Frances Pike has no direct political ties; however, the upcoming federal election is extra motivation to take her message on the road.
Ms Pike and her willing helpers are on a mission to raise awareness about the “indiscriminate destruction” of native forests, “so people will know what it happening behind the highways, behind the screen of trees”.
“Under NSW regional forest agreements, overcutting is now so intense and indiscriminate it is destroying the fabric of native forests,” she says.
“We’re travelling through Cowper, Page and Richmond because forest destruction is very relevant to those electorates.
“I come from the Lyne electorate, where I’ve made about 20 films from the air, documenting forest destruction.
“We’re deeply concerned about the Liberal and National parties’ acquiescence in the last two weeks, to the forest products association, where they’ve agreed to give evergreen extensions that the industry is demanding for regional forest agreements.”
On June 1, the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) facilitated a debate, which was attended by Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Senator Anne Ruston, shadow minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry Joel Fitzgibbon and Senator Janet Rice, the Australian Greens forestry spokesperson.
Following the debate, AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said in a media release: “On a positive note both the government and the opposition revealed that they would renew the regional forestry agreements for a further 20 years.”
Ms Pike likens this revelation to “giving away Australian forests”.
“We are deeply concerned, also, that Labor has agreed to the new forestry agreements; not necessarily the evergreen extensions or the rolling contracts, but they have agreed to renew them,” she said.
Ms Pike is particularly critical of the ‘single tree selection (STS)’ logging method, which is described in the NSW Environmental Protection Agency’s Undertaking forestry operations document as “selecting and harvesting individual or small clumps of trees … on the basis of diameter and condition, with smaller and younger trees retained to grow on to the next harvest”.
“The new regime for heavy single tree selection, which is effectively clear felling,” Ms Pike said, “is an attempt to convert forests to black butt pseudo monocultures”.
“We simply want to let the community know that [our forests] are too important to vote for any party that is going to destroy the nation’s carbon sink and the nation’s carbon trading resource, the eastern Australian forests, which are able to absorb more carbon than many places in the world.”
The Independent has seen a recent email from EPA director Gary Whtycross that advises that the current “‘regeneration harvesting’, as practised by FCNSW [Forest Corporation of NSW], is not consistent with the definition and intent of STS in the Integrated Forestry Operation Approval (IFOA)”.
“The EPA is assisting the Minister to examine the issue as part of the remake of the IFOAs,” he wrote.
“While the definitional aspects appear clear, the legal framework for the ‘non-licence terms’ makes enforcement more challenging.”
“The four coastal IFOAs currently being remade,” Mr Whtycross wrote, “will improve the regulatory framework.
“The remake aims to improve the clarity and enforceability of the coastal IFOAs, recognise innovations in best regulatory practice, incorporate advances in technology and deliver an effective, contemporary regulatory framework that is fit for purpose.”
Federal Labor’s climate change action policy states, in part: “In Government, we will also explore other ways of ensuring that State land clearing laws are consistent with Australia’s international obligations and commitments; including by re-invigorating COAG’s National Vegetation Management Framework.”
The Coalition’s has not published a climate change policy on its policy website, nor is the word ‘forest’ to be found in its Support Your Local Parks and Environment policy.
“We are hoping to get Labor to agree to stand up like the Greens have stood up,” Ms Pike said, “and say that ‘we realise there aren’t many jobs in this and we realise it’s a resource giveaway; we are going to look after Australia’s native forests because we have the sixth greatest extinction crisis on the planet’, due [in part] to Australian logging practices.”
An ABC ‘Fact Check, updated in March 2016, found that “Australia is in the top five for extinction of animal and plant species, and the top 10 for endangered and threatened species” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, June 23, 2015; and that “even more species are listed as extinct on the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act”.