The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) has accused the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) of ‘intentionally misleading’ the community by claiming that unmapped streams in state forests in the Richmond catchment are not currently required to be protected by 10-metre buffers.
Last month the EPA announced that land-clearing buffers for unmarked streams in the state would be reduced from 10 metres to five.
But, NEFA says, the authority tried to paint it as a win for the environment by saying that the changes would bring unmarked water courses in state forests into line with all other streams in the state
‘NEFA categorically rejects the EPA’s claim that unmapped streams on state forests in the Richmond catchment do not have a 10-metre buffer applied, and stand by our contention that all mapped headwater streams, and most unmapped ones, are currently legally required to have 10-metre buffers applied’, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
‘We maintain that it is environmentally irresponsible for the EPA to halve the protection of headwater streams on state forests in the Richmond catchment from 10 metres to five metres and have no doubt that this will result in increased pollution and degradation of the river.’
The announcement comes on the back of news that the Richmond River catchment is already in bad shape.
Last week North Coast Local Land Services released its Ecohealth report on the state of the Richmond River valley, which gave an overall score for the catchment of just D+.
Scores ranged from an F in the Wilsons River and Richmond River estuary to a C in the headwater streams of the catchment, such as Iron Pot Creek.
Twelve of the 17 river systems recorded a score of D or less.
The headwater streams will now face even further pressure as many of them contain areas of state forest.
‘We are disappointed with the EPA’s secrecy surrounding their remake of logging rules, we are shocked by their proposed introduction of widespread clear-felling and reductions in protections for streams and threatened species, though we are disgusted with their misinformation about what they are intending’.
Mr. Pugh said, ‘When I let the public know about their proposal to zone 143,000 hectares of public forests between Taree and Grafton for intensive clear-felling, the EPA accused me of being ‘selective’ and ‘misleading’. When I asked them to justify this they first told me it was their ‘perspective’.
‘It took me three requests before they told me that it was because I had not mentioned that existing exclusion areas within this zone will still be protected, though they claimed to not know how much of the area would be protected. I had neither misrepresented the truth nor tried to mislead anyone,’ he added.
‘So it is outrageous for the EPA to now knowingly mislead the community about the level of protection currently applied to headwater streams in the Richmond catchment so as to again attempt to discredit me. They are trying to muddy the waters while they slash protection for our already severely degraded rivers.
‘What we need is an honest authority that will apply the best science and stand up for the environment, rather than a reluctant and ineffective regulator intent on gutting the rules to reward the Forestry Corporation’s decades of unlawful activities.
‘We reiterate our call for the NSW environment minister, Mark Speakman, to do his duty and stop the EPA from knowingly and intentionally allowing increased pollution of our rivers’ Mr. Pugh said.