Labor calls for root and branch review of State Forests

Photo: Kate Wilson
Photo: Kate Wilson

AS HABITAT loss is widely acknowledged to be the key driver of the decline of koalas; a future Luke Foley Labor Government will prioritise the creation of National Parks that protect the remaining koala populations on the North Coast, says Nambucca Valley identity Susan Jenvey.

“This was core Labor policy taken to the last election. For Melinda Pavey to say the ongoing decline in the koala populations needs a 'whole-of-government-koala-strategy' is a sad indictment when you look at her government’s own actions,” said Ms Jenvey, a Labor councillor for Nambucca Shire and the ALP spokesperson for Oxley.

“In the vicinity of Coffs Harbour 40 per cent of the koala populations are in State Forests and clearly mapped koala habitat in these State Forests has been heavily cleared using ‘single tree selection’ methods and ‘off limits sections’. Clearly a whole-of-Coalition-Government strategy hasn't, doesn't, isn't working”.

Local MP Melinda Pavey said: “The National Park estate is under-managed for the key threatening processes of wild dogs, wildfire, scrub invasion and eucalypt decline”. The Member of Oxley asked what if anything might be achieved for safeguarding the koala population by adding to the National Park estate?

But Ms Jenvey countered: “The real story is Pavey's Government has deliberately undermined the active management of the National Parks estate with their market economics approach of getting government out of the way of governing.

“What she omits to tell us is the major push by her government to undermine a strong, mobile and capable public sector has created an atmosphere of neglect. Thousands of public sector jobs have been shed and expertise lost since this government has taken office to the point where there is no link of strength between the government agencies who often have conflicting agendas across the State.

“There have been savage cuts to NPWS which has reduced the capacity and skilled expertise of NPWS to manage the estate.

“By way of example, NPWS in Kempsey has lost eight field officer positions and another three or four are listed to go under the latest efficiency dividend restructure. The depots at Kempsey and South West Rocks have been combined to make one larger depot with fewer field officers and less plant and equipment.

Ms Jenvey said Labor is developing plans for the profitable arm of the business of plantation timber in the State.

“This needs separating from the less profitable and subsidised sections of State Forests, over half of which it is not possible to log,” she said.

NSW Labor plans to hold a koala summit at the end of this year bringing together all stakeholders to plan the most effective action.

“The Great National Koala Park cannot be unwrapped from an adequately funded National Parks and Wildlife Service who are the most appropriate public agency to manage native forests,” Ms Jenvey said.