Between 1999 -2002 the “Water not Woodchips” campaign shut down all native forest logging in the Geelong/Otway domestic water supply catchments.
Practical results to date
The OREN/Otways "Water not Woodchips" campaign was critical in getting broad public 'political' opposition towards continued clearfell logging within the Otways domestic water supply catchments.
Achievements of the Otway "water not woodchips" campaign:
How was logging stopped in the Geelong/Otway water supply catchments?
The Otway Ranges Environment Network (OREN) working in conjunction with the Geelong Community Forum(GCF) and supported by the Geelong Environment Council, raised community awareness regarding the impact of logging on water quality and quantity from the Otways.
The issues is relevant for the 300,000 people in South West Victoria who rely on Otway forested catchments for their domestic water supply. OREN and GCF put together reports on the impact of logging on water quality and quantity and networked the issue throughout the community.
Research shows that clearfell logging in water catchments is detrimental to water quality and quantity. Once a forest has been cut down, it takes 150-200 years for water yield to return to pre-logging levels as young regrowth forest consumes more water than old mature forests. In the Otways, logging roads and logging operations cause landslides & erosion which increases turbidity in the creeks and rivers thus effecting the quality of the water for drinking as well as aquatic stream life. See OREN water report to find out more.
South Western Victoria - water supply structure
For more than 20 years there has considerable public concern regarding the impacts clearfell logging has on the quantity and quality of water from domestic water supplies catchments in the Otway Ranges. Past community concern pushed the State government into conducting numerous inquiries and research projects such as:
2. Regional Forest Agreement process excluded water users.
In 1999, the West Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) did not acknowledge water as a primary economic output from Otway forested catchments. Hence urban water users in Geelong were deliberately excluded from the West RFA consultation process despite their water catchments being directly affected by this 20 year agreement.
The map below shows Geelong City excluded from the West RFA study area despite the Midway export woodchip mill being within Geelong metro area.
The next map shows in detail how the West RFA boundary goes around metro Geelong to exclude its people from the formal consultation process.
OREN and GCF turned this lack of consultation around by lobbying water users and their local government representatives in Geelong and Warrnambool to include themselves as water stakeholders. To do this:
When the RFA was signed, Minister Garbutt made misleading assurances that the RFA process would provide domestic water supply catchments with additional protection from logging practices.
In a press release dated 31 March 2000, the Minister stated:
However logging prescriptions nominated in the March 2000 Regional Forest Agreement to protect water yield were exactly the same as the existing prescriptions in the 1992 Otway Forest Management Plan.
It was exposed in the Age (13 May 2000) that these claims made by Minister Garbutt were false.
3. Otway Forest Hydrology Reference Group.
Following the signing of the West RFA in March 2000, the State government followed through with its election commitment to conduct further hydrology research and meet the requirements of West RFA clause 61.
In June 2000, the Minister appointed the Otway Forest Hydrology Reference Group (OFHRG). OFHRG was made up of community stakeholder groups that included:
The Otway hydrology research was completed in just four months (1st December 2000). The SKM report was publicly released in January 2001, only seven months after the project started and less than a year after the West RFA signed.
4. Government and forestry bureaucracy reaction to SKM Otway hydrology research.
The Victorian government, with advice from the forest management bureaucracy, made a political decision to dismiss the significance of the water loss as result from logging. The Government then allowed the forestry bureaucracy to begin a simple and superficial public relations campaign with misleading statistics and claims designed to create a public perception that the water loss issues exposed by the SKM research were not important or could never occur due to claims the catchments would burn too regularly.
NRE propaganda flyer was also published titled “Water and the Otways Forests, a hydrology study, 2001.”
5. Community groups’ reaction to SKM Otway hydrology research.
OREN and GCF disputed the government interpretation and began publicly promoting;
See the Age (11 December 2000).
A petition in mid 1999 calling for the immediate cessation of clearfell logging in Otway water catchments obtained more than 6,000 signatures in two days within the Geelong region. This petition was presented to State Parliament by local Geelong MP, Peter Loney.
The public response to this awareness campaign was very positive. In 2001 a Saulwick poll was conducted in the Federal Electorate of Corangamite. Over 69% of the voters polled were opposed to clearfell logging in the Otways. Download pdf poll results.
The OREN and GCF views were also strongly supported at a local government level. The City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire, Warrnambool City Council, Moyne Shire heard both sides of the argument; with presentations from OREN and the State Government forestry bureaucracy. These councils then passed resolutions wanting logging to be moved out of the Otway forested domestic water supply catchments.
6. November 2002 State election
In the 12 month lead up to the 2002 state election, OREN funded a "water not woodchips" media campaign within the Geelong region. This included:
The Bracks government accepted public concern over logging in the Otways and announced policies during the November 2002 State election campaign to end all logging in the Otways by 2008. The government won an overwhelming mandate to end logging in the Otways through the democratic election processes.
Even long time critics of the conservation movement such as Daryl Mclure (Opinion, 25 November 2002, Geelong Advertiser) concede that, “maybe logging old growth forests, especially in water catchments areas does have to stop.”
As a result of the new policies, the State government immediately suspended all logging within the Geelong-Otway water supply catchments (now five years ago). Most of the strategic Geelong and Warrnambool water supply catchment were added to the Great Otway National Park in 2005.
7. Victorian Liberal Party 2002 electoral obliteration
During the 2002 state election campaign, the Victorian Liberal Party supported continued logging in the Otways under the rules determined by the Regional Forest Agreement. This included continued logging the Geelong water supply catchments.
The Liberal Party’s Geelong team was decimated. It failed to win in every local seat; including the loss of two Lower House seats and one upper house seat it previously held.See Case Study: Liberals lost Victorian State seats of Bellarine and South Barwon due to support for Otways logging under the Regional Forest Agreement.
8. Cancelled West Regional Forest Agreement
To protect the Otways water supply catchments from clearfell logging and create the Great Otway National Park, the West Regional Forest Agreement was cancelled by the Bracks Government.
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