Logging at Lorne State Forest on the east coast of NSW.
Logging at Lorne State Forest on the east coast of NSW. Contributed

Outrage as protected forests could open up to logging

ENVIRONMENTAL groups across the state have expressed concerns over the NSW Government's intention to weaken logging rules in coastal forests following the release of a draft overhaul this week.

The Draft Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval was released to the public for consultation yesterday, outlining the NSW Government's intention to update the rules for native timber harvesting in NSW's coastal timber production forests.

North East Forest Alliance's Dailan Pugh said the NSW Government is proposing to subject mapped oldgrowth forest protected for the past 20 years to logging in order to make up a sawlog shortfall of 10,000 cubic metres per annum on the north coast.

"The logging industry has almost denuded the public forests allocated to them 20 years ago of sawlogs. This is all about making more trees available by opening up areas protected over the past 20 years as habitat of threatened species, koalas, oldgrowth forest, and stream buffers for logging, while increasing logging intensity and legalising clearfell logging along the coast," he said.

The draft proposes combining the IFOAs across the state into a single one, with the NSW Government saying it will reduce costs and deliver a modern regulatory framework.

Greens Forests spokesperson, Dawn Walker, warned the proposal threatens to re-ignite 'Forest Wars' across the state.

"By merging the four existing regionally-based Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals into a single Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals under the guise of efficiency, the Government is relaxing standards and sacrificing our forests," she said.

"Their plan to intensify logging on the NSW North Coast by introducing clear-felling methods to forests between Grafton and Taree would be a bonanza for chainsaws and decimate vital habitat for koalas and greater gliders. 

"The Greens are equally worried by the removal of requirements to undertake pre-logging surveys for threatened species, the large reduction in buffer zones around streams from 10m to 5m and the removal of logging exclusion-zones around known threatened species are a brazen attempt to increase the area of forest available to loggers and meet a shortfall in unrealistic Wood Supply Agreements."

The draft rehaul of logging rules comes soon after the NSW Government announced it will set aside almost 25,000 hectares of state forest to combat the issue of declining koala numbers.

However, National Parks Association of NSW slammed the NSW Government for ignoring the Great Koala National Park proposal, and claimed these plans will only slow the decline to 'placate' the public.

"The small scale and scattered nature of the koala 'reserves and parks' are an inadequate response to sharp declines in koalas state-wide. What was needed was a bold strategy, addressing threats from land clearing, logging and urban development and we've not got that," NPA Senior Ecologist, Oisín Sweeney said.

The Great Koala National Park is proposed to be located in the Coffs Harbour hinterland and would protect koalas in a 315,000ha reserve.

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