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save the Blue Tier

history of proposed park

History of the (proposed) North East Highlands National Park 1996 - 2006

During the Regional Forest Agreement submission period (1996-97) a group of concerned local north east residents commissioned and assisted the Tasmanian Conservation Trust with the preparation of the document: A new National Park for Tasmania's Northeast Highlands.

In the document Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick notes ... the northeast has suffered more from human impact in the last 200 years than most of Tasmania and has many areas of outstanding significance for their natural values that are yet to gain secure reservation.

A new National Park for Tasmania's Northeast Highlands was submitted to the RPDC for its Inquiry into aspects of the RFA. The document assesses the conservation needs and opportunities of the area connecting and including Mt. Victoria and the Blue Tier in northeast Tasmania.

One of the major objectives of the Regional Forest Agreement was to establish a reserve system to protect Tasmania's forest biodiversity. It failed to adequately protect the biodiversity of northeast Tasmania mainly because, for the purpose of the agreement, Tasmania was treated as one region, not eight bioregions. Because it took a statewide perspective, the RFA did not deal with areas of particular interest to local communities. Finally, water catchments and the impact of forestry operations on ground water was not considered.

The Bass District Forestry area includes the State Forests of the Break O'Day and Dorset municipalities.
The Bass Forests are in the Ben Lomond bioregion. According to the recently released Annual Report on Forest Practices the native forests of the Ben Lomond bioregion have already been cleared to levels below the minimum set out in the recent Howard/Lennon community forest agreement - for the forests of northeast Tasmania the new landclearing cap has had no practical effect and the area continues to be hammered hard by the logging and plantation industries.

The Regional Forest Agreement, and later the Community Forest Agreement, should have provided protection for a landscape with both a richness of natural significance and a fascinating cultural heritage from the Aboriginal inhabitants many thousands of years ago to the tin mining days of the late 1880's.

Protection of a approximately 3,500 hectares of State Forest in the Bass Forests is required to form a continuous tract of land through the northeast - from Mount Victoria to the Blue Tier - linking the existing Mt. Victoria, Frome and Blue Tier Reserves. To the east this area covers the entire catchment and headwaters of the George River, to the west it would protect a large percentage of the Ringarooma River catchment.

State wide the Community Forest Agreement added almost 11,000 hectares to Formal Reserves - none of this in the Bass district. The agreement also added 47,000 hectares to Forest Reserves - of this the northeast received 1,700 hectares.

The community forest agreement was supposed to end the dispute over forest management in Tasmania yet, with over a quarter of a million hectares of state forest still available to the logging industry, the northeast has lost out, the people's concerns appear to have been ignored and the existing reserves throughout the area remain fragmented.

The Bass Forests make up a huge chunk of the states forested land, roughly a quarter of the state, yet received a mere 3% of the amount of new reserves statewide.

As part of the pulp mill proposal Gunns have requested a further 30 years access to Tasmania's native forest - areas such as the Bass Forests will be under intense pressure to feed the massive appetite of the proposed pulp mill.

In the Dorset and Break O'Day municipalities many private farms have been purchased or leased by plantation companies - adding up to 15,000 hectares to the already vast amount of plantation on public land.
Plantation companies have approached many to most of the remaining farmers in the northeast as well.

As these once productive farms disappear local communities suffer. Empty houses stand, surrounded by tree plantation, families gone and no longer contributing to the community.

Clearfelling in upper catchments, and the resulting plantation establishment or regeneration negatively impact on the area's hydrology.

When a native forest is cleared and burnt there is greater run-off as there is no understorey or ground cover left to filter the water or hold the soil in place - this leads to erosion from accelerated flow and siltation as topsoil is washed into the waterways, whereas an intact upper catchment freely provides a multimillion dollar water purification and filtration system, ensuring the health of our streams and rivers.

Once the tree crops begin to grow they can draw up to 40% more ground water than a mixed age native forest.
With a plantation many thousands of trees are planted at the same time, growing at an incredible rate, and taking much more water from the catchment than is sustainable.

As a result of vast plantation establishment some water catchments are overcommitted, impacting on downstream users such as farmers, businesses and families.

The subsequent chemical regime further degrades the water quality with herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers entering waterways directly through aerial spraying and also after each rain episode as residual chemicals are washed from the contaminated soil.

Tasmania doesn't need to go down the track of industrial plantations and a big, polluting, native forest fed pulp mill - there are alternative ways of creating jobs.

Given that the Break O'Day municipality (within the Bass district) has more unprotected State Forest (public land) - approx. 156,000 ha - than any other municipality in Tasmania the protection of the Star of Peace, Emu Flat (the link between the Frome and Blue Tier reserves) and the Groom River Valley (Blue Tier foothills) would have to be seen as a reasonable compromise. This would require protection of (maximum) a further 3,500 ha (less than 2.5%) of the Break O'Day municipalities unprotected State Forest, which includes some areas that would be unviable for logging due to requirements of the Forest Practices Authority (eg: steepness, scenic values, streamside reserves etc).

The recent 'community forest agreement' failed to protect the northeast highlands, including the Blue Tier. The 750 ha 'protected' by the CFA comprise two extremely steep areas that almost certainly would never have been logged anyway. None of the Groom River catchment was protected.


An intact upper catchment is a self-maintaining water purification and filtration system - freely providing the services of a multi-million dollar water treatment plant, ensuring a plentiful supply of pure clean water and maintaining the health of the watercourses.

Protection of the Blue Tier as part of the Northeast Highlands National Park will ...

safeguard the water catchment, protect the rare and endangered ecosystems, protect the native wildlife and their habitat, conserve the valuable historical and culturally significant sites and save something for future generations to enjoy.

The proposed National Park area is State Forest and is currently under the control of Forestry Tasmania, the Tasmanian Governments forestry agency.
The mountainous forests have been providing timber to local communities for over one hundred years. Until relatively recent times, this has involved selective logging of the occasional tree with minimal impact on the landscape. More recently large sections have been clearfelled for woodchipping and plantation establishment. Continued industrial scale logging will drastically alter the landscape, destroy biodiversity and cultural values, place at risk the value of the area for recreation and severely damage the water quality and quantity. By protecting the area we will have a sustainable future, which will also benefit the whole of the region and Tasmania.

Tourism and sustainable agriculture are the only industries for the area, which are sustainable. They are also industries that can be developed and controlled locally, relatively free from international factors over which Tasmania can exert no influence. They are industries that can adapt quickly to accommodate changes in demand. Plantation forestry is entirely dependant upon world markets and influences.

Tourism and sustainable agriculture bring people back into the region because they are labour intensive, bringing services with them. Plantations make little contribution to the local community.

The choice is clear ... in fifty years time what is going to benefit local communities and Tasmania most? A sea of plantation (or stumps), water and soil contaminated by chemicals associated with plantation establishment and growth, or a mixture of wet and dry eucalypt and rainforest, a plentiful supply of clean water, clean soil and pure air?

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