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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Saturday, 14 February 2009
Victorian Bushfires: Peter Attiwill, the loggers friend
Topic: aust govt


Tonight we saw an ABC TV bushfire special "After the Firestorm". And sitting there on screen was local federal MP in the Opposition Fran Bailey who brought with her Professor Peter Attiwill described as a "forest ecologist".

However one ought to be very clear about the antecedents of Peter Attiwill. He's a champion of the logging industry, ever since his graduation from the Creswick School of Forestry here:

"John Chinner took up his appointment as Senior Lecturer in charge of Forestry in the Faculty of Science in 1945. He successfully pursued research grants and support for lectureships from industry and government agencies. Many of his postgraduates went on to lead the development of forestry research in government agencies, industry and universities in Australia and internationally. The names of postgraduates to 1979 include: Drs Peter Attiwill, ..." in Chapter 7: Forestry At Creswick And The University, 1910

Here he is again in 1996 as the Howard Govt took office and the loggers needed a framework to continue expansion of the woodchipping industry of public forest heritage for private profit:

[PDF] Victoria's Mountain Ash Forests: A Case of Sustainable Management, Agenda, Volume 3, Number 2, 1996, pages 229-240

 And again here adopted approvingly by the National Association of Forest Industries. The man does not appear to be independent.

So Attiwill, it is safe to assume, will never criticise loggers for destroying wet old growth forest over the last 50 years leaving barely 10% of this forest type now, converting it into bushfire prone dry schlerophyll. Nor will he observe that the firestorm in Victoria originated in highly disturbed logging or farming country.

Nor will Attiwill note the loggers love of post logging burns which sometimes escape or smoulder on until a hot north wind arrives. He will never criticise the loggers smashing of a semi rainforest old growth complex like the infamous Goolengook in East Gippsland which probably has never burned for 150 years. And never by Aboriginal firestick either.

He will say once its all converted and dried out you have to promote broadscale burning off every 7 to 10 years. Which is exactly what he said on tv tonight.

No account for promotion of fire weeds. No account for destruction of rainforest or mature wet old growth forest types. No honesty about how we got to this situation today from 50 years of logging context, his very own discipline. We say this as a zoology graduate from the Australian National University (1986).

And just by coincidence this form of fire regime is perfect for defacto conversion of the public's natural heritage into a defacto timber production plantation with much reduced flora and fauna diversity and water catchment values. That's okay if you are only managing for timber production and your logging mates. That's okay if you support an effective privatisation of public land.


But what about the rest of society and their values? And the rest of nature for that matter, in some cases stable forest eco-systems (eg the forest type shown here) for thousands of years? And indeed prevention of bushfire risk from dried out forests?

Far better to find natural methods of fuel reduction in forests of this type perhaps by breeding up native critters as grazers and browers of the understorey and fencing out of ferals. It's probably just as practical and as expensive.

What about the skinny regrowth forest already stuffed by Attiwill's mates? They do need longer term restoration logging to ever return to their former glory, perhaps by thinning out the regrowth to allow large dominant old growth overstorey to restore the water cycle. But that could take hundreds of years to re-establish which is not very likely, with all the fire risk that entails in the meantime.

At the very least logging of wet old growth forest should be banned as criminal vandalism for promotion of bushfires as much as any arsonist. And the real fire history of mechanised logging should be told.

Nor was Barry Cassidy much sense with his folksy and dumb comment "I grew up in the bush and we had a saying 'expect to to be burned if you don't burn'". Yeah Barry, but how often? And where? And how practical over huge areas with limited time is it? That is the problem and Cassidy obviously doesn't have a stick of sense to add to that quandary in an age of climate change and limited days in the cool season.


If Attiwill had his way his mates would be burning and logging rainforest as happened here with this illegal logging in East Gippsland court saga:

Hastings v Brennan & Anor; Tantram v Courtney & Anor [2005] VSC 37

.... with further background here.



Forest giants laid waste

Look familiar?


And see this this 'before' photo ....

And after ....perfect for bushfire prone regrowth ...


Posted by editor at 12:06 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2009 12:40 PM EADT

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