Nature & Wildlife

Morrison must change his logging approval to protect Endangered Koalas in Yarratt State Forest

The North East Forest Alliance is calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene to stop logging of important Koala habitat in Yarratt State Forest near Wingham in accordance with the June recommendations of the Natural Resources Commission and the Commonwealth’s February Conservation Advice for now Endangered Koalas. 

As a signatory to the North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has responsibility for NSW’s refusal to protect important Koala habitat on State Forests, and must modify his approval to provide rapidly declining Koala populations with the protection they urgently need, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh. 

“Last year the NSW Government tasked the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) with resolving a dispute between the EPA and Forestry Corporation (FCNSW) about how the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (CIFOA) should be modified to reduce impacts after 64% of native State forests burnt in the 2019-20 wildfires. 

“NRC collaborated with FCNSW in preparing ‘Final report Coastal IFOA operations post 2019/20 wildfires’ which was presented to the Ministers for the Environment and Forestry in June 2021 for actioning. The Ministers suppressed the report, though it was leaked to the media in November. 

“The NRC identified 3 Management Areas (MAs) including Taree on the north coast, with “risk of serious and irreversible harm to environmental values from the cumulative impacts of fire and harvesting” where “harvesting must be temporarily suspended for three years from the time of fire”. 

“In an act of sheer wanton environmental vandalism, soon after, on 26 July FCNSW started logging 1,200 ha of Yarratt State Forest in the Taree MA, and are currently preparing to log 1,200 ha of the balance of Yarratt. 

“Nearly the whole of Yarratt SF is ranked as high or very high Koala habitat by Department of Primary Industries Forestry’s model, Koala records show they are widespread, and Office of Environment and Heritage identified 3 Koala Hubs covering around 370ha. 

“Koala Hubs were identified by OEH under the NSW Koala Strategy and are “areas of currently known significant koala occupancy that indicate clusters of resident populations”, though they are ignored in the CIFOA and FCNSW routinely log them. 

“The logging rules variously require the retention of 5-10 small (>20cm diameter) Koala feed tree species per hectare in Yarratt SF according to habitat rankings, significantly less than the compromise of 15-25 larger (>25 cm diameter) trees recommended by EPA. As well as retaining these token trees, the only requirement is if FCNSW see a Koala they must wait until it leaves its tree before they can cut it down. 

“NEFA wrote to Environment Minister James Griffin on 3 January detailing FCNSW’s refusal to abide by the NRC’s recommendations, including by logging in Yarratt SF, but he has allowed FCNSW to continue to rampage through the forests. 

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison signed off on the North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement in 2018. He now needs to change the RFA to provide Endangered Koalas with the protection the February Conservation Advice to him identified as needed to save them from extinction” Mr. Pugh said. 

With the assistance of the Environmental Defenders Office, NEFA is challenging the validity of the North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement on the grounds that the Commonwealth has not duly considered climate change, threatened species and oldgrowth forest. The case is listed for hearing by the Federal Court on 28 March. 

“For the future of Koalas, and our growing lists of threatened species, I hope we are successful” Mr. Pugh said. 

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES: contact Dailan Pugh 0400 711 054 

Attached: Map showing DPI Forestry’s Koala habitat ranking, OEH Koala Hubs and Koala records in Yarratt State Forest. 

Koala photo, D. Pugh