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The trouble with Tarkeeth

FORESTRY Corporation of NSW has replanted eucalypt plantations.
FORESTRY Corporation of NSW has replanted eucalypt plantations. Norm P Farmer

FORESTRY Corporation of NSW has completed a two-week operation to replant the eucalypt plantations harvested last year in Tarkeeth State Forest, but concerned residents have dubbed the announcement as "window dressing”.

A logging operation has been taking place at Tarkeeth State Forest near Bellingen, however controversy has arisen surrounding the methods used, such as clear-felling and pesticide spraying and an apparent lack of community consultation.

Forestry's plantation manager Graeme Sonter announced this week that a crop of native seedlings has been planted by hand in order to establish the second timber crop since the former dairy farm was planted with timber in the 60s and 70s.

"We had a team of planters out in Tarkeeth State Forest for two weeks replanting 1100 seedlings in every hectare that we harvested last year, to regrow the second timber crop on this site to provide timber for the next generation,” Mr Sonter said.

"The seedlings were grown in our Grafton nursery, which produces more than half a million high quality eucalyptus seedlings a year to re-establish state forest plantations on the North Coast.”

Adele and Paul Hemphill are some residents who live near Tarkeeth who have been campaigning for Forestry to change its methods of harvesting.

"They are basically land clearing rather than harvesting. They have no concept or empathy with the idea of community,” Paul said.

"The residents are very close to and familiar with what's happening at Tarkeeth and we're concerned with how they're conducting their operations.

"They may be replanting, but the point is they're using heavy industrial - and dangerous - methods close to homes,” Adele said.

Academic and environmentalist Andrew Woodward, who lives in Bellingen, said changing times meant logging in the Tarkeeth area is questionable.

"From a Labor perspective, it has to be recognised that we do have plantation timber in NSW, and it is a renewable resource.

"But the issue appears to be changing circumstances. When Tarkeeth was transformed from farm land to a timber plantation it was probably a good idea at the time.

But 30-50 years later it's worth a look into scientific evidence to see whether it's appropriate to continue logging in that area.

"There are land use issues, we need to recognised that quite a lot more people have moved into that area. There are also issues with the impact on wildlife, and chemical spraying.

"Smoke haze is also a problem, the residents deserve to have peaceful existence.

"We're not saying stop it or continue it, but it needs a better investigation than what State Government is giving at the moment.”

Clear felling on Fernmount Range.
Clear felling on Fernmount Range. Contributed


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