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North East Highlands National Park Proposal - (.pdf file 7MB)

The George River - Northeast Tasmania - a(nother) catchment in crisis ...

The George River is the largest river that flows off Tasmania's east coast. With a total length of approximately 50 km the George rises on the slopes of Mt's. Albert and Victoria, Rattler Range, Star of Peace and the Blue Tier and flows into Georges Bay just north of St. Helens. The entire catchment area is roughly 40,000 hectares - this area includes the farming settlements of Pyengana, Goshen, Goulds Country and Priory. The major tributaries of the George are the North and South George which meet in the middle of the Pyengana Valley, forming the main branch of the river, the Groom and Ransom which flow from the Blue Tier and join the George at Goshen, as does the Powers Rivulet which rises from Billy of Tin Tier and Littlechild's Creek which has its catchment area between the Blue Tier and Mt. Pearson and joins the George at Priory.

The early settlers mined tin in much of the George River catchment area between about 1880 and 1930 ... but
for the past 100 years beef and dairy farming, small sawmills and cheese making have been the mainstay of the communities.

Almost 15 years ago the first farms were converted to plantation (E. nitens) in the headwaters of the North and South George River ... at the time the local community expressed concerns about the use of chemicals in the catchment ... a concoction of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, wetting agents and fertilisers were aerially sprayed and contaminated many of the small water courses which form the headwaters of the river system. Community concerns have gone largely unheard and the problem has continued to this day. It is not known what the long-term effects of the ongoing chemical contamination will be on the community or the wildlife. In addition, chemicals that are no longer used by the plantation industry are still present in the soil for many years - and wash into the watercourses with each heavy rain.

Since plantations came to this area we have learnt that not only are they chemical dependant but also draw up to 40% more ground water than a mixed age native forest - plantations that replace our forests and farmland take water away from downstream users - farmers, fishers and domestic water supplies. It is believed that plantations use an estimated 2-Mega litres/hectare/year rising to 3 Ml/ha/yr for pasture conversion. Decreased flow rates also effect the minute aquatic life that maintain river health, with the chemical contamination endangering all species. Combined with the effects of climate change this spells disaster for the George River. There is absolutely no planning of this, or of the implications.

Today vast areas of the George River system have been converted from either native forest or farmland to plantation.

In the North George catchment an estimated 25% (1,600ha) of the private land has been converted to E. nitens plantation with a further 1,500 hectares of State Forest either already in plantation or unprotected and therefore available to the logging industry ... this could eventually mean that half of the catchment area ends up in plantation ... as well, the remaining 1,900 ha of private land - made up of pasture and remnant native forest - is not protected against plantation establishment. Clear-felling (and conversion to plantation) of native forest has been occurring recently in the North George catchment on the slopes of the Star of Peace - some of the last unprotected rain forest in the northeast.

The South George catchment is in a similar state with an estimated 1,700 ha of plantation on private land and 3,200 ha of unprotected State Forest.

Of the approximate 40,000 hectares an inadequate 7,200 hectares is in Reserves in the entire George River catchment with 32,800 hectares unprotected. The total plantation estate, on private land, within the catchment area, is estimated at 4,400 hectares with many other properties holding Private Timber Reserve status, but not yet converted. This river system is clearly under stress - and as the flow rate decreases the chemical contamination becomes more concentrated.

Community groups throughout the northeast have lobbied for the protection of the entire George River catchment for many years but the fragmentation of the native forest is worsening and the plantation establishment accelerating at an alarming rate.

The Northeast Highlands National Park proposal seeks to safeguard the water catchment of the George and other major river systems, preserve biodiversity, stop fragmentation of native forest, recognise the significance of glacial refugia, recognise the role of intact forest as a carbon sink and store and the role it plays in producing clean air and water, conserve valuable historical and culturally significant sites and protect the native wildlife and their habitat.

The National Park document may be downloaded from link above.

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