The North East Forest Alliance is calling for an immediate 10% reduction in wood supply commitments to north-coast sawmillers from public forests because of the widespread death of trees due to the Black Summer bushfires, as well as a freeze on any new commitments until sufficient plots are sampled to accurately quantify remaining timber volumes.
The Forestry Corporation report 2019–20 Wildfires, NSW Coastal Hardwood Forests Sustainable Yield Review undertakes a preliminary desktop review of the likely impacts of the Black Summer wildfires on timber resources.
Forestry Corporation estimate there has been a significant loss of trees across at least a third of the north coast’s State Forests (north from Gosford), with a loss of 10-50% of large sawlog sized trees over 30 cm diameter at breast height, and 50-100% of smaller trees, according to NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
‘The worst affected stands were those logged in the previous 4 years where over 90% of trees were killed,’ said Mr Pugh.
‘Overall, across the north coast State Forests, the Forestry Corporation estimate there has been a loss of around 10% of sawlogs and 25% of smaller trees.
‘North from Coffs Harbour these losses increase to 15% of sawlogs and 35% of smaller trees.’
Bewildering response from Forestry Corporation
NEFA’s Dailan Pugh said, ‘It is bewildering how the Forestry Corporation can conclude from this data that there will only be a 4% reduction in high quality sawlogs from the north coast over the next decade.
‘It appears the NSW Government intends to rely upon this simplistic review to sign new Wood Supply Agreements to replace the current 20 year agreements due to expire in 2023.
‘What is most perplexing is that the Forestry Corporation did not remeasure any of their 659 field plots within the heavily burnt forests to obtain real data on impacts so that they can more accurately quantify impacts and future yields,’ he said.
‘The last two times the NSW Government gave sawmill owners guarantees for specific timber volumes in 1998 and 2003 they were found to be gross over-estimates and it cost NSW taxpayers over $12 million to buy back non-existent timber we gave to sawmillers for free.
‘At the very least the government owes taxpayers a full and proper assessment of the bushfire impacts before they consider repeating past mistakes.
‘Though with bushfires and droughts increasing as climate heating accelerates, it is time we stopped logging public forests to increase their resilience and maximise their carbon storage.’ said Mr Pugh.
Logging in NSW State Forests financially unviable and ecologically unsustainable
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW said that the Forestry Corporation report in question was dated December 2020, and only made public recently, after a parliamentary inquiry forced its release.
‘This report shows yet again that logging in NSW State forests is both financially unviable and ecological unsustainable,’ said NCC Chief Executive Chris Gambian.
‘The government now needs to outline its plan to transition out of native forest logging to a sustainable plantation based industry.
‘The EPA slowed Forestry Corp’s destructive behaviour by enforcing post-fire logging rules, but the corporation has now gone rogue, defying EPA controls and resuming pre-fire logging practices.’
Time for governnment to do its job?
Chris Gambian said, ‘The NSW government must resume control of the state’s public forests and manage them for all of us, not just the big resources companies.
‘The Coalition government’s decision in 2012 to let a state-owned corporation manage our forests has cost taxpayers millions and degraded a priceless community asset.
‘It is time to end this failed experiment,’ he said.
‘Our public forests are in serious decline because of decades of unsustainable logging, and the Black Summer bushfires were a massive hit. They must be given time to recover.
‘Logging at rates Forestry Corp wants to set will convert our public forests from stands of big old trees to thickets of saplings destined for the chip mill. There is nothing sustainable about that,’ concluded Mr Gambian.
The Nature Conservation Council has renewed calls for an end to native forest logging in State Forests, following revelations that up to 30% of the quality timber in some regions was destroyed by the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.