Kelvin Thomson is the federal member for Wills, representing inner-city northern Melbourne. He was the Shadow Attorney-General in early 2007 when it was discovered that he had provided a notorious Melbourne gangster, Tony Mokbel, with a personal reference describing him as a “responsible, caring husband and father”. Mr Thomson subsequently resigned from the front bench, but he still has trouble telling good from bad.
Last Tuesday in federal parliament as part of debate on the Water Amendment Bill 2008, Mr Thomson described me as an anti-environmentalist and made much of my opposition to the creation of another 100,000 hectares of National Park along the Murray River. He suggested that converting state forest to national park would be a very significant nature conservation outcome for the Murray River which I opposed.
In reality converting state forest to national park is not going to address the current key issue for the forests which is provision of adequate environment flows in an efficient manner. Furthermore, by ‘locking-up’ the forests and banning current management practices the forests may become less, rather than more, resilient.
I do oppose the continual ‘locking-up’ of ever more forest principally on the basis that those in metropolitan Australia, in places like inner-city Melbourne, like the idea of national parks.
Many city people have a romantic notion of wilderness – an idea that wilderness is a place where people do not go. In reality the beauty of many wild places is a consequence of careful management by people. Indeed the red gum forests of the central Murray Valley, the forests that Mr Thomson would like to see ‘locked-up’, are only about 6,000 years old following a geological uplifting that changed the course of the Murray River. They have always been managed, first by indigenous Australians and more recently by the wood cutters and cattlemen who now live there.
In July this year I launched the 152-page ‘Conservation and Community Plan’ for the Red Gum forests at the Victorian Parliament House. This plan is about protecting the Red Gum forests not leaving their survival to fate. The plan developed by 25 community groups under the guidance of foresters Mark Poynter and Barry Dexter proposes the creation of a public land tenure known as RAMSAR Reserve with management to integrate the principles of multiple-use with environmental care. Current government policies and plans relating to timber production, cattle grazing, and recreational activities would be retained in RAMSAR Reserves in accordance with zoning that takes account of prevailing values and conditions.
The community plan proposes that funding for more on-ground resources be obtained from revenue generated by these commercial uses of the forest such as timber production, grazing, firewood collection and bee keeping.
The Alliance of community groups supports more environmental flows for the forests and the plan explains how to achieve the more efficient delivery of this water through the use of water regulators that already exist in many of the forests.
In short, Mr Thomson misrepresents me when he suggested in federal parliament last week that I do not care about the Red Gum forests. I care deeply about these forests and I recognise that their preservation is dependent on appropriate management regimes, not the romantic notion of wilderness implicit in the speech by Mr Thomson that falsely assumes less people equals more trees.
While the Murray River is flowing despite the drought, many of its tributaries are drying up: http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2007/11/murray-river-tributary-reduced-to-billabongs/
After a fire in the Barmah forest: http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2007/11/after-the-%e2%80%98top-island%e2%80%99-fire-in-the-barmah-red-gum-forest/
Some forests can be ‘drought proofed’ through thinning: http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2007/11/thinning-red-gum-forests-at-koondrook/
You can read my speech at the launch of the community plan here: http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2008/08/a-new-plan-for-the-red-gums-of-northern-victoria/