To farmers in the Lower Bago Valley, Gerard is the neighbour they never see but for occasional sightings of his helicopter, who sold them out to the enemy – pine plantation operator Willmott Forests Ltd – said The Australian Financial Review (12/8/2006, p.23).
Change in land use devastates farmers: “It was a bolt out of the blue,” says the deputy mayor of Tumbarumba Shire Council and a Rosewood neighbour, Graham Smith, of the Gerard sale. Lower Bago angus cattle and merino sheep farmer Jeff Grady, who is affected by the change in land use, says he and his neighbours were devastated.
Gerard sale lets plantations in: Managed Investment Scheme (MIS) Operators such as Willmott and Gunns Ltd in the nearby Maragle Valley had started to get a toehold in the area and the Gerard sale gave the plantation company a huge foothold in a prime agricultural valley.
Country’s too good for them here: “They’ve wrecked this valley,” Grady said. “We were shocked for weeks because it changes your whole future. He has basically destroyed this valley and the community for his own personal gain. It’s only tax breaks that are driving it and it’s too high-value a country to be used for generating tax breaks for those blokes.”
Concerns over water flows: Grady said there are also serious concerns about the impact on environmental water flows. Tree plantations are thirsty. ‘It’s good country for pine trees but it’s also very good country for agriculture and by planting this high-rainfall land to pine, you are affecting your water yield further down the river.”
Issue raised as far back as 1989: A 1989 NSW Forestry Commission paper warned about the impact of extensive pine plantations in reducing environmental water flows. A number of other recent studies have raised similar issues.
Council’s not entirely happy: Deputy mayor Smith expresses concerns at the loss of farmers, who are the major ratepayers in the area, while the council faces an escalating bill for road infrastructure for the timber industry. “We walk a knife edge where your major ratepayers are your farmers on one hand and the timber on the other.”
Runoff disruption: Of the impact on water flows, he says: “They deep rip on the contour and plant the trees, and that stops the run-off into streams. They’ll tell you it doesn’t, but it does. You can see the difference … there are creeks here are bone dry … we’re worried because we are the catchment area for the Murray.”
The Australian Financial Review, 12/8/2006, p. 23
Source: Erisk Net