Fears failed plantations a fire threat

TIMBER plantations left untended by the collapse of Forest Enterprises Australia are creating a fire risk to the Woodenbong and Urbenville communities, residents fear.

Concern about the plantations is so great affected residents will tonight meet with State Lismore MP Thomas George, industry representatives, and Southern Cross University Environmental Science head Professor Jerry Vanclay.

Prof Vanclay said they needed to lobby FEA, which owns and leases plantations across the region, to start managing its properties again. Some residents have gone into debt investing in equipment to build fire breaks and clear undergrowth in the eucalypt plantations, but many have been without work since the company went into receivership in April, he said.

Prof Vanclay said letting them go back to work would help those individuals and the broader community's economy, as well as manage the fire risk.

In the long term, Prof Vanclay said the collapse presented some great opportunities for the residents, particularly those who had leased land to FEA for plantations.

Ownership of the plantations could well revert to the landowners, which would create new problems or offer a lucrative long-term investment. If the landowners wanted to just clear the land, it would likely cost them money.

However, thinning the plantations could offer some revenue while allowing space for grazing cattle and ultimately offering crops of saw log timber they could sell. If the landowners banded together they could keep costs down.

Tonight's meeting will be held at Woodenbong Golf Club from 6pm.



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