Mount Topper blackberries have residents shocked and concerned

FRAGMENT: A small part of the massive blackberry infestation at Mount Topper State Forest.
FRAGMENT: A small part of the massive blackberry infestation at Mount Topper State Forest.

Forestry Corporation of NSW appears to be in breach of their own Forest Practices Code with neglect of treating the vast infestation of blackberries at the state’s pine plantation at Mount Topper, but they have stated they are aware of the situation. 

Neighbours to the 990 hectare pine plantation on the outskirts of Tingha say the area was logged by the corporation approximately six years ago, and have not returned. In the interim, an infestation of blackberries has established itself over hectares of the land, and established over the felled trees left behind, some over cattle yards and fences.

Blackberries are a NSW class 4 noxious weed, and identified as a weed of significance by the Australian government. The Forestry code principle on plantation pest and weed management states: “Plantations and adjacent native forests should be protected from the adverse effects of fire and from the introduction and spread of plant, insect and animal pests and plant diseases”.

Peter beside the cattle yards with a felled pine which has crushed the race and overgrown with blackberries.

Peter beside the cattle yards with a felled pine which has crushed the race and overgrown with blackberries.

Peter and Vicky Denovan live across the road from the state forest and reported nightly barking by packs of wild dogs and frequent human-created fires in the forest, criss-crossed by potholed roads, all of which alarm them and other residents. Peter said in one month alone, the Tingha RFS was called out to over 25 fires in the forest. 

Vicky’s grandfather was one of the men who planted the first Mount Topper pines, and her father worked in the forest as well. She said when the area was last logged, many felled trees were abandoned.

“I’d say they only took probably 30 per cent out, and the rest, they’ve left there and they’re just lying on the ground under all those blackberries,” Vicky said. 

Peter said he and their neighbors face ongoing vigilance to destroy the constant appearance of blackberries on their land. He and his neighbours use preventative measures to fight the weed, but Peter felt herbicide was not the answer in the plantation. 

Driving through and outside the forest, the proximity of the island of blackberries and local properties is just metres apart, and Peter said the seeds are widely distributed by the birds and feral animals who feast on the ripe berries.

“Even around here, it doesn’t take much for them to jump over there,” he said. “Spraying is not the option, because all the greenery will be gone, and all the rib-structure will still be there, and it will be abhorrent,” he said.

On the main plantation road, Peter eased his car through several deep potholes, and stopped to indicate a burnt patch at a T-junction. he got out and walked over to a burnt metal frame at the side of the road where a recent fire caused worry for residents. He expressed concern at the road condition.

Peter Denovan drags the metal frame where a recent fire was lit in the middle of the plantation road.

Peter Denovan drags the metal frame where a recent fire was lit in the middle of the plantation road.

“Forestry or whoever should be responsible for this in regards to keeping it maintained so that fire trucks can come up here,” he said. 

The Inverell Times contacted NSW Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole, and Forestry Corporation NSW. A spokesperson for Mr Toole’s office said the Minister was aware of the situation.

Peter eases his car through one of many deep potholes in the main road in teh Mount Topper forest.

Peter eases his car through one of many deep potholes in the main road in teh Mount Topper forest.

A statement from Forestry Corporation said the department is “currently reviewing options for re-planting, grazing, fencing and weed control in the Mt Topper softwood timber plantation. 

“Sections of the plantation are scheduled to be harvested over the next five years, and we will work with the local community to develop a broad management plan before harvesting. 

“Forestry Corporation has been in touch with the Tingha Citizens Association Inc about this plantation and we are looking forward to meeting the association during April to share ideas and solutions for future management.”