The Tree Vandals of Gippsland

Massive trunk of Yellow Box between Ensay and Swifts Creek. (Ros Crisp)

Twice every day for the last 8 years of my life as a shopkeeper I drove past a magnificent old yellow box (Eucalyptus melliodora) near the crest of Connors Hill. Many years earlier when returning from a party we stopped there and three of us joined hands around this great specimen measuring its circumference at roughly 24 feet. The age of the tree was not known but as a slow growing species it almost certainly was there when Angus McMillan journeyed down the Tambo Valley in 1840 and was quite possibly there well before the first Europeans landed at Botany Bay. Now it is gone.

A number of estimates of the amount of carbon stored in its body were made. A local Ros Crisp, who worked hard to save the tree from the Vic Roads chainsaws, measured the tree accurately in July before it was cut down. It was exactly 6 metres in circumference measured 1.4m above ground level. Calculations varied according to what calculator was used but it stored between 15-30 tons of carbon with a 50-100 ton CO2 equivalent. Using the top estimate and an arbitrary value of $30 per ton of CO2 gave the tree a monetary value of $3000.

Unfortunately the tree vandals are in charge in a number of government departments – DELWP in particular as well as Vic Roads – and tree removals continue unabated in Gippsland justified under various headings including public safety and fire prevention. Massive clearing along roadsides in the bush has been ongoing for a number of years as was detailed by Deb Foskey at Dellicknora nearly 3 years ago.

Deb noted: “People who live in the border region of Far East Gippsland – Bonang, Dellicknora, Tubbut – were shocked to see what has turned out to be hundreds of trees felled …on the Dellicknora road. On inquiry to DELWP we were told that these were ‘hazardous trees’… The trees may have been felled for no purpose, equating their demise with extreme environmental vandalism. In any case, the entire concept of ‘hazardous trees’ deserves close scrutiny.”

More recently a block of Native Forest at Mt Alfred near Bairnsdale was logged for firewood. See the Gippsland Environment Group’s website for more detail. As well a recent private survey of regional Australia found the logging industry had very little public support.

The whole operations of DELWP need a thorough reorganisation. Trees should be protected and removed only as a last resort. Each tree so removed should be replaced with more than enough seedlings to recover the carbon lost to the atmosphere in one year.

DELWP’s major role should now be on forest protection with the science of climate change being the major input. The whole area of burning and community protection should be revisited and re-examined. New procedures should be adopted in accord with the latest science.  And it goes without saying that the logging in Native Forests for whatever reason should be quickly phased out.