Sartor’s red gum decision will leave sawmills in ruins

Imre Salusinszky; 6/3/10

Still licking his wounds over his narrow defeat by Kristina Keneally in Labor’s leadership struggle last year, NSW Environment Minister Frank Sartor spent some of his summer holidays pondering a vast report by the state’s Natural Resources Commission. It covered the river red gum forests of southwest NSW, and dealt, not just with the majestic trees the forests contain but the communities and industries they sustain. One table, in particular, buried in an appendix, caught Sartor’s eye. It described educational attainment in the Riverina region of NSW and revealed that in none of the seven largest towns in the area had more than 15 per cent of residents achieved a post-school qualification, compared with more than 50 per cent among the general population. Sartor’s recognition of the vulnerability of workers and livelihoods in towns such as Deniliquin, Balranald and Mathoura shaped his long-awaited announcement this week on the establishment of more than 107,000ha of protected forests in the Riverina.