Enter these forests. Set off a mob of kangaroos. Then hear the silence settle. Look around and be filled with the wonder of being in ancient Australia.
Log these? Log them for another 5 years until the old ones are all gone and we are left only with straggly regrowth? Log them when 80 per cent of the landscape along the Murray has already been cleared? When on some stretches 75 per cent of the trees are already dead or dying or stressed because of drought and climate change? Log them for firewood and railway sleepers and fence posts?
Many parts of our country are in flood, but the Murray-Darling, food bowl of our nation, is still cracked and dry. The River Red Gums that stand guard on its banks are a gift to future generations. They are of national significance, and it falls to all of us to protect them.
The NSW Government has announced national parks protecting some of the red gums, but reports suggest over 18,000 hectares of the most important trees will be logged for another 5 years — other areas indefinitely. I intend to seek clarification of this, but you may wish to let Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett know you think the future of these mighty trees is very, very important:
The most reliable estimate is that there are only 136 jobs in red gum logging on public lands across NSW. Timber jobs are 0.2 per cent of employment in the region. All can be accommodated in new national parks.
How can I be so certain? First, because Victoria has just done it. As of June 30 last year, logging stopped forever in 91,000 hectares of red gum wetlands. The outcome is jobs positive because there are 30 new park ranger jobs in four new parks, 10 jobs in forest management and 24 jobs in the tourism sector.
Second, because NSW offers loads of experience in world-significant nature conservation made possible through industry restructuring without job losses. We have had 30 years of these arguments. Each has ended with decisive conservation victories, and the outcomes have been endorsed at state elections. In my experience – and I was environment minister in the Wran government between 1984 and 1988 – the case made by conservationists starts by looking over-reaching. But it always ends up being vindicated.
My Government led Australia on nature conservation. I am proud of creating some 300 new national parks. We saved the South East forests, the North coast icons and the Pilliga. These were all generous conservation outcomes, and no unemployment resulted. We can do it with the river red gums, but Government need to be reminded that nature conservation has public support:
In their bones country and city people alike know that as the continent’s population climbs (to more than 40 million by mid-century, according to the latest estimates) we will count precious every hectare of national park this generation has declared.
Bob Carr was the longest continuously serving NSW premier. #