Anti-logging campaigners have accused the state government of a cover up to hide the full extent of licence breaches committed by the Forestry Corporation in the Royal Camp State Forest near Casino.
The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) says a recent report by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) failed to respond to complaints that the Forestry Corporation had logged another two koala habitat areas while an EPA audit was being conducted.
NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said this was despite the EPA earlier issuing the Forestry Corporation three $300 fines for logging in a koala high-use area.
‘Given that the EPA told us they had inspected at least one of these and agreed it was another koala high-use area, their failure to mention it in their report is inexplicable,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘The fact that this is a cover-up is made clear by the EPA’s dismissal of numerous complaints on the grounds that they “could not locate the alleged location”, this despite us providing the EPA with photos, GPS locations and leading the EPA to the specific breaches in the forest.
‘There is something very rotten within the EPA as they now claim they could not find breaches we actually showed and discussed with them on site.
‘We also showed EPA the head and upper trunk of an illegally felled Spotted Gum with the distinctive incisions that Yellow-bellied Gliders make in the trunk in order to collect sap for feeding.
‘Despite wildlife ecologist David Milledge discussing this with EPA on site, the EPA refused to take any action because they claimed they could not determine beyond reasonable doubt whether the incisions had been made by a Yellow-bellied Glider,’ Mr Pugh said.
Mr Milledge said that several incisions ‘were of the classic v-notch shape, and were surrounded by claw marks typical of those made by the Yellow-bellied Glider when biting into the bark of such trees’.
‘These incisions were among the clearest and most readily identifiable that I have seen. I find it inconceivable that the EPA was unable to positively identify the subject tree as a Yellow-bellied Glider sap feed tree from the incisions present,’ he said.
Mr Pugh said the EPA had not dealt with NEFA’s complaints on logging operations in the Royal Camp State Forest ‘in a fair, balanced or competent manner’.
‘The EPA has suppressed audit results relevant to complaints, claimed that they couldn’t find trees they were shown on the ground, ignored expert evidence, and refused to audit significant breaches.
‘This is either a deliberate attempt to hide the nature and extent of breaches or an extremely shoddy, unprofessional and incompetent job.
‘The fact that this is just the latest example in a series of shoddy and incomplete audits by the EPA, suggests their audits are politically motivated cover-ups.
‘We have complained to the EPA’s acting chief regulator, Mark Gifford, though we have no faith that the NSW government wants fair and honest auditing of the Forestry Corporation’s logging operations.’