Eight NSW environment groups have written to Premier Berejiklian today urging her to intervene to protect an area of Gladstone State Forest, near Bellingen, vital to the protection of koalas in NSW.
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
Drone footage of Illegal clearfell logging in Lorne State Forest
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.
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. 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, and researchers, 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. 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. 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.
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,. 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 to 463 in 2016. 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. 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. The north coast is the most popular region: 11.9 million visitors spent $3.7 billion in 2016-17.
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
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
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
Moore & Foley 2005: Tree use by koalas in a chemically complex landscape. Nature 435, pgs. 488-490.
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
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/
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
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
The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) welcomes efforts by NSW Greens MLC Dawn Walker to restore community oversight to native forest logging operations on public land.
This Fact Sheet was produced by Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University Canberra, ACT, 2601
Scientists at The Australian National University have been researching Leadbeater’s Possum since mid-1983. They have published more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 8 books on the Victorian Central Highlands and Leadbeater’s Possum. This Fact Sheet provides key information on Leadbeater’s Possum and the threats to its habitat.