On Saturday October 15th more than 80 concerned residents attended a meeting at St Martins Chapel in Blackwood to discuss recent gold mining activity and salvage logging in the surrounding Wombat State Forest.

Speakers including Dave Stephens (a local forest campaigner for over 20 years), Gayle Osborne (of Wombat Forestcare) and members of local group, No Wombat Gold, discussed the potential effects of extractive industries operating in the area and how residents can act to protect Wombat Forest.

Exploratory gold drilling was uncovered near Shaws Lake in June 2020, and another exploratory mining license has since been granted. A prospecting license and another exploratory license are currently being reviewed by Earth Resources.

In June 2022, approximately two acres of trees and vegetation were cleared for machinery and a log landing by VicForestsin at Babbington Hill. This area is just one of 175 salvage coupes in the Wombat that are part of VicForests’ controversial salvage Timber Utilisation Plan. In recent weeks Blackwood and Barrys Reef residents have received letters stating that similar operations would begin in coupes surrounding the towns from October.

Environmentalists and ecologists have expressed concern that the salvage logging operation will increase the likelihood and severity of bushfires but VicForests claims that fire mitigation is one of the main reasons for the operation.

Both logging and mining have the potential to impact Blackwood’s water supply and because the area also sits in the headwaters of the Lerderderg River, there could also be impacts downstream all the way to Melton. Other potential impacts include noise pollution, traffic and road destruction from large trucks and negative impacts on tourism and local business. Clearing bushland also has potentially devastating effects on local flora, fauna and fungi including many threatened and endangered species such as the Greater Glider and the Mountain Skink.

In June this year the Victorian Government tabled their response to the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s Central West investigation report. A new Wombat-Lerderderg National Park and a number of regional parks were to be created, but since then the government has failed to legislate the promised parks.

The Victorian Government stated that the Wombat-Lerderderg National Park would be used in accordance with the general recommendations for national parks including to “permanently protect the natural environment and natural biodiversity along with underlying ecological structure and supporting environmental processes.” Continued logging and mining activities in the Wombat Forest appear to be inconsistent with that recommentation.

The Blackwood meeting resolved to write to local member, Mary-Anne Thomas, to request that the Premier and Cabinet impose a moratorium on all licenses, permits and works for all commercial log removal and mining activities in the Wombat Forest until the planned legislation is proclaimed granting National Park and Regional Park status.