Claims logging intensity will double on the North Coast

THE NSW Forestry Corporation's determination to supply the same volume of timber after the devastating NSW bushfires will see logging intensity increase six-fold in forests on the South Coast and double on the North Coast.

That's the statement made today by the Nature Conservation Council, which claims to have sighted Forestry Corporation documents.

The data, the environmentalists say, show 85% of the native forest on the South Coast and 44% of those on the North Coast that were designated for logging were burnt during the bushfire crisis.

It claims the state-owned logging company has told wood supply contract holders that it is confident it can maintain supply.

"This can only be done by increasing the logging intensity in viable forests, which will be devastating for koalas and other forest species," Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

The response to the claims by the Forestry Corporation today told a different story.

"Forestry Corporation has greatly reduced the intensity of timber harvesting and implemented additional precautionary conditions to protect soil, water and wildlife in areas impacted by fire," a forestry spokeswoman said.

"Forestry Corporation is working hard to maintain local industry and ensure renewable timber continued to be supplied, which assists the community to recover from fires in rebuilding homes and infrastructure in fire affected areas. 

A protest against logging in the Kalang outside the Forestry offices in Coffs Harbour.
A protest against logging in the Kalang outside the Forestry offices in Coffs Harbour. TREVOR VEALE

Mr Gambian said on the North Coast, where about 65% of the public native forest estate was unburnt, there would be a doubling of logging intensity in those unburnt areas.  

"Even before the fires, our native forests were being logged too hard and too often to allow them to recover between harvests.

"If the Forestry Corporation insists on supplying the same volumes of timber after such devastation, our forests will be stripped and will take generations to recover, if at all," he said. 

Forestry Corporation said the Environment Protection Authority has authorised selective harvesting in a small number of areas impacted by fire.

The EPA made the decision after its own independent assessments of the fire impacts in those areas and the development of additional site-specific conditions that greatly reduce intensity and increase areas of habitat set aside, a Forestry Corporation spokeswoman said. 

"Operations to harvest and regrow renewable timber take place in around 0.1 per cent of forested land each year, an average of 40 per cent of each harvest area is left untouched to maintain habitat throughout harvested areas and all areas are completely regrown after harvesting to provide ongoing habitat and timber for the future," she said. 

Koala populations were greatly impacted during the 2019 bushfires.
Koala populations were greatly impacted during the 2019 bushfires.

The Federal Government announced in December that 30% of the Mid North Coast's koalas died in the fires, yet environmental groups say the NSW Government continues to log koala habitat as if nothing has changed.

"Right now, we know that koala habitat is being logged in unburnt Lower Bucca and Nambucca state forests near Coffs Harbour," Mr Gambian said.

"Koalas are struggling after the worst bushfires on record. Logging their habitat for woodchips and floorboards should not be allowed. This is totally unacceptable."

Large tracts of NSW Forests were burnt out in the 2019 bushfires.
Large tracts of NSW Forests were burnt out in the 2019 bushfires.

Mr Gambian called on the State Government to take the following actions:

• Pause all native forest logging until the full ecological impacts of the fires are assessed and publicly reported
• Renegotiate wood supply agreements to ensure logging operations do not exceed the intensity of pre-fire levels

The Nature Conservation Council also supported a government assistance package for the forest industry and its employees during this very difficult time.

It said any assistance package must require a commitment to the transition from native forests to sustainably managed plantations and a just structural adjustment package for contractors, mill owners and employees.

Environmentalists have called for an assistance package for the timber industry calling on a ban of logging in native forests.
Environmentalists have called for an assistance package for the timber industry calling on a ban of logging in native forests. WanderWomen iStock


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