In 1970 Aldo Leopold, philosopher, forester and game management specialist posed the central principle which in many ways forms the basis for a number of Australian government policies such as The Precautionary Principle, Inter-Generational Equity, the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Environment (IGAE) and to an extent the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity. His celebrated land ethic states "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of a biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
There are those who still argue from a human-centred standpoint that everything in nature is only of value in relation to humans. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and many others believe this anthropocentric view of nature is too narrow and that flora and fauna have intrinsic or existence values; they are valuable in their own right and not just because they provide benefits for humans.
Environmental ethics and economics need not necessarily clash but the push for material wealth and jobs has at times resulted in environmental degradation and over-exploitation of both priced and unpriced natural resources. Consumptive use, particularly for commercial purposes carries the risk that immediate economic rewards and the lack of exploration of alternative opportunities, outweighs considerations for a longer term sustainable income. The imperative of survival (or greed) has historically resulted in the demise or at least regional/local extinction of species, degradation, loss and fragmentation of habitat and massive costs borne by future generations (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1998a). The Forestry Commission of NSW (undated), for example, admits that "the clearing of forests (in the past) generally proceeded without consideration of longer-term consequences, and it was not until early this century that cutting began to be controlled.
Australian governments appear to accept that flora and fauna do have intrinsic or existence rights and values. They may also claim that the spirit of The Precautionary Principle and Inter-Generational Equity guides their decision making on natural heritage issues. However there is no doubt that the principle driving factor behind natural resource use remains monetary.
In Estimating Values for Australia’s Native Forests (1997) the total economic values derived from native forests are identified as many and diverse. Direct use values relevant to the"Greater" Murramarang National Park are fishing, tourism, water production, biological prospecting, forestry, beekeeping, firewood gathering, conservation, craft industries, horticulture, information values such as the value of biodiversity information, recreational values such as general recreation (wilderness, visiting, viewing, camping, walking, bushwalking, fishing, observations, water-based activities, visual amenity, ambience), cultural, heritage, social and damage prevention value.
Ecological services values include river flows, biodiversity, soil, marine and river water quality, air quality, wetlands, geophysical forms, groundwater, biogeochemical cycling, microclimate effects, environmental quality and disturbance quality. Non-use values of existence value, intrinsic value, rights of other species, task of stewardship and bequest values are often of less importance to managers.
Forests are therefore complex plant and animal systems that are capable of producing a large number of benefits for humans. Multiple use forest management tries to integrate the protection and use of these resources. The wise use of all natural resources must by definition incorporate opportunities for feedback and allow for adaptive management. There needs to be an acceptance that both experience and knowledge and the character of judicious decision making will be influenced by social and cultural contexts of the times.
WOOD AND WOOD PRODUCTS INDUSTRY
Unfortunately, there is very little data available on the value of forest products in their raw state, rather than as an export or saleable commodity. The average annual value of Australian forest products over the three years 1992-93 to 1994-95 was $967.1 million. Employment in the forestry sector nationwide has fallen from 12,400 persons employed in 1989 to 11,000 persons in 1995, a decline in forestry’s share of the total workforce from 0.2% to 0.15% (ABS, 1996). In contrast, the economic activity generated by domestic and international tourism to Australia in 1993-94 totaled $46.2 billion, 6.6% of Australia’s Gross Domestic product. Approximately 7% of the Australian workforce in 1993-94 were employed in tourism (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1997a).
The main characteristics of the timber industry in the South-East Region (which includes Batemans Bay, Narooma, Queanbeyan, Badja, Eden, Monaro South and Adaminaby State Forest Management Areas) include:
In the Southern Region which includes the forests of the"Greater" Murramarang National Park there are 10 mills drawing timber from native forests. They employ 335 persons. The timber processing industry is concentrated in the Bega Valley where 3 mills process about 95% of the timber volume of the region and employ 53% of the Southern Region’s mill employment. Eurobodalla Shire has 3 mills processing only some 2% of the Region’s timber volume.
The total value of timber products from Shoalhaven sourced native timber is estimated to be $1.5 million (Hudson, 1998). Specific data detailing estimated wood volumes and economic value of the Benandarah and Kioloa State Forest compartments included in this proposal were requested from State Forests, Batemans Bay but were not supplied.
Judy Clark (1992) from the Australian National University believes the future of the harvesting of sawlogs and pulpwood from native forests is limited. At present, profits from woodchipping are extraordinarily high. In 1990 Harris Daishowa (NSW), for example, recorded an after tax profit as a percentage of shareholders funds of 45%. Today, pulplogs account for about 55% of the logs harvested from native forests, compared with 14% in the early 1970’s.
Indisputably State Forest management of public forests in the South-east Region is aimed at pulpwood production. Ninety five percent of timber harvested from State Forests in this region was pulpwood compared to only 6% for the mid-north coast region (Centre for Agricultural and Regional Economics, 1996, Appendices 14 and 15). In 1988-89 only 46.6% of the South-east Region’s state forest timber yield was pulpwood (Department of Planning, 1991).
The total amount of wood harvested from native forests especially in the Southern Region, is increasing as a result of the emphasis on pulpwood harvesting. In 1988-89 the South-east Region’s timber yield was 213,137 cubic metres of sawlog and 568 363 tonnes of pulpwood (Department of Planning, 1991. By 1995, around 800,000 cubic metres of sawlog was sourced from State forests in the Region and a massive 1,338,500 of pulpwood (Centre for Agricultural and Regional Economics, 1996). In 1992/93, 6,704 cubic metres of sawlog and poles were harvested from Banandarah and Kioloa State Forests, east of the Princes Highway. No pulpwood was harvested. In 1996/97, 11,954 cubic metres of sawlog and poles were harvested from these same forests, and 4,433 tonnes of pulpwood – more than double the volumes of five years previously (State Forests, 12 August 1998).
The Harris Daishowa woodchip quota can no longer be filled from the forests of the Eden area and pulpwood is carted to the woodchip mill at Eden, from as far away as the Batemans Bay Forest Management Area and from the forests of East Gippsland. Pulpwood in the South-east Region does not only comprise the salvage from sawlog trees, thinnings and "suppressed individual trees." It is not that the South-east Region’s forests support inferior timber species, suitable only for pulp. In fact Blackbutt, Spotted Gum and Blue Gum are the three species most utilised for sawlogs in the Mid-north Coast Region (Center for Agricultural and Regional Economics, 1996. These are also dominate species of the forests of the South-east Region. Simply, many trees suitable for sawlogs as well as over-mature trees and trees ‘deemed to be defective,’ are chipped. Many of these over-mature and defective trees were rejected and left by earlier selective logging operations a half a century ago and now provide excellent habitat for hollow dependent fauna. Integrated harvesting now strips the forest often removing the majority of trees.
By the turn of the century there will be a large increase in world supply of hardwood chips and pulp as eucalypt plantations in Brazil, South Africa, Portugal and Spain fall into production. Japan is the destination for most of Australia’s woodchips and certainly for those sourced from the forests of the Southern Region. Australia’s share of the Japanese market has declined from 67% in 1986 to 45% in 1990 as Japan shifts its source of supply to the native forests of the USA, Chile and Canada. In 1990 the Private Forestry Council of Tasmania saw the writing on the wall for the native forest timber industry. It advised that "it is imperative that as much of the remaining private old growth pulpwood resource as is available for sale is marketed over the next 15 years whilst market acceptance of this comparatively low commercial quality wood is relatively high" (Clark, 1992).
For the period 1992-93 to 1994-95, the estimated national gross value of softwood sawlogs was valued at $312.4 million exceeding the $238 million earned by hardwood sawlogs (ABS, 1996). In 1988-89, 66% of all sawntimber consumed in New South Wales was softwood. By 2000, softwood sawlog supply will have at least doubled when large areas of plantations established in the 1960’s and 1970’s mature. Hardwood sawntimber production is expected to continue to decline but at an accelerating rate as the volume of Australian softwood sawntimber on the market increases. Overseas plantation grown softwoods, particularly from New Zealand and Chile, will provide an additional source of competition for Australian sawmillers.
In assessing the "real" economic value of harvesting our native forests, the financial performance of forest agencies must be scrutinised. Historically they have been unable to cover their operating costs from revenue collected through royalties. Forest agencies are only required to earn a "fair" rate of return on capital, when commercial enterprises, including plantations, must earn a market rate of return. They are exempt from many costs such as local rates and charges, income tax and payment of lease fees for the exploitation of native forests, costs which their competitors such as plantations, must bear. In many cases, public forest agencies spend more on timber management than they receive in revenues from timber harvested; in effect, subsidising the profits made by private companies like Harris Daishowa (McKenney, 1989). The NSW Forestry Commission considered subsidies to be essential. In evidence to the NSW Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into the Forestry Commission, the then Assistant Commissioner stated, "We would be in difficulty if we had to pay tax" and the then Chief of Marketing Division said, "If we were a private sector company we would toss in the towel" (NSW Public Accounts Committee, 1991, 26-27 in Clark, 1992).
The "playing field" is tilted enormously in favour of native timber harvesting and against conservation and plantations, resulting in sub-optimal economic performance and lower regional income and job growth. The 1997 Commonwealth Government review Estimating Values for Australia’s Native Forests, identified significant inefficiencies in the estimation of value in the forest sector due to structural distortions. Structural distortions contribute to poor financial and environmental performance. They believed that there is considerable social, environmental and financial dividend to be achieved by micro-economic reform in the forest sector. Micro-economic reform requires that a trilogy of assessments be made: evaluate financial values, evaluate alternative financial values and evaluate non-financial values. Continuation of present practices such as failure to estimate value accurately will cost Australia in lost jobs, lower incomes and a diminished environmental quality of life (Department of Environment, Sport and Territories, 1997).
Currently, Australian forestry is in a state of transition - from a native forest hardwood to a softwood-dominant forest sector. As this gathers pace, there may also be a transition from a ‘commodity’ to a more specialised ‘value-adding’ hardwood industry - reflecting the fine wood quality of many eucalypt species, and prospects for attracting high value domestic and export markets. This could, in turn, create opportunities for a more technically sophisticated industry working within the framework of ‘ecologically sustainable development.’
It is inherent in the sustainable development concept that economic use of forests be established through a planning process which ensures that (i) the full spectrum of native forest ecosystems is conserved within a nature reserve system, (ii) management plans for individual wood production forests are sensitive to all environmental values of the forests, and (iii) silviculture practices are ecologically sustainable, that is, neither community patterns and ecosystem processes, nor the health and productivity of the forest will be jeopardised by forest harvesting.
It follows that modern silviculture practice must be based on a fundamental appreciation of the biology of the forests, and must recognise and embrace the considerable biological, structural and aesthetic diversity which characterises the forests. Inevitably, the integration of wood production and environmental objectives will be expressed through a greater diversity in silviculture practice than has characterised forest management so far (Florence, 1996).
Boral Timber believes that governments must be clear about the relationship between their actions, the signals they send and whether proposed outcomes are truly achievable. Propping up timber operations with taxpayers’ money is not just grossly inefficient; it is also delaying the inevitable transition that some towns and their communities have to make. Governments, land managers and companies have an obligation to help this transition along, not to hang on to the last possible minute and ‘fall off the cliff’ (Betts, 1997). The New South Wales Government’s Forestry Industry Structural Adjustment Program is a move in the right direction. Funding is provided to timber industry workers to retrain and relocate and help existing timber companies train staff to seek new markets and develop value-added products. For Les Knight, the retraining and relocating he received after being made redundant from the Batemans Bay sawmill in 1997, was "the best thing since lace-up boots." He is now employed as a tree lopper around power lines in the Gosford region (Doherty, 1998).
Eurobodalla Shire acknowledges the diminishing input forestry is providing to the economy of the Shire. Unemployment in the Shire was 16.6% in 1995, compared to 7.3% for the ACT/Illawarra region. Despite massive increases in timber volumes taken from the region’s forests over the past decade there has been a reduction of around 11.5% in forestry related employment in Eurobodalla (Mandis Roberts , 1996). Eurobodalla Council’s Business Development Officer Mr Phil Herrick believes "Country towns can no longer rely on primary industry for survival." The economic activity of the Shire is changing from one based on primary production such as forestry, dairying and other agriculture to one which is much more diverse.
The Eurobodalla Shire Mayor, Mr. Chris Vardon, is adamant that the economic future of the Shire lies in "the quality of the environment (which) is the real attraction of the area and must be protected at all costs" (Bay Post/Southern Star, 6 April and June 17, 1998).
Tourism is the number one earner for the Shire and has the potential to grow enormously. Mr Dene Moore, Eurobodalla’s Tourism Manager sees a bright future; "we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the opportunities that are there to build the tourism industry" (Bay Post/Southern Star, 6 April 1998). In 1988-89, the Shire’s 432,000 domestic visitors spent $120 million; by 1995-96, visitor numbers had risen to 794,000 and expenditure to $183 million (Moore, 1997). Over 95% are domestic tourists.
Tourism is also the fastest growing industry in Shoalhaven Shire and contributes some $348 million to the local economy. An estimated 3,900 persons are directly employed in Shoalhaven Shire tourism; a further 5,700 persons indirectly (Hudson, 1998). In Eurobodalla Shire, the Council’s 1998 Management Plan estimated that 2,656 persons were employed in tourism-related industry.
Advance Tourism (1997) developed the Eurobodalla Nature Coast Tourism Development Strategy. They claimed that "one of Australia’s hidden treasures is the Eurobodalla region with its pristine coastline, magnificent hinterland and abundance of easily accessed wildlife...the region has so much to offer." It identified the five most appealing features of the region as the beaches, national parks, historic sites, cruises to Montague Island National Park, restaurants and food and wine and saw the major selling features for the future as nature based attractions and coastal scenery. Mr Dene Moore, Eurobodalla’s Tourism Manager agreed in a letter to the Friends of Durras saying, "There is no doubt that our natural attractions and the environmental quality is a leading point for us in terms of competitive edge over many other regions of NSW and Australia." (Appendix 11)
The"Greater" Murramarang National Park will contribute substantially to the growth of regional nature-based tourism. The coastal national parks are key recreation destinations for visitors to the region and the local community. Resultant economic benefits of this visitation are not always recognised by regional commercial interests and government (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1995). In 1989 Murramarang National Park was ranked as the most popular national park between Shellharbour and the Victorian border with 690,000 visitors. Annual visitation would now be around one million. The Park provides spectacular coastal scenery with rocky headlands and sheltered, sandy beaches for swimming and surfing, bushwalking, camping facilities and boat launching facilities providing ocean and lake access. Many of these facilities are stretched to their limits and there is a desperate need for additional management support and infrastructure in the "Greater" Murramarang National Park.
Possibilities are endless; a world class visitor and educational centre with resident rangers, a magnificent system of walking tracks including sections of a recently proposed New South Wales coastal track from Tweed Heads to the Victorian border. The Park is understandably considered by Tourism NSW to be of State significance (NSW Tourism Commission, 1990).
Bordered by Murramarang National Park are the villages of Bawley Point, Depot Beach and North and South Durras. Their village atmosphere and simple charm has been retained, despite ribbon coastal development to the north and south. These villages are now tourist attractions in their own right, simply by virtue of their size and simplicity, harking back to the 1940’s and 50’s when many other coastal settlements resembled this area. Despite the charm of bygone days, these villages boast a range of high quality, award-winning accommodation such as the Bawley Point Guesthouse, Barry’s Guesthouse, the Murramarang Resort and a large number of well-appointed caravan parks. These locations and the recently upgraded NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’s camping grounds at Pebbly, Pretty and Depot Beaches provide the type of infrastructure nature-based tourists favour; "local vernacular accommodation that allows them to be close to the natural environment rather than removed from it, designs and styles which expose them to the local culture, not cosmopolitan internationalised architecture" (Victorian Department of Conservation and Environment in Preece and van Oosterzee, 1995).
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service forecasts substantial increases in tourism in the parks and reserves south of Sydney; in keeping with anticipated huge increases in the number of visitors to national parks State-wide. Already 63% of Australians visit a national park during any year (ABS, 1996) and in NSW the number of national park visitors is expected to jump from 22 million in 1994 to 32 million by 2005 (Phelan, 1997). Most protected area visitor use is concentrated in the coastal plains and coastal escarpment areas of New South Wales as well as Kosciuszko National Park. National Parks already provide major tourist and regular visitor destinations for Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla Shires. Pebbly Beach in Murramarang National Park is an international tourism icon, heralded in global and domestic journals as one of the top ten beaches in the world and touted worldwide as perhaps Australia’s best "touchy-feely" kangaroo spot (Hoy, 1998).
With the approach of the Sydney 2000 Olympics the region’s national parks will become even more significant domestic and inbound tourist destinations (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1995). Advance Tourism’s (1997) Eurobodalla Tourism Development Strategy suggested that a big future lay in fully developing the adventure, nature-based, cultural and backpacker market segments. These are the market segments which would be drawn to the Greater Murramarang National Park. It would quickly become a "must visit" tourism icon.
Identification and declaration of particular national parks often behaves as a magnet for tourists, who are attracted by the very selection of those areas. The act of dedication creates its own demands. Two case studies of economic development from nature-based tourism, serve as glimpses to the future vast possibilities the"Greater" Murramarang National Park would offer Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla.
A decade ago, the economy of the Dorrigo Shire in northern New South Wales was highly dependant on logging in native forests. When opposition to logging of temperate rainforest brought about national park declarations and reduced timber supplies there was much said about the certain collapse of Dorrigo. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service made significant investment in infrastructure and the promotion of the Dorrigo National Park. Direct visitor expenditure in the local region associated with trips to the park is now in excess of $2.4m per annum. Using acceptable multipliers which ranged from 1.36 to 1.46, this generated $3.6m in regional output; $2.0m in regional value-added activity; $1.3m in regional household income and 59 jobs, or 7% of employment in the Dorrigo region (Powell and Chalmers in NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1998a). At Minnamurra Rainforest Centre, the economic benefits arising from visitor expenditure were $1.9m to $3.8m in output or business turnover, and $0.9m to $1.0m in value-added activity including $0.6m to $1.2m in household income. The employment impacts ranged from 49 to 98 local jobs, or 1.3% to 2.6% of regional employment (Gillespie in NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1998a).
Tourism is everybody’s business. Tourism sells the same products over and over again and therefore consumes relatively fewer resources than industries producing physical or tangible products. It is labour intensive and supports the development of a wide range of ancillary services and small businesses. Tourism revenue spreads widely throughout the community and produces many positive community impacts such as community infrastructure and increased civic and regional pride. Tourism can assist in funding the conservation of heritage, natural resources and scenery. Protected areas can generate revenue from nature tourism through entrance fees (Murramarang National Park will have a visitor entry fee from 1998), donations, ancillary services, products and private investment. Tourism can also be a mechanism for education and increasing knowledge as well as for enhancing and protecting the unique cultural aspects of a region (Tourism New South Wales, 1996)
The"Greater" Murramarang National Park would be the largest national park south of Royal National Park. Expanding its size from the current 1,920 ha. to around 10,000 ha would ensure its place among Australia’s national parks of significance. Already, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service recognise Murramarang National Park as a key destination. The "Greater" Murramarang National Park will undoubtedly become a key nature-based tourism destination on the south coast of New South Wales.
"The area is significant in displaying an uncommon richness and complexity of Aboriginal features" (Senator Robert Hill, 1997). This area has been the focus of one of the most intensive programs of Aboriginal site survey conducted in Australia (Australian Heritage Commission, 1983). The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Aboriginal Sites Register Database (1997) reveals 392 recorded sites for"Greater" Murramarang National Park. The sites include:
The Register points out that "sites are known to occur elsewhere in the area and there is a possibility that unrecorded sites could exist on the above properties."
The archaeology of the south-east forests of NSW barely gained any attention in the recent inquiry into logging of the National Estate areas (Bryne, 1991). The presence of this large number of Aboriginal sites, as well as the detailed information about the spatial relationships between these different site types, makes the area important in demonstrating the principle characteristics of some of the range of Aboriginal activities in the coastal and hinterland areas of the South Coast of NSW. The quality and detail of the inter-site and intra-site information about different Aboriginal sites in the area makes it significant in contributing to the wider understanding of the Aboriginal occupation in Australia. More than 30 estuarine middens have been recorded at different locations in the area. Comparison of these sites with the many recorded coastal middens, provides information about the range of Aboriginal exploitation of both the coastal and estuarine marine resource (Australian Heritage Commission, 1983). An occupation deposit excavated in Murramarang National Park contains a large number of bone points and fish hooks, illustrating a specialised bone and fishing economy. It was dated at about 500 years before present and was occupied into the period of European settlement (Lampert, 1966).
Recent archaeological research has demonstrated that forests were more extensively used than was originally thought and the presence of the many large and varied sites in this area indicates long-term rather than fleeting occupation (Feary, 1989). The very intensive surveys in the Kioloa area by students from the Australian National University confirms this and suggests that the density of archaeological material is much higher in these coastal forests than previously thought.
A large proportion of the area under forest at the time of first European settlement has been cleared or logged at one time or another. Denis Byrne (1991) from the Australian National University’s Department of Prehistory and Anthropology believes that already the forests of the south-east of NSW contain a rather dubious sample of forest archaeology. Recorded archaeological sites in State Forests are marked on Preferred Management Priority (PMP) maps and protected during logging and roading. However ground visibility is generally so low in the forest that archaeological surveys can only record a fraction of existing sites. The field surveyor typically works with ground visibility of 5% or less and it is common for understory and leaf/bark litter to be so dense as to effectively limit survey coverage to fire trails, roads, log dumps and other disturbed areas. Even the best efforts by State Forests to protect identified sites by survey still amounts to protecting them in isolation from their overall archaeological context. Byrne (1991) believes that forestry roading and logging continue to destroy and substantially alter Aboriginal sites to the point where the archaeological context is no longer intact. He goes on to say that "this is the problem with the Forestry Commission’s present PMP procedure and it is, I believe, a powerful argument in favour of protection (of Aboriginal cultural heritage sites) within reserves." The NSW National Park and Wildlife Service’s Murramarang National Park Plan of Management (1998) concurs with Byrne stating "It is important to conserve as much as possible of the remaining evidence of previous (Aboriginal) occupation, particularly in national parks where the complementary natural environments are also preserved and sites can be seen in situations close to their original setting."
As part of the cultural revival movement, Aboriginal people such as Patricia Ellis of Batemans Bay have very popular programs of recording sites in forests and teaching Aboriginals and Europeans about bushfoods and local Aboriginal history.
Despite 200 years of disruption Aborigines in south-eastern Australia still retain very strong emotional ties with the land. These links are manifest in two ways; a desire for specific sites or places to be protected, and a general affiliation with natural landscapes (Feary, 1989).
The Walbunja clans have a Native Title claim over the land of the"Greater" Murramarang National Park. The claim includes crown land and waters from the south of Jervis Bay to Narooma, including Morton, Budawang and Deua National Parks and waters extending to the continental shelf. The "Greater" Murramarang National Park would offer increased protection to Aboriginal sites and places and a boost to the fledgling but growing cultural tourism industry. The Friends of Durras has yet to discuss the issue of Aboriginal ownership of the "Greater" Murramarang National Park and will place this matter high on its agenda for early resolution. Friends of Durras is aware of successful processes for Aboriginal ownership of national parks and participation in management on Cape York Peninsula.
The Benandarah and Kioloa Forests have a number of European historic features, the majority from past forestry activity, which are valuable for interpretation of local history. Those within Murramarang National Park are conserved in accordance with the Burra Charter of Australia (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1998). A Commonwealth Ecotourism Grant recently enabled State Forests to create a popular forest history trail near North Durras. Many European heritage sites however, suffer the same fate as unregistered Aboriginal sites. They are essentially invisible and during the course of forestry operations are destroyed or severely modified to the point where their cultural context is lost.