NSW taxpayers were slugged nearly $120 million last year to fund the ongoing logging of the state’s natural forests.
The figures, obtained by Greens MP David Shoebridge, add insult to injury when stacked up against Forest NSW’s declared income of $111 million, effectively meaning we’re losing our forests and our money.
The revelation follows controversial demands from the loggers and the government-dominated Upper House inquiry to meet shortfalls by opening up national parks for logging.
Last year the northeast sector lost $1.6 million of the $8 million statewide debt.
While loggers are currently pushing for an increase in the annual harvest, from 160,000 to 269,000 cubic metres, Mr Shoebridge said any increased logging would simply increase the amount NSW taxpayers paid the logging industry to ‘destroy our natural heritage’.
‘To feed that massive 80 per cent increase will require logging more than 40,000 hectares of NSW forest every year, from protected reserve areas and over-exploited state forests,’ he said.
‘That will cost NSW taxpayers dearly.’
For every hectare logged, Mr Shoebridge said, NSW taxpayers lose $671, not to mention the loss of our natural heritage. He also questioned continued native forest logging when only plantation forests were making a profit.
Mr Shoebridge added that if plantations had to continually ‘prop up’ economically unviable native forest operations, they should be phased out.
‘Rather than expanding native forest logging as the Shooters Party and the Nationals are calling for, the government should be actively transitioning away from native forests to plantations,’ he said.
‘The real value of this state’s native forests is not in the small value we get from woodchips, but in the ongoing returns we get from keeping them in terms of biodiversity and tourism.’
But acting State Forestry Corporation CEO Nick Roberts told ABC radio this morning that forest management included other duties such as fire prevention, weed control and feral animal management, suggesting the loss was good value.
‘If you look at our cost of $8 million in terms of a loss and what that represents per hectare we manage, the actual cost of management is only $4 per hectare per year,’ Mr Roberts said.
‘Any kind of public land management actually costs money. National Parks manage seven million hectares a year at a cost to the government and the public of $277 million.’
Local sawmiller Andrew Hurford told APN Media yesterday that Mr Shoebridge’s comments needed to be put into context.
‘Forestry NSW manages an enormous area relative to what is being harvested each year. National parks lose more money than forests but we don’t point that out,’ he said.
Meanwhile, North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh has called on primary industries minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, to come clean about the state of public timber resources in northeast NSW following the controversial call by the forestry industry and the Upper House inquiry to open up national parks for logging.
Mr Pugh said that the loggers have been intentionally over-logging state forests for the past 14 years, ‘and now that they claim to have almost exhausted the supply of large sawlogs they want over a million hectares of national parks to log’.
‘(Mr Roberts’s) evidence to the Upper House inquiry was that opening up national parks for logging “would be good”, “has the potential to deliver what is required”, and that the minister’s 2023 steering committee may be assessing the area of national parks required,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘It is assumed the 2023 steering committee has already provided its advice to Minister Hodgkinson. It is revealing that one member of the minister’s committee is publicly advocating the logging of national parks.
‘The minister must come clean with the people of NSW by releasing the URS (consultants) timber supply assessment and her 2023 steering committee’s review of north coast timber supply.
‘These are public lands and public resources, so the public have a right to know what her reviews found,’ Mr Pugh said.