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Politician calls for better National Parks control

Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Richard Colbeck hopes the newly formed advisory council will be able to 'mitigate' the impact of National Parks.

TYLA HARRINGTON March 14, 2014 4:33am

Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Richard Colbeck believes local National Parks need to be better managed.

Mr Colbeck told the Pastoral Times on Wednesday he is hopeful a newly announced advisory council formed to support the timber industry will be able to ‘‘mitigate’’ the impact of National Parks.

He joined Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday last week in addressing about 600 Forest Products Association members in Canberra and used the local area as an example of ‘‘thinning trials not working’’.

At the Canberra dinner, Mr Abbott made a commitment to set up the advisory council, saying there were too many ‘‘locked up forests’’.

Mr Colbeck and Mr Abbott both met Mathoura man and timber worker Chris Crump on Tuesday, who highlighted the destruction of the industry in Mathoura, Deniliquin and Barham because of the National Parks conversion in 2010.

Mr Colbeck said the advisory council was being ‘‘finalised’’ and close to being established.

‘‘I’ve given him (Mr Abbott) some advice in regard to the advisory council,’’ he said.

‘‘I want to look at how we can have a strong focus on the industry in Australia looking into the future.

‘‘We’re pretty close to establishing the advisory council ... it’s just a matter of finalising it, which will be done pretty soon.’’

After visiting the local area six months before the conversion of state forests to National Parks in 2010, Mr Colbeck said he couldn’t understand why the forest would be converted from a ‘‘community asset to a community liability’’.

Mr Colbeck says loggers need to be able to access the forest, which he now refers to as a ‘‘fire trap’’.

Local timber industry workers believe forests should be ‘thinned out’ to prevent ‘over-strangulation’ of trees and to help prevent bushfires.

‘‘In that area of 400ha of Riverina red gum we are now spending more taxpayers’ money to have that area thinned,’’ Mr Colbeck said.

‘‘That’s costing $3750 a hectare. Had we placed a management plan over that region and allowed the industry to continue sensibly managing it and creating a community benefit, as they were before.

‘‘The timber that’s coming off through that ecological thinning would reap $5000 per hectare and a profit of $1250 a hectare which could have gone back into managing the rest of that area to maintain its environmental values.

‘‘And yet here we are restricting what we can do in that region and continuing to put taxpayer dollars in where we could be getting an environmental benefit, we could be getting a community benefit and we could be getting an industry benefit. But we’re doing none of that.’’

However, Mr Colbeck said the solution ‘‘is not just a matter of sending loggers back into the forest ... it needs to be done properly’’.

‘‘People can’t have a narrow perspective that we can’t go in there at all ... that’s to the community’s detriment.

‘‘I saw that forest prior to being converted to National Parks and it really didn’t make sense to me (why they would change it).

‘‘Now, as I understand it ... businesses are closing down (in the local area).’’

Although Mr Colbeck said the current National Parks system is simply not working, he admitted that reversng a National Parks decision was ‘‘not a common occurrence’’.

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