HVP Plantations has taken responsibility for a spray drift incident in Holey Plains State Park, which is affecting regenerating trees and other vegetation recovering from bushfire.
The incident is also being investigated by Agriculture Victoria.
The Gippsland Times reported on the spray drift in Friday’s issue, after concerns were raised by a worker undertaking a koala count in the area.
HVP Plantations said it had “strict protocols” in place to ensure all operations were carried out in a way that protected the local communities and the environment around its plantations.
“We are undergoing a detailed investigation into a possible incident relating to our standard herbicide spraying operations in our Rosedale plantation – in addition to Agriculture Victoria,” he said.
The HVP Plantations spokesman said aerial spraying operations were only applied to plantations twice in their 28-year cycle, and done in a strictly controlled manner to protect the community and environment.
“HVP plantations in the Rosedale area make an important contribution to the supply of logs to our domestic customers.
“In re-establishing our plantations following harvest the early control of competing weeds is critical to the survival of trees,” he said.
“We work with Agriculture Victoria and our neighbours to understand what has happened.”
An Agriculture Victoria spokesman said the department was investigating a complaint made on June 5 about possible spray drift settling onto native vegetation at Holey Plains State Park, abutting the eastern side of a cleared pine plantation.
The man who reported the incident, Anthony Amis, said he noticed the sickly vegetation in early June while undertaking a koala survey for Friends of the Earth near the intersection of Seldom Seen Track and Chessum Rd, in the middle of the state park.
Mr Amis took video of the area which shows die-off of vegetation, much of it on one side, right into the canopy of trees.
Plants on the ground have also been affected.
The die-off occurs for a couple of kilometres along the road and 100 to 200 metres off the road, then stops.
Mr Amis suspected the die-off was attributable to the aerial spraying of a herbicide.
Regenerating growth is known to be particularly susceptible to some herbicides.
“Whatever was sprayed, the wind got hold of it and took it off site,” he said.
“Some significant vegetation could have been impacted.
“Easily, thousands of trees have been impacted.
“The trees that survived the fires might not be able to survive the spraying that followed,” he said.
Mr Amis said the lesson was also an important one for farmers and the need to take care with herbicides drifting onto neighbouring properties.
He added Holey Plains State Park was important for koalas, and his work with Friends of the Earth involved mapping populations.
Mr Amis said Gippsland had important koala populations, as their genes had not been compromised through translocation.
The state park is also home to the threatened Wellington Mint-bush, where work is underway to conserve it.
The mint bush is largely restricted to the Holey Plains State Park.
About two thirds of the species’ distribution in the park has been mapped, and it is estimated that more than 1000 individuals exist in just 13 populations.
Holey Plains State Park was severely affected by fire early last year.
A spokesman for Agriculture Victoria said it took chemical use seriously and would continue to investigate all reports of potential misuse.