Concerns over the future of Creswick forestry if university moves

Dr Kevin Tolhurst AM and Forester Leon Holt hold great concerns over forestry changes at the University of Melbourne and what it will mean to Creswick. Picture: Kate Healy
Dr Kevin Tolhurst AM and Forester Leon Holt hold great concerns over forestry changes at the University of Melbourne and what it will mean to Creswick. Picture: Kate Healy

MORE than 100 years of history is effectively over according to a Creswick forestry graduate who fears the loss of the University of Melbourne’s rural campus.

The university has released plans to relocate much of the forestry school to its Parkville campus due a decline in forestry enrollments in recent years.

It hopes the move will lead to an increase in student numbers in the course, however Creswick locals and graduates fear for the future of the much-loved campus.

More than 50 locals turned up at a public meeting recently to voice their concerns over the move.

Meeting organiser and Creswick graduate Leon Holt said the turnout showed just how important the school was to the community.

“These changes are effectively the end of over 100 years of history,” Mr Holt said. 

“Victoria’s foresters have been taught at Creswick since 1910, but if the University goes ahead with its plans, part of the town’s history will be lost.

The university wants to move many classes to Parville. Picture: Kate Healy

The university wants to move many classes to Parville. Picture: Kate Healy

“We know we have to try and slow down the decline in rural education in Victoria, and many of us think the university’s plans for the forestry program are taking us in the wrong direction.

“Courses like forestry should be taught at rural campuses like Creswick, where the forests actually are, not in the middle of Melbourne.”

Head of the School of Ecosystems and Forest Science Professor Ian Woodrow spoke on behalf of the University of Melbourne at the meeting. 

He told the meeting the university had been working on plans for over a year. 

“The new course will build on what we already offer. With more subjects based in Parkville, we expect student numbers to increase, and that’s a good outcome for forest science education,” Professor Woodrow said 

Mr Holt said the community was preparing a submission to the University of Melbourne, calling on it to suspend its planned changes to the program. 

“There’s definitely more that can be done before committing to these big changes,” he said. 

“We want to find a way to keep the forestry masters program focused on teaching foresters, and to keep it based at the historic School of Forestry in Creswick.”