A representative of the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) was ejected from a meeting that he called with the Environment Protection Authority at Gibberagee State Forest after it was ‘gatecrashed by the Forestry Corporation’.
NEFA auditor Dailan Pugh said he was invited to Gibberagee by the EPA on Friday (March 10) so that he could show them logging was taking place into what were meant to be exclusion zones around the nationally Endangered Narrow-leaved Melichrus, which only occurs at Gibberagee.
But he was directed to leave by the Forestry Corporation without being allowed to show the EPA anything.
‘A month ago I sent the EPA a complaint after identifying that the Forestry Corporation were refusing to identify the legally required buffers around the Endangered plant Narrow-leaf Melichrus,’ Mr Pugh told Echonetdaily.
He added they were ‘recklessly damaging hollow-bearing and recruitment trees, and logging “unmapped” streams in the immediate catchment of the regionally significant seagrass beds of The Broadwater.’
‘Bryce Gorham of the EPA invited me to come out to the forest last Friday “to accurately identify (on ground identification) of the alleged breach of intrusion into a Melichrus sp.Giberagee exclusion zone”,’ he said.
‘I expected that the EPA would only invite me if they had the authority to do so.
‘The EPA were late, so while waiting I looked around, finding two more places where logging had extended into what were meant to be 50m exclusion zones around Narrow-leaf Melichrus, in one case by 22m.
‘When the EPA belatedly arrived they had a Forestry Corporation employee, Jamie Churchill, with them.
‘He told me to leave the forest on the grounds of occupational health and safety. I insisted that I had been invited into the forest by the EPA and that, in the area where we were, logging had finished some three months ago so we were not interfering with an active operation and there were no safety issues.’
Mr Pugh said he told both the EPA and Forestry Corporation that he had just found another legal breach nearby, and asked to at least be able to show it to them.
But, he added, the Forestry Corporation refused ‘and the EPA went along with them’.
‘After driving two hours to get there I was forced to leave without being allowed to show the EPA anything.
‘The EPA should never have invited me if they don’t have the authority to stand up to Forestry Corporation bullying.
‘Given that I located more breaches so quickly I have no doubt that there are many more to be found. The reason I was asked to leave had nothing to do with health and safety, the Forestry Corporation did not want me showing the EPA breaches I had found, let alone finding more’ Mr Pugh said.
He added that while the logging of unmapped streams (about half of all headwater streams) is legally permitted ‘because the Forestry Corporation is allowed to ‘switch-off’ their Environmental Protection Licence,’ he had asked Fisheries NSW to intervene over a month ago ‘because of the danger of sediments from the logging smothering the regionally significant seagrass beds seven kilometre downstream in The Broadwater.
But he said nothing had been done.
‘Logging of stream banks should never have been allowed in the headwaters of The Broadwater, to do so is environmental vandalism, the buffers should have been doubled in such a significant area, not removed’ Mr Pugh said.