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Byron Shire
March 4, 2024

Will Braemar Forest be the first koala habitat sacrificed under new laws?

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Koala advocates say they may end up blockading the Braemar State Forest if the NSW Forestry Corporation tries to start logging there soon.

Logging was due to start Friday 13 September but has been delayed after more than a hundred protestors gathered in the forest south of Casino.

Tim Watson came from Lawrence for the event, attending because of concerns both for the global extinction crisis and threats to his local koala population. ‘They’re going extinct at a massive rate because of land-clearing and forestry commission, loss of habitat, fires, roadkill,’ he said. ‘We’re destroying all their homes.’

Danny Lett came from Grafton and is familiar with the result of logging impacts and other damage done to koalas and fellow native species as a wildlife carer.

The large crowd included activist veterans from several major campaigns who have joined forces for this issue, with featured speakers including former Environmental Defenders Office CEO Sue Higginson, koala expert Dr Steve Phillips, North East Forestry Alliance representative Dailan Pugh, Widjabul Wijabul elder John Roberts and his niece Cindy Roberts.

Crowd listens to Dailan Pugh. Photo David Lowe

Mr Pugh said the initial aim of the day was to get as many people as possible out to the forest to demonstrate public concern for the koalas that live there.

With no logging in the Braemar Forest for the past twenty years, Mr Pugh said the threatened area boasted an ‘exceptional population of koalas’, proven by scat collection and other scientific research.

Braemar State Forest: the first koala habitat to be sacrificed under new state laws?

Mr Pugh said old logging rules protected high use koala use areas but weren’t enforced and more recently, state koala protection laws had been weakened so much they were ‘grossly inadequate’.

‘This is the first area in NSW planned to be logged under the new rules,’ Mr Pugh said.  ‘It’s the first trial area for how they’re going to treat koala habitat across the state, so it’s really significant for the future of koalas.’

Sue Higginson was upbeat about the chances of saving the forest, saying ‘We can win this together but it’s going to take every single one of you.’

‘We know it’s our time to win because the stakes are too high. The latest IPCC report made it crystal clear that if we are to have any chance of drawing down carbon and making our future safer, we need to stop logging our precious native forests’.

Ms Higginson said public forests didn’t belong to Boral or the Forestry Corporation but to the people.

‘The public estate belongs to us,’ she said.

Sue Higginson speaking at Braemar State Forest. Photo David Lowe

Koala expert says NSW koala protection law is ‘bullshit’

Dr Steve Phillips is a self-described ‘koala tragic’ who has worked with the animals for forty years. 

‘This is an unusual forum for me, ‘ he said, ‘but Dailan’s right and Sue’s right. It’s time to stand up. Enough’s enough. This is a key regional stronghold for koalas.’

Dr Phillips dismissed the government’s recents attempts to paint itself as a friend of koalas. ‘It’s all bullshit,’ he said.

Dr Phillips told the crowd the NSW government had mapped the area and was well aware of its significance for koalas but none of that seemed to matter. 

‘It’s time to get angry,’ he said.

Indigenous elder criticises logging

Widjabul Wijabul elder John Roberts said logging was forcing koalas and other animals out of the forest and on to highways.

‘There’s animals and there’s habitat – you can’t protect one without the other. We need this habitat to be protected,’ Mr Roberts said.

Elder John Roberts at Braemar State Forest. Photo David Lowe

His niece Cindy Roberts spoke about the ancestral significance of budabee (koalas) and her own personal connection with the animals.

‘We have a responsibility as the caretakers of this land to protect,’ she said. ‘There are also opportunities for employment of Bundjalung people as rangers and caretakers. ‘We need to work in partnership and all do this together.’

Braemar Forest rally crowd. Photo Jimmy Malecki

Diary date: koala inquiry to visit Byron next month

Greens Member of the Legislative Council Cate Faehrmann is chairing the NSW Government’s koala population inquiry and paid tribute to NEFA and Dailan Pugh’s role in championing the forest issue. 

Ms Faehrmann said there would be a public hearing in Ballina on Friday 18 October with the whole parliamentary committee present.

The environment minister had admitted to seeing a koala in the Braemar State Forest, but was hamstrung by weakened protection laws, Ms Faehrmann said.

NSW Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann speaking at the rally. Photo David Lowe

The Greens MLC said it would take a coming together of many groups for success in the battles ahead, and that ‘Sydney folk who are concerned about extinction and climate change’ needed to join the frontline, including the one for koalas in Braemar State Forest.

Dailan Pugh said he was really pleased to see so many people coming out to make a stand for koalas and prevent their habitat being trashed. ‘That’s the only thing that can win this,’ he said.

There is now a reprieve of at least two and possibly four weeks before the Forestry Corporation returns to Braemar State Forest. Blockading is a distinct possibility.

For more information on koalas, habitat and their protection, contact NEFA.

 

 


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6 COMMENTS

  1. This is just SO IMPORTANT! I’m sure people haven’t realized yet how important.
    This forest is proven high use koala habitat.
    The protesters found loads of scats under 6 trees & a koala sitting in one watching the proceedings !
    However – this forest is marked for logging in two weeks Koala (trees already chalk marked)

    This is UNHEARD OF since last century.
    We will be bulldozing & sawing down koala forest WITHOUT EVEN SPOTTING FOR ANIMALS.

    This logging will be the first test of NEW LAWS laws that no longer protect endangered Koalas & their homes
    We can now simply chop ‘em down & let ‘em fend for themselves!
    Please come to the next forest “Action” &
    tell anyone you know who doesn’t want to see Koalas smashed to the ground – & the survivors left without homes or food !!

  2. Im so grateful for hearing the comments and opinions of the concerned local people, and their honest dismissal of govt spin and political game playing. This feels reliable and like these people are the ones to listen to for what is really going on.

  3. We were there on Sunday with a fab turnout. The LNP is running a rear guard action with the pretence that they are PROTECTING Koalas…this is bullshit but the public will believe it. The LNP has blitzed the media with claims of concern for koalas & $42 mill spent on Koala hospitals etc FACT is Koala habitat under the “new’ laws protect loggers & NOT Koalas , this misinformation may fool the general public.We need loads of concerned & aware individuals to turn up to the protests once Forestry Commission goes into Braemar. PLEASE fellow kindred spirits keep in touch as we MUST stand together. Nothing else will prevent this impending carnage.

  4. This is a state forest where management should be leading by example to re-inforce and improve the ecological values. Government should be excited that koalas are thriving, and make sure that the forest is given best practice attention to manage and expand koala habitat, particularly by recognising buffer zones to reduce the impacts of human activity (vehicles, dogs, cats, pollution etc) on vulnerable wildlife communities.

    Instead of bulldozing and clear felling new sites, Forestry NSW should be targeting many thousands of degraded landscapes in NSW to plant native trees to fulfil future timber demands and support the government’s own objectives for emissions reduction and canopy increases.

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