Deniliquin and district timber stakeholders are still waiting on promises made by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to come to fruition.By Jess Everingham
The National Parks and Wildlife Service is a year late on delivering a community committee to provide advice on red gum park management.
And local stakeholders say it is not good enough.
An NPWS spokesperson told the Pastoral Times on December 8, 2011 that ‘‘a community committee to provide advice on red gum reserve park management in NSW and Victoria is proposed to be established early in the new year’’.
A spokesperson said in April 2012 an announcement on the committee would be made ‘‘soon’’, while in August a spokesperson said work was ‘‘proceeding’’.
Now, a year after the committee was due to be established, the Pastoral Times contacted NPWS for answers this week.
They were unable to provide an update.
It has been 2 years since local state forests were converted to National Parks, in July 2010.
Mathoura logger Chris Crump said he wasn’t aware of any NPWS consultation with locals for a committee.
‘‘It’s a bit of a joke,’’ he said.
Mr Crump said the community should have a right to ‘‘have a say’’ on the forests, which surround Mathoura.
‘‘I would have liked to have seen the locals have more say in these thinning trials,’’ he said.
And with Murray Valley National Park now out of its infancy, the time period during which the committee may have been most effective may have passed already. That did not surprise Mr Crump, who campaigned against the conversion.
‘‘I don’t think they wanted anyone else involved [in establishing the parks] other than themselves,’’ he said.
Despite NPWS claiming all year that the work on the committee was progressing, Murray Shire Mayor Tom Weyrich says he was not even aware such a committee had been discussed.
Cr Weyrich did say council was told at a meeting with NPWS on February 6, 2012, that meetings between the two organisations would continue. He says they have not.
Cr Weyrich believes a community committee is a ‘‘good idea’’, but was ‘‘cynical of the outcome’’.
‘‘We seem to get a lot of lip service, and not much action,’’ he said.
They mayor was also critical of the lengthy delay on consultation.
‘‘I think at a local level that’s not been their intention. But quite clearly they believe they’re above criticism,’’ he said.
‘‘We need to achieve the best outcomes we possibly can, given the circumstances.
‘‘Without proper consultation, I don’t believe that can happen.’’
Cr Weyrich wants NPWS to hold a community meeting and listen to people’s ideas.
He listed firewood and camping as two of the ‘‘many’’ issues that need attention.
He also wanted to see council, Indigenous groups and community members included on the community committee.
The introduction of the National Parks has meant the closure of most of the local timber industry, and restrictions on camping and firewood collection.
NPWS is expected to start a thinning trial in the forests soon, to test the effectiveness of thinning in stopping overgrowth and tree strangulation.
~ Jess Everingham
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