More than 60 per cent of North Coast forests and 80 per cent of South Coast forests were burnt in the 2019–20 black summer fires. Since that point issues around the management and logging of these and other forests have been highlighted and ‘the Guardian has revealed that the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will likely be engaged to conduct a review to “consider the standards that should be in place for forestry operations after bushfires.”,’ said Independent NSW MLC Justin Field.
Mr Field has called on the NSW government to give an undertaking to NSW coastal communities that new approvals for logging in the state’s badly burnt public state forests will not be approved until a review by the state’s Independent NRC is completed.
‘It’s one year to the week since the devastating Currowan fire took hold on the South Coast. The community always understood business as usual wasn’t possible after the fires but the politics has been slow to move and a lot of damage has been done,’ said Mr Field.
‘This review is a political fix to try to find a circuit breaker in what has been an escalating public conflict between John Barilaro’s department and the NSW EPA. The NRC are effectively being asked to be the arbiter in this disagreement.
‘In part this review is in response to numerous EPA stop-work orders and investigations into breaches by Forestry Corporation under the burnt forest logging rules.
‘I am seeking an undertaking from the Government that new approvals for logging in bushfire affected forests will not be granted until we’ve seen the outcome of the review,’ Mr Field said.
‘The review comes after a public dispute between Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s Department of Regional NSW and the NSW Environment Protection Authority over the ‘site specific operating conditions’ the EPA had put in place to minimise environmental damage of burnt forest logging,’ says Mr Field.
‘The dispute had led to the EPA warning Forestry Corporation that plans to move back to logging under pre-fire conditions would likely breach the NSW Forestry Act which requires ecologically sustainable forest management practices. ‘
Local Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith told Echonetdaily that, ‘The Greens oppose logging in native forests on a good day, let alone after catastrophic bushfires and the subsequent destruction of wildlife and biodiversity on an unprecedented scale in NSW last summer.
‘I and thousands of environmentalists begged the government to send in ecologists after the fires last summer not loggers, but they did any way.
‘The idea that with 1.7 degrees of global warming already locked in that logging of native forests is even on the table is the kind of environmental vandalism that future generations will study as pivotal to sealing a fate of extinction for koalas and platypus and countless other species,’ said Ms Smith.
Mr Field said that he supports the review and that it needs to consider wood supply impact from the fires and if logging in public native forests is viable in the future.
‘It is clear that business as usual is not possible. This issue is of significant public interest and the review needs to be open and transparent if it is going to be accepted by the community.
‘I hope this review reignites the conversation about a transition away from public native forestry. We can reimagine a much more positive future for our public forests as critical ecological and recreational reserves and create a transition plan for the timber sector into plantations and private land forestry where that can be done responsibly,’ he said.