Mass logging at Yabbra State Forest near Bonalbo. This type of logging could become the norm in national parks if a controversial proposal is allowed by the government. Photo supplied.
Northern Rivers environmentalists are outraged at revelations that the NSW Government is secretly planning to log NSW national parks, many of which are on the north coast.
North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh has also slammed Richmond MP Justine Elliot and Page MP Janelle Saffin for not providing assurances to stop the move.
The NSW Greens also has called on premier Barry O’Farrell to immediately rule out opening up conservation areas for logging, following the revelation it had been recommended by an Upper House inquiry led by the government and the Shooters Party.
‘It’s clear the coalition cannot be trusted when it comes to protecting our national parks from the extreme Shooters Party,’ Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said.
‘Let’s remember what Barry O’Farrell said about hunting in national parks, that it wouldn’t happen. This is a premier who has repeatedly buckled under pressure from the Shooters Party and sold out the people and the environment of NSW,’ Ms Faehrmann said.
‘For the environment minister to say there is ‘no plan’ to log in national parks is a cop-out because that does not mean there won’t be a plan in the future. The government must reassure the community today and say unequivocally that they will never open up areas currently reserved for conservation to logging.’
Mr Pugh said NEFA has written to both federal MPs for the northern rivers ‘on numerous occasions since December’ asking for their assurances that ‘they would stand up for our national parks and ensure the Commonwealth becomes involved should NSW make any change that materially alters commitments given in the North East NSW Regional Forest Agreement’.
‘Despite numerous assurances from both Justine and Janelle that they would answer our questions they have failed to do so,’ he said.
‘To the contrary, the Commonwealth refused to get involved in March when NSW removed existing protections for 25 nationally threatened plants and animals, and reduced protection for 8 others in northeast NSW.
‘With decisions imminent on the future of north east NSW’s national parks, we are profoundly disappointed that our federal representatives on the Northern Rivers will not commit to standing up for their protection.
‘They are well aware that local saw millers are seeking that numerous national parks in their electorates be opened up for logging.’
The NSW government this morning said there were no plans to allow commercial logging in NSW national parks.
‘The NSW government does not support commercial logging in national parks and has no plans to allow it,’ environment minister Robyn Parker said.
Ms Parker’s denial comes after reports in Fairfax Media that a government-dominated parliamentary inquiry had recommended loggers be allowed into national parks.
The upper house committee, chaired by Shooters and Fishers Party MP Robert Brown, reportedly also urged the freezing of declarations of new conservation areas.
According to Fairfax Media, the committee report says national parks should be opened to logging to make sure they are viable long term.
‘Once the committee’s report is finalised and tabled in parliament, the government will respond in the usual fashion,’ Ms Parker said.
But Ms Faehrmann said the government must reassure the community ‘today and say unequivocally that they will never open up areas currently reserved for conservation to logging’.
She called on Mr O’Farrell to give a ‘rock-solid guarantee that no national park or conservation area in NSW would be re-classified as a state forest’.
Mr Pugh said Mr O’Farrell had refused to support a public pledge from the Minister for the North Coast, Don Page, that there would be no logging in national parks.
‘Contrary to Don Page’s assurance the official government line is to wait and see the outcomes of the Public Land Use Inquiry and the Government’s review of timber resources in north-east NSW,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘The NSW government’s Public Land Use Inquiry is going to release their final report this week. This inquiry is chaired by Robert Brown of the Shooters and Fishers Party. Given that their policy is to allow logging, grazing and shooting in national parks the outcome of the inquiry has always been a foregone conclusion.
‘The NSW government completed its review of timber resources on public land in north-east NSW months ago though has so far refused to release the report. It is expected to confirm that public forests are being drastically over-logged and that there is a chronic shortage of large sawlogs.
‘While we should know soon whether the NSW Government will allow [logging] in national parks, we remain concerned that with our national representatives refusing to stand up for our national parks, old growth forests, and threatened species that we may lose many of them,’ Mr Pugh said.
Ms Faehrmann said ‘there has been a long history in this state of support for national parks which has crossed the political divide.
‘Now this looks like being thrown out the window due to the government’s cosy relationship with the extreme Shooters Party.
‘The vast majority of people in NSW find comfort in the fact that national parks play a vital role in conserving our natural heritage for future generations.
‘They would be appalled to know that the Shooters Party agenda of opening up national parks for hunting, and now logging, is very close to becoming reality.’