Melinda Pavey’s recent comments on forestry issues frequently begin with phrases like “ let’s consider reality” or “let’s listen to the science”.
Unfortunately she appears to do neither according to the Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC) and the Nambucca Valley Conservation Association.
“The reality is the hardwood native forest industry on the North Coast is in long term decline following the overharvesting of our native forests to meet over commitments in wood supply to North Coast sawmills . In response the industry is seeking to intensify harvesting to convert remaining available forests into highly flammable matchstick farms, harvested intensely by machines when very young with much of the outputs burnt in 3 biomass plants proposed for Grafton, Kempsey and Taree,” BEC spokesperson Ashley Love said.
“The authoritative document for the North Coast forests is the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) for North East NSW. It is one of nine regional forest agreements covering the majority of the forested regions of Australia.
“The reality and the data shows that North Coast forests have the worst representations of forests in conservation reserves of any of the nine regional forest agreement regions throughout Australia.
The forestry industry is seeking to intensify harvesting to convert remaining available forests into highly flammable matchstick farmsAshley Love, Bellingen Environment Centre
“Rather than a ratio of conservation reserves to harvestable forest of 6:1 as Ms Pavey claims, the RFA reveals a ratio of conservation reserves to total forest area of 1:3.
“Admittedly, not all the forests are harvestable and not all the reserves are covered in forest, so Ms Pavey must be cautious with figures which she uses.”
Mr Love said Ms Pavey’s claim that recent field survey work had found high koala occupancy in state forests did not have a broad scientific consensus as “the methodology used for the assessment was largely based on the results from placement of limited numbers of sound recording devices in the field – a very imprecise way of assessing koala populations”.
“Her claim that harvested areas of forest regenerate is contradicted by the recent progress report of the RFAs which reports natural regeneration of 70 per cent over of areas harvested during the last 15 years.
“We don’t want to see 30 per cent of our forests lost each time they are harvested.”
“Ms Pavey’s report of 27 timber mills between The Hunter and the Tweed indicates just how much the industry has declined – once there were hundreds of mills on the North Coast and thousands of employees in the timber industry. Logging practices of cutting smaller and smaller trees have meant that the future sawlogs are not being left to grow on.”
“She infers that 750 direct jobs in the timber industry are at risk by the establishment of the Great Koala National Park (GKNP) . In so claiming, she is including in her estimate all the people employed in the industry between the Hunter and the Tweed Rivers and is including those working within plantations and private forest areas which are not included in the GKNP proposal.”
NVCA president Paula Flack said that regardless of the National Party’s continuous exaggeration of timber industry job numbers on the North Coast, they were dwarfed in comparison to the number of direct and indirect jobs which the GKNP would generate.
“One recent study from Victoria indicated that one conservation reserve proposal for the Central Highlands forests would generate an additional 750 jobs,” Ms Flack said.
“The establishment of national parks on public land and marine parks at sea is a global phenomenon and one of the universal responses to the increasing recognition of the need to protect and, in many cases, restore our natural environments.
“Unfortunately our current Liberal National Party political leaders are unwilling see the wider environmental, social and economic benefits of the Great Koala National Park and would rather ignore the facts and science by swimming against the tide.”