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National parks are killing red gum forests

By Ken O'Brien - posted Wednesday, 7 October 2009

In 2005, the New South Wales government purchased Yanga Station, near Balranald in southwest NSW, in order to reserve as national park about 17,000ha of red gum forest, including 150km of river frontage on the Murrumbidgee River. The NSW government paid more than $35 million to turn this property into a national park.

Up until 2005, the red gums on this property were managed on a sustainable basis for the production of sawlogs. Management and operations were supervised by a forester with more than 40 years’ professional experience in both government and private forestry; all codes and regulations applying to this forest were complied with and protection requirements exceeded to ensure a healthy growing forest.

Bob Carr, then Premier of NSW, commended the owners and managers of this property for the excellent care of the forest while the Department of Environment openly expressed the excellent condition of the forest and the environmental values. Most of all the trees were healthy and growing, despite the prolonged drought.


The forest supported a local mill and many jobs in Balranald and the surrounding area. The timber provided employment on a sustainable basis and the livelihood of numerous families. The property paid rates to the Wakool Shire. Most businesses in Balranald had a dependency on Yanga and the people who were directly employed.

And the beautiful red gum forests were healthy and sustainable.

Now at a cost of more than $35 million to NSW taxpayers, that has all been brought to an abrupt halt. All the jobs have gone, business is struggling and the community is suffering.

Previous water management works have been abandoned and specially provided “environmental flows” are allowed to just run off and be wasted.

Yanga now rates as one of the biggest “tree kills” on a single property since white settlement and since native vegetation legislation. It is too easy to blame this situation on the drought. There are hundreds of thousands of dead and dying red gums on Yanga right now, more than 60 per cent of the forest is dead. And the government responsible sits on its hands claiming that this is “conservation”.

Green ideologies and government agency mismanagement, under green policies, have killed this forest. Other managed red gum forests are healthy and growing, despite the drought. Across the river and in stark contrast to Yanga, a healthy, well-managed private forest continues to be managed for timber production and it has not received any special “environmental flows”.


Twenty tax-paying jobs in Balranald have been replaced with six tax-funded jobs from other towns.

Bob Carr said 50,000 tourists per year would fix all this! After four years, one small camping area has been established, yet the forest remains padlocked.

Millions of dollars have been spent on a big shed and homestead renovations, materials are brought in from other areas and a few jobs from other towns have been created. But the trees are still dying.

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About the Author

Ken O’Brien is a New South Wales Forest Products Association member.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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