previous
next

Murray Forests.

— Mr. J. Stead Parry, Inspector and District Forester, Deniliquin, at my instigation kindly furnished the following particulars about these Red Gum Forests:—

The most important Red Gum forests on thr Murray and Edwards Rivers, both in regard to quality and quantity of timber, and in area are the following:—

               
Millewa State Forest ... ...  ... ... 51,350 acres. 
Moira State Forest ... ...   ... ... 30,463 " 
Gulpa Island State Forest ... ...   ... ... 13,376 " 
Bama State Forest ... ...   ... ... 5,530 " 
Perricoota State Forest ... ...   ... ... 39,000 " 
Koondrook State Forest ... ...   ... ... 39,700 " 
Werai and Colimo State Forest ... ...   ... ... 23,750 " 
Total Forest Area ... ...   ... ... 213,969 acres. 

The above forests are in all stages of growth from seedlings and saplings to matured trees.

In addition to these we have a number of small reserves, some of which are carrying very useful timber; others again, are important, not so much for their timber stand and value as for their situation.

The predominating timber on the Murray and Edwards' Reserves is the Murray Red Gum (Eucalyptus rostrata), which grows on the low-lying country that is subject to inundation from the overflow of the rivers. The best, most vigorous in growth and the cleanest timber is usually found on land that is annually flooded for a period of from four to six months; providing the subsoil and drainage is good. The soil is chiefly a grey loam over a good stiff clay subsoil.

Situation in relation to transport and market.

The river is navigable for from six to seven months in normal years; and log timber is mostly out in the months from December to May inclusive; and hauled to landings or depôts on the river bank., when the river is navigable it is removed by steamers and barges to the sawmills; the principal mills being on the banks of the Murray. Piles, girders and railway sleepers are also removed in this way to the nearest wharf for loading onto railway trucks. When logs are being brought downstream they are loaded on what are termed "outrigger barges," the logs being secured at both ends to transverse outriggers. When the barges are loaded they are allowed to drift down stream; and are later picked up by the steamers and towed to the mills. Logs that are brought up stream are loaded into inside barges and towed up by paddle steamer. Loading stations for transit by rail are at Echuca and Koondrook, Victoria, and Moama and Mathoura, New South Wales.

Timber Stand.

The present average timber stand per acre is:—

(a) Timber suitable for sawmilling purposes — 2,285 superficial feet per acre.

(b) Suitable for sleeper hewing and fencing material — 2,454 superficial feet per acre.

(c) Maturing in ten years — 3,386 superficial feet per acre.

(d) Piles — The number of piles cannot be definitely stated, except by plot or strip survey by a competent man experienced in this class of timber; but it is estimated that on Perricoota and Koondrook Reserve alone, there are now 18,000 piles of 40 to 80 feet in length.




  ― 48 ―
Reafforestation.

Regeneration has taken place over practically all the flooded country; seedlings appear quickly after the débris on the forest floor has been burnt off; wherever much cutting of mature timber has taken place, and where the forests have been swept by fire.

Rate of Growth.

The rate of growth varies considerably and is dependent on character of soil, situation as regards drainage and frequency of flooding. In some instances, trees attain milling size under thirty years, but it is only under exceptional circumstances. Trees have recently been felled near Mathoura from land which I am creditably informed was cleared twenty-four years ago. Some of the trees had a centre girth circumference of 7 feet, and over 30 feet length of bole. On Millewa State Forest, on land near the bank of the river rarely flooded, which was cleared and cropped after 1870 for some years, there is now a forest of young trees 2 feet to 5 feet in girth at 5 feet from the ground. I am of opinion that these trees get good root water. Under other circumstances not so favourable to a rapd growth, I am of opinion that it takes from sixty to eighty years for trees to reach the felling girth-namely 8 feet 6 inches measured at 5 feet above the ground.

[Acquires a girth of 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet in thirty years — Evidence of Mr. James Shackell, M.L.A., before Victorian Commission on Vegetable Products].

Rainfall and Climate.

Annual rainfall, sixteen inches. Mild winter climate, with occasional heavy frosts. High temperature in summer; a dry heat ranging from 90 to 110 degrees.

Damage caused by Fire.

Extensive damage has been caused to these forests in previous, years by severe forest fires, and it is only by taking effective measures to prevent the spread of fire and to minimise fire risks that we can avoid similar losses in future.

Protective measures against Forest Fires.

Measures have been taken to establish effective firebreaks on these State Forests during the past two years; and four small gangs of men are now engaged in the preparation of breaks in different parts of the reserves where the greatest danger is believed to exist; and while they are carrying out the work of clearing breaks, their services are always available at short notice for any outbreak of fire; they are provided with fire-fighting tools for the purpose; they have also got their horses and vehicles or bicycle so that little time is lost in reaching a fire a few miles distant.

Permanent Residential Overseers are to be stationed on each of our main reserves; these men Will keep firebreaks in order, and be constantly on the watch for fires during the summer months.

The breaks now being made are 4 chains in width. In their preparation, advantage is taken of existing roads and creeks, and where possible the latter are cleared of all débris. As far as can reasonably be done traffic is being diverted to the firebreaks that are being cleared through the forest. A width of from 12 to 15 feet is being cleared on either side of the 4 chains, in order to enable us to use a road-scraper for the purpose of scraping off the grass, and it is proposed to burn off the grass and débris within the 4 chains early in the summer of each year. When these main firebreaks are completed, it will be necessary to make intersecting breaks; the first, to protect the best areas of young timber; and others to be made after these until we have a complete scheme of fire protection. Once the breaks are made the cost of maintaining them will be light, but the whole scheme, in my opinion, hinges on the appointment of active and intelligent Overseers.

Silvicultural Improvements.

Forest improvement work has been carried out on these reserves during the past two and a half years, at a cost of lls. l 1/2 d. per acre; the total area improved during that period being 5,987 acres.

It is very desirable, in order to promote a more even and more vigorous growth of seedlings and spar timber, that judicious thinning should be carried out on the more densely timbered areas, and that inflammable debris should be burnt off, in order to protect these valuable areas from total destruction in the event of forest fires. We propose to enter upon this work as soon as our firebreak scheme is completed.




  ― 49 ―
Specifications for this work are as follows:— Ringbarking useless and over-matured trees that cannot be disposed of in any other way; thinning out useless and crooked saplings and seedlings to such distances, as in the opinion of the District Forester, is considered advisable; and burning off of thinnings and inflammable débris.

Management.

The object of management is to provide for a continuous supply of matured red gum timber for all time.

The demand for this timber must increase; while existing sources of supply in Victoria are becoming exhausted.

In addition to the requirements of Public Works in the State of Victoria, this district will be drawn upon to supply a vast area of timberless country in the South-west of this State for building, fencing, railways, and probably timber for culverts, weirs and water channels. There is also likely to be an increased demand for piles and beams. This is the most profitable timber to produce, but the demand so far is limited. Under a proper system of management we can always supply the demand; chiefly by removing the piles from the thickest growth, and still have a good stand of milling timber. The removal of a few piles is often of considerable benefit to the remaining timber where the object is to provide matured timber of first-class quality.

In the past, sawmillers have left many trees because of some defect or fault which reduced their percentage of first- class timber, and under the existing circumstances they could not be profitably handled. A large percentage of these trees are now over-matured, and in order to make room for a new .crop they should now be removed. The Department proposes to encourage sawmillers to remove them, either by a special royalty or by making a liberal allowance for faults. When this is done remaining overmatured trees containing timber of any commercial value will be worked up by direct conversion; useless trees ringbarked; and the areas closed for a definite period, except for specially marked pile and pole timber and for dead wood.

Hereunder is appended particulars of the revenue collected from the Murray Forests for the past seven years. —

                 
£ s. d. 
1910 ... ...   ... ... 13,425 8 6 
1911 ... ...   ... ... 15,916 13 11 
1912 ... ...   ... ... 10,400 19 2 
1913 ... ...   ... ... 14,478 15 5 
1914 ... ...   ... ... 14,031 2 7 
1915 ... ...   ... ... 9,369 17 3 
1916 ... ...   ... ... 7,007 2 1 
Total Revenue ...   ... £84,629 18 11 

Red Gum Forests of Victoria. — The late Mr. (Dr.) A. W. Howitt, who was deputed to inspect these forests in 1895, favoured me with a copy of the following hitherto unprinted valuable report:—

Ringbarking has also been generally done on purchased and selected land. Much timber has been cut for various purposes so that at the present time the available Red Gum timber is restricted in area and in amount. The only State Forest Timber Reserve with Red Gum is, so far as I know, a small area near Bairnsdale.

To the north of the Dividing Range the principal Red Gum areas are in the River Murray at Barmah and Yieliana, above and at Gunbower below Echuca.

In the former there are 61,500 acres and in the latter 70,000 acres.




  ― 50 ―
Smaller areas exist higher up and lower down the Murray, and also on the Goulburn River. These in my opinion ought without delay to be permanently reserved as State Forests. When the Forest Branch was attached to the Mining Department I endeavoured, but ineffectually, to get this done.

Below Swan Hill there were at one time extensive forests of Red Gum along the river, and especially in the large bends liable to floods. These forests were, however, ringbarked and killed by pastoral occupants, contrary to the strenuous protests of the Conservator of Forests.

When I descended the Murray nearly three years ago from Swan Hill to Mildura I observed, with great regret, not only this destruction of most valuable timber along the Victorian banks of the river, but also the occupants in places were then engaged in destroying the young trees which would in time replace the former forest.

It will be seen from my correspondence with the Department of Lands that I endeavoured not only to have the Red Gum areas converted into State Forests, in order that the timber might be protected, but also that the destruction of young trees by grazing occupiers should be put a stop to. My efforts in this direction were also unavailing.

In contrast to the lamentable destruction of valuable forests on the Victorian bank, I observed that on the New South Wales bank of the Murray the forests from above Echuca at least, all the way down had been carefully preserved.

The results of our wasteful system, and of the wise system of the New South Wales Government, as regards the Red Gum forests, will be shown by the following facts. At the time, 1892–93, under the regulations under the Land Act, 1890, the Murray River Saw Mill Company at Echuca had obtained 1,600 logs of Red Gum from a special area of 1,000 acres in the Yieliana Forest for the sum of £31, while the same number of logs on the New South Wales side of the river would have brought in a royalty of £700. The Company had, during the year, paid to the New South Wales Government, the sum of £1,565 8s. for royalty, and £47 for license fees, in respect of Red Gum timber.

These facts go to show the manner in which our Red Gum forests have been out out at a nominal charge, and also the large revenue which ought to have been obtained from them if managed in an intelligent manner in the interests of the whole community.

At the present time the Red Gum forests are barely, if at all, able to supply our own wants, much less to yield any surplus for export.

The only other Red Gum area in the control of the Government is in the Victoria Valley. It is not of any great area, nor are the trees numerous, compared with acreage, but what there were were of excellent quality. The Tucker Village Settlement at Vonwondah was permitted to operate on this forest on a royalty charge. I understand now that the best of the timber has been cut out and sold, but that no royalty has been paid for it.

In the remainder of the Western District the best Red Gum which I have seen is on private lands in the Upper Glenelg and Wandoo Rivers.

It will be seen from the preceding statements that for the present the Red Gum forests, at any rate under State control, are practically cut out, and that any other source of supply must be looked for on private lands, and scattered timber on Crown lands. Most of the former has, however, been ringbarked, and is therefore to some extent deteriorated, as well as hard to work.

In my opinion the proper course to take in regard to Red Gum areas will be (1) TO make State Forests of all remaining patches of Red Gum forests, which are still Crown lands, especially in the Murray and Goulburn Rivers, and in Gippsland. (2) To complete the trimming out of the young forests in the 30,000 acres of young forest in the Barmah, Yieliana and Gunbower Forests, which were not thinned in 1892. (3) To carefully protect all Red Gum areas. (4) To make the royalty system of payment apply to all Red Gum, and also at the same time, if possible, to all timber in State Forests of whatever kind. The scale of royalty should be adjusted to the value of the timber for commercial purposes, and to the locality whence obtained, and the difficulties of transport.

previous
next