Australia — As bushfires continue to ravage southern Australia there areclaims that the 2006-07 fire season may well be our worst. While prolongeddrought has been the primary influence on the severity and controllability ofthese fires, the political obsession with creating national parks and otherreserves is an important factor that should not be ignored.
Particularly since 2001, forest policy in mainland states has been largelyshaped by pre-election commitments in response to environmental activism. In NewSouth Wales, Western Australia and Victoria this has led to a substantialre-badgeing of publicly-owned state forests as national parks and conservationreserves to appease political forces representing a city-based demographic withlimited knowledge of what it is campaigning for and little exposure to itsramifications.
While this has occurred primarily to curtail timber production, theimplications for wider forest management have generally been ignored ordismissed. This was illustrated during the 2006 Victorian election campaign whenthe government announced that the contentious Goolengook forest in EastGippsland would become a national park, and foreshadowed the closure of the redgum timber industry to create further national parks along the Murray River.