The proposed changes to timber harvesting in NSW's coastal forests have those who have been watching this unfold ashen faced.
Nambucca Valley Conservation Association member and former councillor Paula Flack said environmental groups knew the new rules would be bad but “these are our worst fears come true”.
“It is disastrous … the Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA) outline how forestry operations can be carried out on State Forests* – it is complex and they are on public display, but only for four weeks,” Paula said.
(* Within NSW State Forests there are plantations of pine, of native hardwoods as well as native forests. The latter have been protected for the last 20 years to ensure the protection of particular native species. These are the ones that will be most affected by these changes.)
“We demanded an eight-week extension to give us time to clarify appendices and they gave us two weeks – until July 13 – and submissions can only be made online via their (Dept Planning and Environment) website.
“This is a blatant railroading of the NSW public – it is anti consultation, anti environment and ultimately, anti-jobs.”
She said the documents were complex but the standout issues were:
- the reduction of buffers in headwater streams from 10 metres to five metres
- the removal of specifications for threatened species protections
- the removal of the need to look for and protect koalas prior to logging
- establishment of a 140,000 ha intensive clearfell area between Grafton and Taree.
“And the real kicker is they are actually proposing to increase the overall amount of timber to be taken from public native forests – there are an extra 59,300 cubic metres.”
“In 2014 the Government promised there would be no nett changes to supply quantities, no erosion of environmental values and no change to the CAR (Comprehensive, Adequate, Representative) Reserve System, which is what was agreed to when the protections were signed off 20 years ago under the Carr Government.
“This comprehensively erodes all of that.”
Paula said further, only a handful of jobs would be created.
“We have extrapolated the figures the Government has given us and we estimate there will only be 600-800 jobs created for this native forest logging.”
So extreme are the changes that the man who was responsible for them 20 years ago, former NSW Environment Minister, Bob Debus, contacted the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) and requested a tour of affected areas.
Following is the NEFA video with voiceover by Mr Debus:
The NSW Government seeks feedback on the new rules proposed for native forestry on public land in NSW. This feedback will inform the finalisation of the Coastal IFOA.
To find out more about what is planned for native forests in this area, you can also attend a public meeting this Thursday night, 6pm, Nambucca Entertainment Centre.
* The Guardian News has put a number of questions to the Minister for the Environment, Gabrielle Upton. The response will be published as soon as it is received.