Destruction of high value forest and koala habitat have sparked a demonstration planned for this Thursday outside MP Geoff Provest’s office at 2pm. Residents raised the alarm when they discovered the illegal logging and road building in Environment Protection Zones (EPZ) near Limpinwood, between Chillingham and Tyalgum, with further concerns being raised about the large trucks operating on narrow winding roads that are a hazard to public safety, especially during school bus times.
The Northern Rivers Guardians (NRG) will be delivering a letter to Members of Parliament Geoff Provest (Tweed) and Thomas George (Lismore) as part of Thursday’s demonstration seeking urgent action to protect the wildlife corridor connecting our World Heritage biodiversity hotspots. They will urge the MPs to contact environment minister, Gabrielle Upton, asking her to stop the logging and unauthorised road building.
Test for new laws
‘I see this as an early test for the NSW new laws governing land clearing which came into force last month,’ said Scott Sledge, president of NRG.
‘During the drafting process, the NSW government gave assurances that the provisions of the Biodiversity Conservation Act would mean stronger protection for our wildlife than the previous laws. Now we will see if the new laws will result in better outcomes for nature conservation as promised.’
Dave Norris, community representative for the Tweed Shire Council, Koala Management Committee said, ‘The environment minister has power to make a stop work order for 40 days if the Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) are of the opinion that any action is being, or is about to be, carried out… that is likely to result in harm to a threatened species.’
Illegal clearing again
The land where the illegal clearing has taken place is owned by Hewittville Holdings who have cleared illegally on two previous occasions at the property.
Tweed Shire mayor, Katie Milne, said she expects Council will agree to engage solicitors for prosecution and to pursue a stop work court order at the Tweed Shire Council meeting this Thursday.
‘I will be asking that the state government to urgently revoke this logging licence due to the serious and repeated offences in this highly sensitive area,’ she said.
In addition to public safety and environment concerns, mayor Milne wants a comprehensive study of cultural heritage sites on and around the site which predictive mapping show to be significant.
Following a unanimous vote by Council on September 7, Tweed mayor Milne wrote to Minister Upton asking for urgent action to stop work and asking for authority for compliance to be delegated to Council. So far the Minister has not responded, despite damage to forest habitats which form an important wildlife connection corridor for one of the world’s most varied biodiversity areas, including the Wollumbin, Border Ranges and Nightcap National Parks.
North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) representatives visited the Limpinwood site and found damage to high use koala habitat and the presence of numerous protected species. Aerial photography confirmed the logging was in EPZ that require Council approval. Last week Tweed Council officers went to the property and are reported to be unhappy with Hewittville’s breaches.
NEFA believes that the new laws will allow unsustainable logging intensity to increase with unauthorised land clearing due to EPA facilitating logging by Forestry Corporation NSW and private operators because the EPA fails to enforce existing rules. The nearest EPA office is three hours away at Grafton.
‘NRG will also ask the federal government to intervene with whatever powers they may have,’ said Mr Sledge.
‘We are happy that Richmond MP Justine Elliot has written to Minister Upton asking for immediate action to stop the logging at Limpinwood.’