North Coast

NEFA preparing for a koala scat search in Myrtle SF. 43. Koala trees have been identified by NEFA over a 14 ha koala refuge in burnt forest in Myrtle State Forest, south of Casino. Image: Contributed.

NEFA plea: look before you log

The North East Forest Alliance is demanding that the NSW Government reconsider their refusal to undertake pre-logging surveys for koalas and other threatened species in burnt forests before logging, in light of more damning expert assessments and advice from the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) that this contravenes their legal obligations.

With its gutting of protection for core Koala habitat on private lands and refusal to survey for surviving koalas ahead of logging in burnt forests on public land, the NSW Government is hell-bent on doubling the extinction rate of koalas, not doubling their populations, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

“Koalas were decimated in the 2019/20 wildfires, with over 70% of koalas lost from the firegrounds. Before the fires koalas were already losing their homes to logging and clearing

“The Government is happy to throw millions of dollars on hospitals for the surviving casualties of their war on koalas, but refuse to take the urgent action needed to protect the homes of the survivors.

“Since the fires NEFA have been vainly trying to convince the NSW Government to look for surviving koalas in burnt public forests and protect their refuges from logging, though even engaging the help of the EDO and expert evidence of dire consequences has been in vain.

“On behalf of NEFA, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) have written to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) attaching reports from 3 experts detailing the EPA’s failure to take a precautionary approach when issuing approvals to log burnt forests in contravention of the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Forestry Management.

“The experts, Doctors Steve Phillips, Robert Kooyman and Arthur White, reviewed the information before the EPA at the time they issued their approval to log 5,000 hectares of Myrtle, Bungawalbin and Doubleduke State Forests (south of Casino) and found it was not sufficient to enable the EPA to form a view about the potential impacts of logging.

Dr. Phillips is adamant that as an “absolute minimum” there should have been a survey to identify “the post-fire occupancy level by koalas”.

“The experts confirmed the opinion of Dr. Andrew Smith, who was engaged by the EPA, that current logging contravenes the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management, and that logging of fire refugia could be catastrophic for species such as the Koala, Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider.

“Despite the expert evidence and the EDO’s letter, the EPA have refused to undertake surveys for Koalas or require the Forestry Corporation to, using the excuse that pre-logging surveys are not required by the logging rules.

“Our appeals to the Forestry Corporation and the Environment Minister, Matt Kean, has been similarly refused.

“NEFA have identified crucial refuges where Koalas have survived the fires in Bungawalbin and Myrtle State Forests, but the Government refuses to protect these areas or to undertake the comprehensive surveys needed to identify and protect other patches of forest where Koalas have survived the fires.

“Given the widespread loss of Koalas and other wildlife in the 2019/20 fires, it is reprehensible that the NSW Government refuses expert advice to look before they log despite the potentially catastrophic consequences for Koalas and other wildlife” Mr. Pugh said.