South Sister St. Marys, Tasmania

South Sister -

history of the campaign until january 2005

In September 2003, a resident whose land abutts the South Sister coupe received a 'Notice of Intent' from Forestry Tasmania outlining their intention to begin logging coupe NI114A on South Sister in October 2003. As word spread, residents living in close proximity were horrified that their local icon, recreation area (bush walking, rock climbing, horse riding etc) and destination for many tourists would be destroyed. In addition, residents taking water directly from the mountain were concerned that their water supply would suffer.

Many residents and passing tourists alarmed by the plan wrote to numerous politicians (state and federal) as well as Forestry Tasmania to express their concerns.
Forestry Tasmania tried to allay the fears of the residents assuring them that their water supply would not be affected, that selective logging would pose minimal problems to tourism and measures to protect the endangered species would be in accordance with the Forest Practices Code. Residents were unconvinced and therefore continued to raise awareness with the production of South Sister cards, a banner was made and many continued to lobby politicians and Forestry.

David Leaman, well respected and a highly experienced Tasmanian geo-hydrologist was invited by local residents to survey the area and give comments on his findings. He concluded that the South Sister is unstable and the 'material is capable of mass failure. Much of the humpiness evident on the southern and eastern slopes of South Sister is due to previous failures'. He recommended that it was necessary to 'tread very carefully on these slopes .... after detailed inspection'. Water quality and quantity would be affected by any forest activities and 'extra ..... measures are required of the forest plan' i.e. in addition to those measures outlined in the Forest Practices Code.
'Nothing should be done which damages the infiltration capacity ..... or which encourages failure of slopes'.

German Town residents began to measure their water flow and useage to be used as evidence should logging proceed and subsequent loss of or change in quality be apparent. Residents continue to monitor this and will do so indefinitely.

Another scientist, Dr Peter McQuillan, Entomologist from University of Tasmania was invited to conduct a survey of the insects in the area. He collected at least 71 different species of moths over the course of one night of which 6 moths have never been recorded in any National Park in Tasmania. His full report is yet to be completed but should be in the near future.

He commented that 'this readily accessible site features many highlights that, with proper interpretation, would provide a memorable experience for tourists.'

Examples of these include:

The dawn chorus of native birds in this forest is exceptional, suggesting the area is an important feeding and activity site for native birds. This may reflect the diversity of food resources present in the area, such as nectar and insects. The chorus iself is a major ecotourism asset. The area does not yet appear to be invaded by aggressive introduced birds such as starlings and blackbirds which tend to become more common as the habitat opens up and introduced weeds such as cotoneaster and blackberries become more widespread.

Much of the fauna and flora of the area is poorly documented, but this lack of knowledge should not be used as an excuse to claim the area has reduced natural values.

The area is part of a continuum of natural habitats from the summit of South Sister (831 m) to the coast, allowing animals and plants to migrate along the full altitudinal range in search of food and enabling for ecological communities of plants and animals to adjust their range in response to climate change.

Steep environmental gradients have played an important role in the redistribution of plants and animals in the recent Ice Ages and the imprint of this movement is still to be seen in the fauna. For example, the areas nearby are well known for parapatric boundaries between species of ground dwelling invertebrates such as velvetworms. These phenomena deserve protection in their own right.

High points in the landscape can be important for some butterfly species as they are used by males displaying 'hilltopping' behaviour during the breeding season. This is essential to their breeding success.

A high diversity of native bees, important to the local flora for pollination, is present in the area. Many native bees depend on the availability of woody debris, as found in a natural forest, for their nesting sites. Rare plant species such as Euphrasia collina ssp. deflexifolia depend on native bees for pollination.

In February 2004 a petition opposing logging on the South Sister and supporting the creation of a South and North Sister State Reserve began. Signatures of more than 5% of residents on the electoral role in Break O'Day were required for the council to hold a public meeting. The initial petition fell short of this 5% and therefore another petition was started which culminated in the presentation to Break O'Day Council in October 2004.

The rationale of a South and North Sister Reserve is to link it with existing Forest Reserves in the area including St Marys State Reserve, Mt Elephant and Douglas Apsley National Park.

In August 2004, a meeting was held with Forestry Tasmania and a few concerned residents.
Residents put forward the many reasons why logging should not proceed which included the iconic value of South Sister, destroying the recreation area for locals and tourists, water issues for local residents and destruction of habitat of various threatened species. FT explained that they had considered all these factors in their initial planning and there would be no disturbance to the water, threatened spcecies habitats would be preserved (E. brookeriana) and disturbance of Euphrasia habitat was not significant as they 'liked disturbance'. FT considers that there will be no harm to the tourist industry and that no negative visual impact will be apparent from the areas they considered to be 'viewing points of South Sister'. FT discredited David Leaman and his South Sister report saying he was unqualified to make the recommendations and the Forest Practice Board's report by Peter McIntosh was accurate and represented the 'truth'. A copy of their 'Natural Values Report' was obtained as was their map of the coupe at this meeting. The map outlines another 5 coupes which are part of the 'production forest' in the region. Hence OTHER SIGNIFICANT AREAS ARE ALSO EARMARKED FOR LOGGING IN THE FUTURE. (A coupe to the west of NI114A on the Nicholas Range has already been logged (May 2004).

FT informed the meeting that they needed to 'fill their quota' and as this particular coupe NI114A has high numbers of sawlogs, they were unable to abide by our wishes to preserve the area. They recommended we 'lobby politicians' if we thought the logging should not go ahead. They gave assurances that they would follow up the water supply of various other households in the area that they were not aware of before finalising the Forest Practice Plan.

Following on from this meeting, the same group of residents formed the 'Save our Sisters' group. A public meeting was organised in St Marys in August 2004 which outlined the reasons for opposing logging on the South Sister. This meeting was attended by 60 people who expressed much horror at learning Forestry plans. This meeting led to the official launch of the 'Save our Sisters' (SOS) campaign.

Regular weekly meetings are held to discuss strategies on how to prevent the logging in St Marys. All are invited to attend.

Many activities have occurred since the formation of the group including:

Where are we now?

The Forest Practice Plan has finally been completed (SOS obtained a copy on December 23) and we will now scrutinize it thoroughly. Forestry Tasmania have given an assurance to DPIWE that no roading or harvest operations will be undertaken on the coupe until a meeting has been held with residents to discuss the Plan and receive their comments.

The Forest Practices Code is deficient in that it does not consider groundwater, only surface water and hence in this case, St Marys' water supply has not been considered by them.

An awareness/fun day was held in January to highlight the many unique walks of the South Sister and surrounding area. About 120 people attended at short notice and experienced the fantastic views from both the South and North Sister summits as well as the many bushwalks which have been made on the mountain. Talks from scientists gave information about the understorey, flora and the reptiles in this area. A great day was had by all and another follow up day will be organised within the month.

27 January, 2005 -
20 local residents enjoyed an exceptionally interesting talk about wedge tailed eagles in St Marys. Bill Brown, Project Officer, DPIWE, responsible for the wedge tailed eagle recovery plan in Tasmania kindly made the trip to St Marys where local residents were informed about the habits of the bird. An excellent, informative presentation was made with many questions bombarding Bill. Locals see eagles almost daily flying around the South Sister as well as other local areas and are worried that logging of the said coupe will disturb an as yet unconfirmed nest on the southern side of South Sister. Armed with this information, more attempts will be made to find the nest.

The eco-tourism potential of the area is high. The area is unique and different to many other parts of Tasmania and it should be kept undisturbed. We still need your support. Please send a donation or visit the area or help us with publicity!

Watch this space for the latest information!

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