In 2018, the National Party called for the Murray Valley National Park to be ‘degazetted’ (revoking protected status) to allow it to be logged again. Austin Evans, the former National Member for Murray, introduced a degazettal bill in November 2018. Mr Evans was not re-elected in 2019. However, it was not long before the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, put degazettal back on the table at a National Party conference in June 2019. Mr Barilaro subsequently asserted in an ABC radio interview that he was not proposing degazettal, but an expansion of the controversial ‘ecological thinning’ trial that was completed by NPWS in 2018 (incidentally, the monitoring results showed negligible effects of thinning).
However, the language used by Mr Barilaro made it clear he was proposing commercial logging under the guise of thinning. It was therefore welcome to hear Environment Minster Matt Kean assert that “there will never be a national park de-gazetted and there will never be commercial logging in a national park while I’m the Environment Minister”.
Degazetting such an important protected area would be a huge step backwards for NSW and Australian conservation. NPA played a lead role in the long campaign to protect the red gum forests – and we’re at the forefront of protecting the integrity of this precious park. NPA coordinated an approach by several prominent environmental groups to the NSW Premier in November 2017 urging her to rule out degazettal.
The Murray Valley National Park is one of a few fragments of red gum floodplain forests scattered throughout the Murray-Darling basin. It’s one of the jewels in the national park network, because the red gum forests are unique ecosystems: they are more like wetlands than forests, because flooding is vital for their health.
Decades of logging has degraded the forests by removing the big, old trees for timber and fallen trees and branches for firewood. We must maintain protection to allow these forests to recover their former glory.