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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

Neither Liberal nor Labor protect biodiversity

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Both the state and federal coalition see the environment as only an obstacle to getting rich quickly. Neither understands the importance of biodiversity in providing environmental services. Labor in government was little better and although offering platitudes did not progress conservation issues. For instance Tony Burke the ex-environment minister finally put the koala on the threatened species list but failed to protect any koala habitat. Tony Windsor approached Tony Burke on my behalf regarding a logging operation near Dorrigo where more than 300 hectares of habitat for 34 threatened species, including high-quality habitat for koalas, was approved for heavy logging. This was just after Burke’s koala announcement. He did nothing.

So it’s not just Liberal or Labor because both have scant regard for threatened species let alone the environment. It really does highlight the need for conservation on private property because governments are ruthless and won’t be deterred from production by any mere threatened species. What chance has a threatened snake or frog got when koalas get only lip service? A good point was made about the fact we own some rights over property but not the right to destroy threatened species at whim. The duty-of-care principle seems long gone in modern forestry that is logging higher volumes right now than previously possible.

The EPA is hopelessly neutered by governments’ ‘economy, economy, economy at all costs’ mantra. It’s hard not to do so but it is important to remember many EPA and even FCNSW on-ground staff would like things to be different but are limited to the relevant legislation and diligence/priorities of their seniors. It’s a disconcerting thing to comprehend the level of deliberation, coordination and old boys’ club mentality that is being applied to environmental destruction. It has reached the point where the community needs to start guiding government trajectory as they are indeed ‘fiddling while Rome burns’.

The bottom line here is that what I would regard as a ‘proper’ environmental assessment wasn’t carried out until the community complained and – surprise surprise – EPA rolls over. I’m afraid this is business as usual for FCNSW and EPA, who are often caught out like this, evidenced by the many cases on the record. They seem to have never properly reconciled that protection of important ecological values are just as much a part of their legislative role as production of timber.

The sad fact is old growth is still targeted and was cut from this site. Whether it is or isn’t regrowth doesn’t matter so much as habitat for threatened species has been degraded. In my experience the token habitat trees left are often left with a single bit of understorey under those trees, or an inadequate number of closely neighbouring trees such as those needed for gliders. Those 2,000 plants mentioned in the story (‘EPA approves logging road’ in Echonetdaily) will be hardwood species, planted in rows and I bet they will not include bopplenut or understorey shrubs.

Ecotones where two different ecosystems meet have particularly high biodiversity value as species from both ecosystems inhabit them. Because of this fact, simply stating ‘rainforest has been protected’ does not mean important environmental values aren’t being trashed or that an adequate buffer to rainforest applied. It is a fact that many rainforest fauna species including spotted-tailed quolls, sooty owls and masked owls rely on large hollow eucalypts either in or adjacent to rainforest. Considering Australia’s pathetic record for mammal extinctions it is fiction indeed to think we are protecting threatened species adequately.

 

Glenn Little, Dorrigo


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