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Rick Colless: Reopen forests

New South Wales Forest Industries Taskforce chair Rick Colless, who believes local forests should be reopened to timber workers 'in some capacity', will be in Deniliquin tomorrow.

July 15, 2014 3:15am

New South Wales Forest Industries Taskforce chair Rick Colless believes local forests should be reopened to timber workers ‘‘in some capacity’’.

Mr Colless will meet with local forest stakeholders at the Deniliquin RSL Club tomorrow to discuss issues surrounding the conversion of state forests to National Parks in 2010, which effectively shut down the timber industry.

He confirmed the recommendations from tomorrow’s meeting would be taken back to his taskforce before being passed on to the Federal Government.

Mr Colless told the Pastoral Times there were ‘‘a lot of issues’’ surrounding the conversion but that the forests should be reopened to timber workers while at the same time protecting the needs of the environment.

‘‘Timber workers looked after the forest for a long time before the conversion (to National Parks),’’ Mr Colless said.

‘‘What we don’t want to see is these local forests being locked up and left. We need to have some sort of thinning program in the forest, most likely done by commercial loggers.’’

Mr Colless’ visit comes just two weeks after NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage responded to the Riverina Community Firewood and Home Heating Taskforce report and recommendations.

One recommendation adopted was that National Parks and Wildlife Services make debris from the proposed ecological thinning trial available for domestic firewood collection.

Most other recommendations were either adopted or supported in-principle, including the request for government support for Deniliquin in its pursuit of a natural gas connection.

The ‘thinning’ of the forests is seen as a huge issue for local people, who believe future bushfires will be even more severe if forests are left overgrown, while natural gas is widely viewed as the most economically viable option to heat homes now that firewood is more difficult to access.

Deniliquin Mayor Lindsay Renwick, a member of the Home Heating Taskforce, said he was looking forward to Mr Colless’ visit and hoped the meeting would address some local concerns.

‘‘Our forests were big enough for greenies, environmentalists and wood cutters — there was plenty of room for everyone,’’ he said.

‘‘Because Deniliquin doesn’t have access to natural gas the town must have sufficient access to firewood and there needs to be professional people involved in the thinning trials — it has to be commercial thinning trials not scientific trials.

‘‘If there are no thinning trials the forests will become overgrown ... sooner or later someone has to get in there and clean them up.’’

Mr Colless said he was looking forward to travelling to Deniliquin, which doesn’t have a representative on his taskforce.

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