Senators declare forests 'World Heritage'
By Tom Kelly
In a ceremony at Hensleigh Creek on February 5, Greens (WA) Senator Christabel Chamarette, Democrat Senator Sid Spindler and members of the East Gippsland Forest Alliance (EGFA) declared open a World Heritage area on East Gippsland's Errinundra Plateau. About 40 people were present to see the senators cut the ribbon to synbolically open the area to the public.
Members of the EGFA made it clear that the area was definitely closed to bulldozers, however. For the past month, the EGFA has been blockading two important areas in the Hensleigh Creek catchment to prevent them being clear-felled.
Blockaders believe an attempt to log the area is imminent, because seasonal rains will make logging impractical if it is not begun within the next few weeks.
Chamarette noted the concerns expressed in January by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, that "many areas of native forest of high conservation value are still being logged".
"The time for action by the federal government is well overdue", Chamarette pointed out. "The Keating government must move to fulfil its international obligations by protecting the remaining areas of native forest throughout Australia."
In relation to the Errinundra Plateau, Spindler explained that "Commonwealth environment ministers have received the World Heritage nomination from successive Victorian governments in 1987 and 1988 but have chosen to take no action. The current minister, Ros Kelly, fiddles while the priceless eucalypt forests continue to be clear-felled by woodchippers."
While the declaration covers a relatively small 65,000 hectares, it is unique in world terms, with 400 species of eucalypt, and forms a critical link between the Errinundra and Coopracamba National Park.