The North East Forest Alliance has described as ‘misdirection’ the claim by the National Party that their spending of $45.7 million under the NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy will result in an improvement in the water quality of North Coast rivers.
They say any benefits will be ‘overwhelmed by the deterioration resulting from their intention to open up for logging some 22,000 ha of stream buffers in headwaters north from the Hunter River’.
‘Throwing money at the problem will have no effect until they address the causes, and one of the most significant causes of stream degradation is loss of riparian vegetation’, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
‘The National Party are giving with one hand while taking away with the other. Once again they are using money hand-outs to distract from the real and lasting damage they intend to do to our environment, this time by distracting from the massively increased damage they are doing to our river’s vital headwaters.
‘There are some 46,000 kilometres of streams on north coast State Forests from the Hunter River to the Queensland border, of which 34,300 km (75 per cent) are in headwater catchments less that 20ha in size.
‘The government’s intent is to reduce already inadequate buffers around headwater streams on State Forests from 10 metres wide down to a measly 5 metres. This will result in the loss of some 22,000 hectares of currently protected stream buffers.
‘To get access to more timber they are also removing 30 metres of riparian buffers around recorded [habitats of the] threatened Giant Barred Frog, Fleay’s Barred Frog, Stuttering Frog, and Golden-tipped Bat.
‘The headwaters of our rivers are vital to their health as this is where most of the interaction between the land and waters occurs. The retention of undisturbed buffers around streams is essential to trap sediments from entering waters, stabilise stream banks, shade waters, provide food and other resources to the aquatic environment, and maintain riparian habitat.
‘The scientific evidence is that stream buffers should be at least 30 metres wide to maintain water quality and stream health.
‘Even the government’s own Threatened Species Expert Panel advised against opening up riparian buffers protected for the past 20 years from logging.
NEFA concurs with National’s Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW Ben Franklin’s comment in relation to the Richmond River that, ‘To continue to thrive as a community, we need to ensure we sustainably manage our river and coastline, so that we can continue to enjoy the many benefits our river provides to our region and the NSW economy’.
‘We ask Ben Franklin to recognise that the health of the Richmond River depends upon its headwaters, of which State Forests are an important component, encompassing almost 10 per cent of the catchment and 4,155 kilometres of its tributaries’, Mr Pugh continued.
‘If the National Party were really concerned about the health of the Richmond River they would reverse their proposal to remove protection for 2,500 ha of existing stream buffers on State Forests in its catchment, and they would instead increase buffers on headwater streams to the 20 metres recommended by the Department of Land and Water Conservation for the Richmond catchment in 2001.
‘If the National Party gives a damn about the health of North Coast rivers they will not proceed with the removal of 22,000 ha of existing riparian buffers in their headwaters and instead identify how they can contribute to improved protection and restoration of riparian buffers throughout catchments’ Mr Pugh said.