Long-time North Coast forest protector Dailan Pugh said he is ‘at my wits end’ after the NSW Forestry Corporation yesterday failed to honour an agreement that saw an end to activists occupying Gibberagee state forest last week.
That agreement would have seen an onsite inspection today with both Forestry and the EPA of a series of NEFA-audited failures to protect forest habitat while logging.
Mr Pugh described the backdown as ‘a new low’ for the state government body, which over a decade has openly flouted rules designed to protect koalas and eight hollow-dwelling forest animals.
He is also angry at government changes that have turned the EPA into a toothless tiger.
Since 2016, ‘for purely political reasons, they have stopped even handing out fines,’ he told Echonetdaily, and they wait up to two years to publish their investigations of our audits.
Outraged at Forestry’s ongoing illegal practices that are pushing endangered species closer to extinction, forest protectors gathered at Gibberagee last Wednesday (February 13).
After a day of protesting, including a lock-on to forestry equipment, NEFA proposed to on-site harvesting manager Dale Mclean that people would leave if the Forestry Corporation would allow NEFA to show them and the EPA the breaches it had documented within a week.
‘During an open phone call with the Forestry Corporation’s senior production manager Mike Farrow, Dale acknowledged that they agreed to a site inspection within a week with NEFA, and the EPA if they agreed, to inspect the breaches we had identified.
‘It was also agreed that we could then show them a koala high use tree we had identified so they could do the required search, and that an unlogged 5.5ha area we had audited would not be logged until after the joint inspection.
‘We took them at their word, so that afternoon the person unlocked himself from the machine, people packed-up and left and we showed Forestry the koala high use tree,’ he said.
So much for promises.
Minister ignores appeals
It’s not the first time NEFA has been let down over Gibberagee
‘Two years ago members were ordered out of the forest by the Forestry Corporation after being invited in by the EPA to show them the breaches they had found.
‘The illegal logging continued unabated. The EPA then waited until logging had been over for more than a year before confirming our complaints, and taking meaningless regulatory action
‘Our appeal to [NSW environment minister] Gabrielle Upton to stop the illegal logging of koala habitat at Gibberagee has so far been in vain’ he said.
Mr Pugh added that despite the decade of infractions NEFA was still prepared to take Forestry officers at their word – until yesterday.
‘It is hard to know what to do after this,’ he said. ‘People are getting very angry.’