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Degazetting the Murray Valley National Park would be a low water mark for conservation in NSW

None of our natural wonders appear to be safe from the “development” agenda of the NSW Government. The aim of the National Party to return the Murray Valley National Park, the largest area of continuous red gum forest in the world, to state forest for logging shows how far we have fallen in the protection of nature.

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NPA calls for independent inquiry after damning assessment of logging ‘vandalism’ from former Environment Minister Bob Debus

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.”

Ends.

Media contacts:

  • Oisín Sweeney (NPA) 0431 251 194
  • Lyn Orrego (NEFA) 0403 616 805


Drone footage of Illegal clearfell logging in Lorne State Forest

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Will the Basin Plan save the Darling River?

Bev Smiles, President, Inland Rivers Network

The Murray Darling Basin Plan, gazetted in November 2012, has a budget of $13 billion to fund a new direction for water management and water sharing in one of the world’s largest river basins. It is the most expensive natural resource management project in the nation.

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Forests not Woodlots

Margaret Blakers, director of the Green Institute and a long-time environmentalist

Rosemary Beaumont’s article is timely. The Great Southern Forest is part of a larger picture which will see the fate of over 6 million hectares of Australia’s most loved native forests decided between now and 2021. Either they will be handed to the logging industry for another 20 years, effectively to become woodlots, or the federal government will resume environmental oversight and give the forests a chance.

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NPA Campaign updates – Spring 2017

Stand Up For Royal

It has been a hectic time for Royal National Park, our oldest national park and one of our most beloved (let’s face it, 3.6 million visitors every year can’t be wrong). Not only has the State Government set aside money to explore options to extend the F6, including slicing off at least 60 hectares of this wonderful park ($15 million in the 2017-18 budget for planning work on the F6 and a further $20 million to carry out geotechnical testing and other development work in relation to the project – announced in December 2016), it has also blithely attacked the NPA for sticking up for this precious icon.

Despite rapid reassurances from the Government that no route has been determined it would appear that slicing off another section of Royal is well and truly the intent of this government. Why else did the then Minister for the Environment, Mark Speakman, state that “if there was a need to use any part of the Royal National Park it would be compensated for by additions to the park.” And from where?

Southern Sydney Branch will remain vigilant, watching what geotechnical tests are carried out, monitoring what is offered as “compensation” and holding this Government and its representatives to account. This will be a lengthy campaign but Royal is too important for us to lose that campaign. #Standup4Royal

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The Great Koala National Park

In July NPA staff took a trip to the north coast of NSW to build support among the local community for the Great Koala National Park (GKNP). Media coverage was huge which reflects the depth of concern for koalas. Our Senior Ecologist was on local TV, and NPA made the front page of the Bellingen Shire Courier Sun.

Our (now retired) CEO, Kevin Evans, found scats from a mother and joey koala in an area of the GKNP scheduled for logging. This led to widespread calls to stop logging, and all the coverage provoked the Member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey to claim, bizarrely, that a national park would not help koalas! Needless to say we responded, as did others. Local, state and federal Greens have now joined Labor in expressing strong support for the GKNP.

Find out more about the campaign


 

Forests For All

In June, NPA State Council formally approved our plan for a better future for public native forests. The plan, called Forests For All, had input from many experts within and without NPA and is a document we can be proud of. It seeks to protect all native State forests in a variety of NPWS reserve categories, and increase public access to forests for recreation, education and nature-based tourism.

The Regional Forest Agreements begin to expire from 2019 in NSW. They have failed to protect forests or forest industries, so we should change tack. Forests For All offers the NSW Government an economically and socially viable alternative use of valuable public property. We believe that by implementing Forests For All while simultaneously incentivising plantations and the NPWS, we can generate a net jobs gain and make forests a key part of regional communities.

We are in the process of building partnerships among other groups who have an interest in seeing forests protected, and together we will urge the Government to change the use of our public native forests.

Find out more about the campaign

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The Great Koala National Park will help koalas, because it will protect their habitat

This is a fully referenced version of NPA’s response to Melinda Pavey’s “More national parks will not help koalas” published in the Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun on 3/8/17: http://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/4831712/letter-npa-response-to-pavey-koala-management/?cs=483

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) rejects assertions by the Hon. Melinda Pavey MP that more national parks will not help koalas, and calls on the NSW Government to honour Ms Pavey’s call for ‘a mature, factual, science-based discussion about forestry our forest estate and koalas’.

Throughout the world protection of habitat in national parks is the first step to protecting species. That’s because human activities often pose a threat to the resources and connectivity that animals need to survive. Koalas are no different.

Unfortunately, what makes a forest good for loggers also makes it good for koalas: forests on fertile soils on the coastal lowlands in high rainfall areas grow trees quickly and timber can be harvested on shorter rotations. But koalas also prefer these forests, because they produce more nutritious leaves which are the koalas’ sole food source. Following the Regional Forest Agreements, the forests added into the national parks estate were those that were least fertile or on steeper country[1]. In other words, those least preferred by koalas. So a conflict still exists between loggers and koalas for preferred habitat.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority[2], and researchers[3], have shown that koalas like big trees and mature forests, and that intensive logging that removes a high percentage of trees is not compatible with koala persistence[4]. Big old trees are hugely important to wildlife (not just koalas), and just last week the destruction of ‘ol grey’ demonstrated how logging results in the loss of such trees[5]. Recent revelations from the North East Forest Alliance have shown the extent to which intense logging is impacting koala habitat and, disturbingly, that this logging is probably illegal according to the previous Environment Minister[6].

So logging is a key threat to koalas. Is it the only threat? No. Loss of habitat via urban expansion on the coast is also important, so it’s good that the government is reviewing SEPP 44. But logging is a threat that we can end tomorrow, because State forests are public land.

We congratulate Ms Pavey for drawing attention to the resourcing crisis in the National Parks and Wildlife Service that is undermining its ability to manage the protected area estate. Repeated ‘restructures’ by Ms Pavey’s government has resulted in the loss of hundreds of years of experience in the Service—a fact noted by rural communities[7],[8]. As a Minister in the Government, we call on Ms Pavey to lobby her colleagues for a bigger slice of the NSW budget pie to better manage protected areas for the benefit of regional NSW.

Since 2011, the number of jobs has declined sharply in Forestry Corporation from 803 in 2011[9] to 463 in 2016[10]. A 2015 state-wide estimate of the number of direct jobs in the native forest logging industry is about 600, which cost the taxpayer $78 million to subsidise between 2009 and 2014[11]. The few jobs that native forest logging now supports come at a very high cost indeed to broader society. Contrast this with regional tourism, worth $14.4 billion annually to NSW and directly employing 84,600 people[12]. The north coast is the most popular region: 11.9 million visitors spent $3.7 billion in 2016-17[13].

The question for Ms Pavey is why the determination to undermine a proposal that will bring jobs and visitors to her local area? We believe that, rather than continue to pretend that all is well in the rose garden, we need to act now to protect forestry workers and their families and urgently transition to alternative industries. The Great Koala National Park offers a perfect means by which to do that.

In conclusion, the science confirms what we all know: that koala populations are in serious decline throughout NSW. Conservation groups are not going to wait for the Government’s interminable dithering on koalas. We’re galvanising the community to act now to protect koalas because they’re a species that we’re not prepared to sacrifice without a fight. Call us starry eyed, but we know millions of people agree with us.

Kevin Evans is the CEO of the National Parks Association of NSW

[1]Pressey et. al. 2002. Effectiveness of protected areas in north-eastern New South Wales: recent trends in six measures. Biological Conservation 106, pgs. 57-69

[2]See pages 60-62 and 75-76 of NSW EPA 2016: Koala Habitat Mapping Pilot. NSW State Forests. http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/resources/forestagreements/koala-habitat-mapping-pilot-160038.pdf

[3]Moore & Foley 2005: Tree use by koalas in a chemically complex landscape. Nature 435, pgs. 488-490.

[4]Smith, A. Koala conservation and habitat requirements in a timber production forest in north-east New South Wales. The Conservation of Australia’s Forest Fauna pg. 591-611

[5]Re-enactment of cutting of massive seed tree 26/7/17: http://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/4814927/forest-protest-draws-a-crowd-this-morning/

[6]Clearing koalas away: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-20/koala-habitat-in-northern-nsw-destroyed-by-logging/8724486

[7]http://www.theland.com.au/story/4440301/pest-fire-management-threat-in-parks-rejig/

[8]http://www.theland.com.au/story/4782203/parks-cutback-npws-restructure-called-into-question/

[9]See page 103 in: http://www.forestrycorporation.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/448918/Forests-NSW-Annual-Report-2011-12.pdf

[10]See response to question 77 in: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/DBAssets/InquiryOther/Transcript/10303/GPSC%205%20-%20ASQ%20-%20Primary%20Industries%2c%20Land%20and%20Water.pdf

[11]Campbell and McKeon 2015. Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees. http://www.nature.org.au/media/213736/160320-money-doesnt-grow-on-trees-nsw-forestry-final.pdf

[12]NSW Department of Industry Media Release 6/3/17: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/media/media-releases/2017-media-releases/2017-media-releases/$300m-boost-for-regional-environment-and-tourist-attractions

[13]Destination NSW: http://www.destinationnsw.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/North-Coast-NSW-Snapshot-YE-Mar-17.pdf