Concerns over erosion management, significant damage to important habitat trees and disregard for Aboriginal heritage at Busby’s Flat near Casino have been raised by North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) president Jim Morrison in relation to plantation clearing taking place over the weekend.
Mr Morrison was driving past when he noticed piles of burning debris that had been pushed around a group of habitat trees, probably more than a hundred years old, as part of the massive plantation clearing operation.
‘While NCEC supports a transition from native forest logging to a plantation based timber industry, the industry needs to be responsible and abide by the law,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘Those trees were retained as part of the initial approval for plantation establishment. Habitat trees are those with hollows in their branches that provide vital habitat for many animals that are threatened with extinction. There are 37 known threatened fauna species on the adjacent property many of which depend upon hollows for their survival.’
On the adjacent property where Mr Morrison has worked there have been eight Aboriginal scar trees identified and these are also known to occur across the area.
‘These trees could be easily be damaged through poorly managed plantation harvesting. The properties that are being cleared have never been properly surveyed,’ he said.
Mr Morrison was clear that he was not blaming the landowners but rather had concerns over the way the contracting company was managing the site.
‘Not only have they broken the Plantation Code by destroying the habitat trees, but closer inspection suggests they are not implementing adequate erosion control guidelines on steep slopes and across the extensive flood plain. If we have an intense rainfall event in the coming weeks, the clearing could result in serious pollution of downstream creeks in the small sub catchment. I’ve seen the water waist deep on this site during extreme flood events.’
Locals have also expressed concerns at the operation of machinery that is going on for almost 24 hours a day, which they have been told is to meet contractual deadlines, and the condition of the roads.
‘The roads were done up to a good standard prior to the clearing starting but over the last six to eight weeks the roads have been trashed with the 20 to 30 double B trucks a day that are using it. Locals want to know if the company will be repairing the roads or if this will be a cost to the ratepayer,’ continued Morrison.
‘There is very little transparency about what is going on. But it’s not being value-added in Australia.
‘These plantations were established as part of Managed Investment Schemes -MIS- that were taxpayer subsidised. A lot of native trees were cleared at the time to make way for them. Now, more vital habitat is being destroyed as the plantations are prematurely cleared.
‘If taxpayer subsidised plantations are to be a viable alternative to native forest logging they need to be well-managed to provide sawlogs to supplement the impending shortfall in native forest logs. It’s pretty clear this is yet another example of the taxpayer not getting value for money when it comes to the timber industry,’ Mr Morrison said.
Johanna Kempff the local plantation officer for the department of primary industries (DPI) has requested any concerns about plantation timber harvesting and management of the site and process be reported to the DPI.
‘There are a number of plantation harvests going on in the region at the moment and if we receive reports that concern these we can go onsite and do an assessment,’ she said.
If you have concerns call her on 6626 1105 or 0419478 277.
Comment was sought from Richmond Valley Council but not received prior to print.