Town fears logging impact

Michelle Slater

Mirboo North could suffer a 15 per cent downturn in tourism if the town’s native forest is logged, according to a socio-economic study released to the community at a meeting on Wednesday night.

Community members vowed to end discussions with VicForests and take their fight to save the forests directly to relevant ministers, due to distrust of the logging agency.

Mirboo North Preserve our Forests economic amenity working group member Viki Sinclair said they estimated logging could cost the local economy about $1.83 million if tourists stopped coming.

Ms Sincliar said they had developed the survey with South Gippsland Shire economic development officers to look at the forecasted socio-economic impacts of logging in the area.

She said they had surveyed more than 560 locals and town visitors, and about 50 town businesses and accommodation providers.

“Most people said logging would have a severe impact on the community. We asked what people most valued about the forests and they said it was visual amenity and recreation opportunities like birdwatching and walking,” she said.

Ms Sinclair said estimated forecasts modelled that nine local jobs would be lost as a flow-on effect of a tourism downturn, equating to $375,000 in lost wages. She said the survey would be presented to South Gippsland Shire as well as Victorian government ministers and VicForests.

General manager of corporate affairs at VicForests Alex Messina, said the organisation had not received a copy of the Preserve our Forests study but that timber harvesting had co-existed with tourism for over 100 years.

“VicForests has taken the concerns expressed by Preserve our Forests on board and proposed a far lighter harvesting profile than a simply compliance-only approach in line with the Code of Practice for Timber Production” Mr Messina said.

“These proposals would see selective harvesting of less than half of the Oscine coupe as well as substantial buffering along Lyre Bird Walk from the required 40 metres to a nominal 400 metres.

“In the Samson and Doug coupes, we have proposed a selective harvest regime which would retain around 60 to 70 per cent of the pre-harvest trees and would leave a largely continuous tree canopy intact.”

Mr Messina said VicForests was discussing the proposals with the community, including Preserve our Forests.

“Given the Preserve our Forests group has had such a significant influence on VicForests harvesting proposals already, I am stunned that they would choose to forgo this important conversation. It would certainly be a loss,” he said.