Former NSW Environment Minister, Bob Debus, on Tuesday toured logged forests near Port Macquarie with the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA). Debus, highly regarded as an effective and passionate Environment Minister, oversaw a 30% expansion of the NSW national park network in his time in office, and was the Minister during the signing of the Regional Forest Agreements in the late 1990s.
The RFAs have facilitated the logging of public native forests ever since and are due to expire between 2019 and 2021 in NSW.
In a scathing assessment of the logging he witnessed, Debus said: “It beggars belief that the Forestry Corporation has got away with this for the last decade. It’s vandalism pure and simple. The succession of Coalition Environment Ministers has clearly been unable or unwilling to stand up to their National counterparts who always hold the Forestry portfolio.
“I am astounded to hear that the NSW Government is planning on introducing forestry legislation to legitimise this practice. The NSW Environment Minister needs to come and have a look for herself.
“These forests around Port Macquarie were once full of some of the biggest trees in the State. Poets like Henry Kendall marvelled at them. It is tragic to see what the last decade of clearing has done. It looks green when you fly over it, but on closer inspection it’s just very young saplings, much of it weed-infested and much more fire prone.
“I have to acknowledge that the Forestry Corporation must have mislead the Government back in the 90’s when it claimed it could carry out Single Tree Selection and Australian Group Selection and meet wood commitments. And it would seem they’ve been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes if this type of logging is called forestry. It’s clearing and there’s no scientific justification for it.
“In fact the Ministerial Inquiry in 1996 was quite adamant that broad-scale clear felling was completely inappropriate for northern NSW forests and that it needed to be low intensity selection logging techniques where less than 35% of the canopy was removed.
“What is happening in the forests is similar to what is happening with water, the public resource is being squandered and the Government has been caught out. It has been the same with the reintroduction of broad-scale land clearing—the Government’s response to breaches of environmental law has been to make the action legal. They seem to have no sense that this is the heritage of future generations that is being destroyed.”
NEFA spokesperson, Lyn Orrego, said: “We’re calling on the Premier to halt this destruction and call Forestry Corporation to account. This illegal carnage and smoke and mirrors deception must stop.
“Their own silvicultural manual states (pg. 18) that clearfelling ‘is not practiced in NSW forests’. The NSW public should know it most certainly is practiced and that our forest estate, and all the values it contains, are disappearing like never before“.
“In light of this assessment from the former Minister, and what we know occurs throughout NSW, NPA is calling for an independent inquiry into Forestry Corporation’s conduct and the impact of logging on forests, with terms of reference agreed to by respected conservation groups” said NPA CEO Alix Goodwin.
“The NSW Environment Minister must halt the development of new logging rules currently being drafted until this inquiry has been conducted, and go and see for herself what is happening on her watch.
“These forests are public property and, just like water, they’re being plundered for short term gain at the expense of future generations. This environmental destruction must stop.”
- Oisín Sweeney (NPA) 0431 251 194
- Lyn Orrego (NEFA) 0403 616 805