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March 5, 2021

Call to investigate Forestry Corp over trashing of Border Ranges forest

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Habitat of the yellow bellied glider is under threat by the Forestry Corp's trashing of Cherry Tree State Forest. Photo Girraween NP website
Habitat of the yellow bellied glider is under threat by the Forestry Corp’s trashing of Cherry Tree State Forest. Photo Girraween NP website

Conservation groups have called for a government inquiry into the running of NSW Forestry Corporation and accused the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) of being ‘part of the problem’ following what they say are ‘thousands of breaches of the rules’ at just one north coast logging site recently.

North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) identified roads built illegally through endangered rainforest and plants vulnerable to extinction, multiple failures to find and protect feed trees for koalas and yellow-bellied gliders before logging, and thousands of breaches of the rules for retaining and protecting fauna habitat trees in a new report on site inspections in Cherry Tree State Forest, west of Casino, following recent logging operations by the Forestry Corp.

Byron Bay ecologist Dailan Pugh explains why the planned new suburb of West Byron isn't needed at a recent community meeting.
NEFA spopkespersona and Byron Bay ecologist Dailan Pugh.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said it was ‘profoundly disappointing’ that most of the breaches happened after NEFA alerted the Environment Minister to ‘obvious problems’ in March, and ‘despite the EPA’s Forestry Unit undertaking a number of site inspections’.

‘While the EPA’s Forestry Unit watched, the Forestry Corporation continued to rampage through the forest causing widespread damage to the surviving trees, logging trees they were required to retain, building roads into, and logging, endangered Lowland Rainforest, failing to look for and protect key habitat of threatened animals, and initiating erosion, while spreading lantana and forest dieback,’ Mr Pugh said.

‘The EPA Forestry Unit approved roads through an Endangered Ecological Community – a stand of Lowland Rainforest – in an area that we believe was fraudulently misrepresented by the Forestry Corporation as eucalypt forest. Had EPA’s Forestry Unit done its due diligence they would not have approved a blatantly illegal road,’ he added.

NEFA’s audit of Cherry Tree State Forest found that 2,000 (44 per cent) of the habitat trees destroyed should have been retained, and uncovered 1,600 breaches of the rules for protecting the trees that were retained, and noted these were not isolated instances, but ‘more examples of breaches that have been going on for decades’.

Flagrant breaches

The discovery has prompted the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) to call for an independent review of the Corporation’s compliance with environmental laws.

‘The Baird government should establish an independent review of the Forestry Corporation’s compliance with environmental laws, and identify ways to change the practices and culture of the organisation to significantly improve its performance,’ NCC CEO Kate Smolski said.

Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Kate Smolski. Photo Twitter
Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Kate Smolski. Photo Twitter

‘The flagrant breaches of environmental protection laws during logging operations at Cherry Tree State Forests are symptomatic of a broader failure of the state forest agency to take its environmental stewardship responsibilities seriously.

Ms Smolski said it was not only conservation groups who have a dim view of the corporation’s environmental performance.

‘Land and Environment Court Justice Rachel Pepper remarked during a recent case that the corporation had a ‘reckless attitude towards compliance with its environmental obligations’.

‘The EPA should be part of the solution, but at the moment it is part of the problem.

‘The EPA’s lax enforcement of threatened species and pollution laws enables the Forestry Corporation to continue its environmentally destructive behaviours.

‘What we need is independent watchdog for the environment and their is a strong perception in the community that the EPA had been captured by the industries it regulates.

‘We are facing an extinction crisis in NSW, with almost 1000 species on the endangered list, including 60 per cent of native mammals.

‘If we allow the Forestry Corporation to continue to trash our forests the way it has for decades, the consequences for our native wildlife will be catastrophic.’

Lax EPA

Despite the egregious breaches, the EPA and the courts have issued fines in just the tens of thousands of dollars.

Environment minister Mark Speakman told The Sydney Morning Herald this morning that the government would review penalties in the new year.

But Mr Pugh said Speakman and and the EPA were part of the problem.

‘The minister and EPA’s Forestry Unit did not stop the Corporation’s flouting of legal requirements to retain and protect hollow-bearing and recruitment habitat trees – despite our highlighting the serial abuses occurring – is unacceptable’, he said.

‘The loss of tree-hollows needed as homes by many native species, such as possums, gliders, owls, cockatoos and parrots, is an unfolding ecological disaster. Meanwhile the EPA Forestry Unit and Forestry Corporation are ignoring the Key Threatening Processes of lantana invasion and Bell Miner Associated Dieback, even though these impacts are spreading through the forests,’ he said.

‘The NSW environment minister must not continue to ignore these flagrant, intentional breaches of his logging approval and their serious harm to the environment. Since he, not the EPA, has the power to require compliance with Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management conditions, minister Speakman must intervene and force the loggers to comply with law, or halt the logging completely, Mr Pugh said.


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Profits of this corporation at any cost otherwise? As is pointed out here, this must be stopped before there is nothing left at all. A new system that easily protects is needed. Whats on now clearly does not work.

  2. The EPA have a full-time job facilitating the destruction of the environment,
    As one,James Hacker (Yes Minister) soon discovered, government entities are given names that are the exact opposite of their key functions, eg The dept. of defense, the office of employment and training,The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, Intelligence agencies etc.etc. and the Environmental Protection Authority is certainly no exception !
    No blame can be attributed to the Forestry Corporation (Anti- forestry Corporation ) as the type employed here are far below the thresh- hold of intelligence needed for legal responsibility, and are obviously devoid of moral responsibility as well. This only leaves each and everyone of us, that standby and lets this destruction of our environment occur, which is at least as catastrophic as CSG and just as un-needed a destruction of our children’s future. .
    G”)

  3. The High Court recently ruled that all levels of government, including councils, were corporations. Should we be surprised that they too are corrupt? They just simply do not care about species extinctions. Not only are they morally bankrupt they are irresponsible and negligent and our native animals have to pay the price. Thank goodness for people like Dailan Pugh and his band of helpers at NEFA.

  4. The reality is that your environment watch dog is no longer empowered to protect the environment.

    If there is a profit to be made by cutting down trees or mining in National Parks the environmental rapists win.

  5. Establishing laws to save our native forests was supposed to be a big win for NEFA – yet successive govts have whittled away the safeguards and let the loggers loose in areas that should never be logged. It’s going to be a lot harder to blockade the forests too, with huge fines for anyone entering a State Forest without the appropriate permits. Axe wielding murderers are allowed in, activists trying to save our wildlife and forests will be arrested!

    It’s a pretty fucked up democracy we are tolerating around here!

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