benefits derived from the sustainable use of wilderness areas can provide incentives for the people to conserve them.

The recommendation by the RRGA, if adopted by government, would create the largest Ramsar reserve in the world and let people continue to work, live and play in the river red gum forests of the mid-Murray under a more contemporary notion of wilderness, where use of the forest resource is not banned, but rather regulated so no one group is allowed to dominate - because a wilderness can not sustain those that seek to dominate it.

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This is an edited version of the speech given at the Legislative Council Committee Room, Parliament House on Thursday, July 31, 2008.

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About the Author

Jennifer Marohasy is a senior fellow with the Institute for Public Affairs.

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