North Coast

Ministers’ refusal to stop Forestry Corporation causing ‘serious and irreversible harm’ a dereliction of duty.

North East Forest Alliance Inc

NEFA have accused the Ministers for Environment and Foresty, Matt Kean and Paul Toole, of dereliction of duty for failing to implement the minimal changes recommended by the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to reduce the impacts of the 2019/20 wildfires on public State forests for the past 5 months. 

The Natural Resources Commission was tasked with resolving a dispute between the EPA and Forestry Corporation on how logging should be modified to minimise the consequences of the unprecedented fires. The NRC’s ‘Final report Coastal IFOA operations post 2019/20 wildfires’ was submitted to the responsible Ministers in June 2021, though was suppressed until recently leaked, and obtained by NEFA, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh. 

“The NRC recommendations were prepared with the Forestry Corporation to minimise impact on the industry. 

“Despite helping to develop them, the Forestry Corporation are refusing to implement them, and the Government is refusing to make them” Mr. Pugh said. 

The NRC identified 3 forestry Management Areas, including Taree, as being at ‘extreme risk’ “of serious and irreversible harm to environmental values from the cumulative impacts of fire and harvesting”, recommending that logging “must be temporarily suspended for three years from the time of fire”. 

“Despite the extreme risk and contrary to the recommendation, the Forestry Corporation started logging Yarratt State Forest in the Taree Management Area in July, with more operations scheduled to start in February. 

“The current logging rules require the retention of up to 8 hollow bearing trees per hectare where they remain. 

“In recognition of the massive loss of hollow-bearing trees in the fires and following logging, the only change to the logging rules proposed by the NRC was to require the retention of the next largest trees where enough hollow-bearing trees no longer exist (as in most coastal forests) to achieve 8 trees, and for each hollow-bearing tree 2 of the next largest trees as ‘recruitment’ trees to develop into the hollow bearing trees of the future. This is a needed improvement. 

“Forestry Corporation are refusing to implement NRC’s single change to the logging rules. For example, the logging plan for Cherry Tree SF was approved in September and only requires for hollow-bearing trees “8 per ha must be retained where available”. No restoration to a minimum of 8 and no recruitment trees. 

“The changes proposed by NRC are minimal, three years is not long enough for the forests to recover and has almost expired before it is implemented. Many of the worst affected forests, species and streams get no increased protection what-so-ever. Though permanently increased retention of hollow-bearing trees and their replacements will have lasting benefits for the 174 of NSWs vertebrate species dependent upon them. 

“Once again the Forestry Corporation have proven their reckless disregard for the consequences of their actions, even when they know they are likely to result in serious and irreversible harm. 

“Around two years after the fires, and five months after the NRC provided their recommendations to the Ministers for Environment and Foresty, in a clear dereliction of duty Matt Kean and Paul Toole have wantonly allowed the Forestry Corporation to continue to cause serious and irreversible harm.” Mr. Pugh said. 

The 2019/20 NSW wildfires occurred in extreme fire conditions amplified by climate heating, burning around 5 million hectares of NSW, including 64% of native State forests. The ecological impacts were severe, killing billions of animals, billions of plants, millions of trees and thousands of fish. Leaving many species teetering on the brink of extinction, and ecosystems close to collapse. 

With wildfires becoming more frequent and widespread due to climate heating, they represent an escalating threat to the integrity and functioning of native forests. Logging increases fire intensity, compounds environmental impacts, increases CO2 emissions, and reduces CO2 sequestration. Forestry Corporation have proven time and time again their reckless disregard of their impacts. It is past time that logging of public native forests was stopped. 

For a more detailed appraisal of the NRC report see: https://www.nefa.org.au/fire 

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