THE State Opposition's policy of creating a Great Koala National Park around the Coffs Coast has come under expected fire from the NSW Government.
Member of the Legislative Council Rick Colless, a Nationals member from New England is the Chair of the NSW Forestry Industries Taskforce and he said the policy announcement by Opposition Leader Luke Foley will prove costly to the timber industry.
"Labor's proposal would remove another 100,000 cubic metres of high quality sawlogs from the North Coast timber industry, a reduction of 44% from an already highly stressed industry," Mr Colless said.
"The NSW North Coast simply cannot afford to lose another 3,000 forestry jobs."
The Labor Party has made a pre-election promise to create a 315,000 hectare Great Koala National Park in the north of the state that would protect 20% of NSW's koala population.
The plan includes 140,000 hectares of existing National Park, plus the addition of 176,000 hectares of State Forest that would no longer be available for logging.
Mr Colless, appointed in May by the NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson to be Chair of the taskforce, called on his more than a quarter of a century as a soil conservationist and agronomist to offer ideas as to how the large tract of land mainly from Kempsey to Woolgoolga could be better used.
"To better protect koalas and other threatened species, we need better management of all land, irrespective of its tenure, rather than simply putting a fence around another 315,000 hectares of forest," he said.
Mr Colless refuted Mr Foley's claims that creating a Great Koala National Park would be a minimal cost policy.
"The Opposition Leader claims no expenditure is necessary to turn state forest into national park, but also said Labor would compensate companies to buy back timber allocations," Mr Colless said.
"The accompanying loss of timber royalties to the NSW Government, the loss of jobs to the timber workers and the loss of jobs in the associated industries will be a huge cost to our North Coast communities.
"What is required is an improved landscape management model across all land, rather than locking up huge tracts of land allowing fuel hazards to build up and put koalas at risk from wildfire.
"This is a kneejerk policy from Labor and reflects the environmental ideology of the 1980s. Land management has moved on from ideology and Luke Foley should snap out of the time warp he finds himself in."