Calls are getting louder to stop illegal tree felling

By James Bennett

Parks Victoria is under pressure to deal with illegal tree felling in the Greater Shepparton area this winter.

Goulburn Valley Environment Group president John Pettigrew says although the illegal activity occurs all year, he expects it to ramp up as the weather cools.

Since The News first broke stories last year of the serious environmental destruction around the Mooroopna and Reedy Swamp areas, people have told us it's still happening.

Furthermore, The News has been contacted by people frustrated with Parks Victoria being seemingly unable to stop the illegal tree felling.

“In all fairness at this time of the year I wouldn't expect Parks Victoria to be doing much because they have to deal with the bushfires,” Mr Pettigrew said.

“They (Parks Victoria) don't have the resources to catch the people doing it. They need to rely on information and need police protection if they need to do something.”

Mr Pettigrew said he and members of GVEG had alerted Parks Victoria about the illegal tree felling.

“It appears not much has happened and I believe Parks Victoria is under-resourced,” he said.

“We need to have a better understanding of what Parks Victoria will do about it this year.

“I want to know what they'll do differently to what they did last year.”

Mr Pettigrew said the recent bushfires could potentially bring more funding to the authority.

“I think a lot of it comes down to better funding from the state.

“If there's one positive we can take away from these bushfires, it's the fact it should put more people on the ground to deal with issues such as tree felling and preparation for the fire season.”

Mr Pettigrew admitted there had been fewer reports in recent weeks but evidence suggested people were still illegally tree felling.

Shepparton's Joel Hoffman raised concerns about illegal tree felling in October last year. Picture: Ray Sizer.

“If you drive around the Goulburn Valley area there (are) plenty of stumps with bark on top to hide the fact it has been cut,” he said.

Trelly's Tackle World owner Steve Threlfall said he had family near Reedy Swamp (on the north-west edge of Shepparton) who frequently heard chainsaws in the early hours of the morning.

“People are always coming into my shop to tell me it's happening,” Mr Threlfall said.

“I have family out there and they tell me it's common to hear chainsaws at 2 am in the morning.

“I recently drove near Mooroopna and I couldn't find a standing dead tree: they'd all been cut.

“There has to be more policing and more management of the area.

“More resources need to be provided to the rangers so they can engage in a proper manner.

“My understanding is they need a police escort to catch the people but then it comes down to catching these people at the right time.”

In a statement, Parks Victoria said: "Parks Victoria understands the community’s concern about illegal tree felling in parks around Shepparton.

“Cutting and removing trees from public land is illegal and causes environmental damage.

“It takes time and resources to gather evidence to issue infringements or charge offenders.

“To ensure the integrity and effectiveness of investigations the details on progress are not made available to the public.”