A Focus on the Issues
The Report of the First Conservator of Forests
Richard Rawson (bio)
George Samuel Perrin was appointed as our first Conservator of Forests in 1888. His first Report to both Houses of the Parliament of Victoria was for the year ending 30 June 1890, and it pulled no punches.
There were already good people out there doing good work, but read his report and understand how clearly he saw the issues, and set out courses of action that would have helped to ensure that we had a healthy, diverse and extensive forest estate years later. Unfortunately, it would seem he was continually undermined by the bureaucracy and the politics of the time.
While you must read the report, I have precised it so you can get the tenor of the document without straining your eyes in the first instance. The headings below are those used in the Report.
Remember that this new Forests Branch is still within the Department of Lands and Survey. Early in the Report Perrin refers to the “135 men” employed in the Department.
Ofiice, Staff, Training, Thinning
OFFICE AND STAFF
“Upon receiving my appointment from you, and my instructions to organize the work of a Forests Department, considerable difficulty was experienced in the fact that the office accommodation was of such a character as to almost prevent any progress whatever during the first six months after inception to office ….”
TRAINING OF FORESTERS
“At present, in Victoria, it is almost impossible to obtain trained officers as foresters. They are not even to be obtained in England. In the United Kingdom, the foresters are men self-educated and practically trained in the small plantations of the old country. Beyond these their knowledge and practice rarely extend. They have no idea of the management of vast natural indigenous forests, or of sawmilling,or wood-cutting, as practised in these colonies.”
“These men would be, to some extent, tyros if placed in the Gippsland bush.”
“It will be asked ‘Where are our trained men to come from?’ The reply is "From our own colony."
“A two years' course of agriculture and forestry combined would give us annually two or more trained youths for forest work. This would give an opening for the students to enter the Forest service.”
THINNING THE INDIGENOUS TIMBER IN STATE FORESTS
“This is the most important work done by the Forest Branch since its inception. The work was first undertaken in the Havelock State Forest, and gradually extended to the Creswick and Ballarat East State Forests.”
“In another year or so many thousands of saplings will be available for the Ballarat mines as thinnings, whilst the "high forest" will not be interfered with. This work is under Mr. La Gerche, the Chief Forester.”
“At Gunbower State Forest ….. a large gang of labourers is at work under Mr. J. W. Love, who has had large European and Canadian experience ….”
“The young seedling redgum of Gunbower for years past have simply been ruined by the dense growth, …. Now all this will be changed; acre after acre will be thinned, …. the effect of which will be that the young trees will soon recover ….”
“As soon as the necessary trained hands become available, the forest around Sandhurst (now Bendigo), the magnificent ironbark ranges, will be taken in hand and dealt with in a similar manner to the other forests.”
“A nursery has been started at Gunbower Forest, and here it is intended to grow hundreds of thousands of sugar-gums and bluegums; the former for the arid dry plains of the Avoca and Loddon, and the dry sandy mallee wastes of the north-west and northern portions of the colony; the latter for the mines.”