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Byron Shire
June 20, 2024

Northern rivers logging practices under scrutiny

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The NSW Environment Defenders Office is calling for tougher penalties for loggers breaching conditions in northern rivers forests.

The NSW Forestry Corporation received three fines of $300 each for logging koala habitat in Royal Camp state forest near Casino last year, outraging environmental groups.

The EDO said such fines failed to deter unlawful logging activities, and local residents now have their chance to have a say on how to improve the situation.

EDO’s Lismore solicitor Nina Lucas said the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) was being scrutinised following a number of serious environmental incidents, ranging from air and water pollution to poor forestry practices in the northern rivers region.

Ms Lucas said an inquiry by the Legislative Council would examine whether the EPA was meeting its objectives, which included ‘protecting, restoring and enhancing the quality of the NSW environment, and preventing the degradation of the environment’.

‘Forestry laws, unlike most environmental and planning laws, do not allow the community to bring civil enforcement proceedings if there is a breach of the law,’ she said.

‘It is up to the EPA, as the regulatory authority, to police breaches.

‘The barriers to third party enforcement must be removed in the context of systemic breaches of forestry regulations and the failure of the relevant agencies to adequately enforce breaches of forestry regulations.’

She said the inquiry was open to public feedback until Friday 29 August.

EDO NSW’s principal solicitor Sue Higginson said the EDO had already raised a number of issues in previous reports.

Ms Higginson said those reports had called for improvements to the current regulatory system to improve its performance.

She said the report entitled ‘If a tree falls: Compliance failures in the public forests of New South Wales’ had identified numerous breaches.

‘[The report] makes a number of recommendations to address the inadequacies of the current regulatory system, including strengthening maximum penalties for forestry breaches’, she said.

Ms Higginson urged people to visit the EDO’s website for information on how to make a submission to the inquiry.

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