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Byron Shire
December 3, 2021

Secret report reveals government ignored advice to stop logging after Black Summer fires

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Burnt koala habitat following the Black Summer fires of 2019/20. Photo supplied.

Following a leaked report it has become clear that independent advice to the NSW government to stop logging areas hardest hit by the Black Summer bushfires was ignored.

The government have kept the independent Natural Resources Commission’s (NRC) report secret since June 2021 but extracts have been published today by The Guardian Australia.

Fire fighters battling flames on the Woombah to Iluka road in November 2019. Photo Ewan Willis.

‘It is now clear the government was advised it should suspend timber harvesting for at least three years in extreme risk zone, including Narooma, Nowra and Taree,’ Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has described a leaked Natural Resources Commission report into post fire logging in NSW as ‘shocking’ and makes clear that business as usual for the native forest logging industry is simply not possible or acceptable in the aftermath of the 2019/20 fires.

‘This report tells us what people who lived through the fires instinctively know, that the fires changed everything and business as usual is simply not possible or acceptable,’ said Mr Field.

In fact this has been highlighted by the recent protests against logging in Cherry Tree State Forest and protests in Comboyne State Forests west of Port Macquarie.

This koala didn’t survive the Black Summer fire in Ellangowan State Forest.

‘There is no fair analysis of this report’s findings other than that ongoing logging of native forests is environmentally and economically unsustainable and we need a plan to transition out of native forest logging in NSW.’

Mr Gambian said that ‘The leaked extracts from the NRC report validate what the conservation movement has said since day one – logging must stop in burnt native forests to give them a chance to recover.

‘For some unknown reason, the government and its logging company, Forestry Corporation, chose to ignore the expert advice and put wildlife at extreme risk.

‘It’s quite astonishing. If you were looking for a case study of environmental negligence, you wouldn’t need to look any further than this. The government must explain why it has kept this report secret for almost 18 months and also why it has not fully implemented the recommendations,’ he said.

Cartoon by Melany Barsony.

Logging moratorium

Mr Field has called for ‘an immediate moratorium on logging in all “extreme”, “high”, and “medium” risk sites identified in the report given the failure of the NSW Government to address the risk of “serious and irreversible” harm to the environment risks of continued logging in these areas’.

The report was commissioned in early 2021 and completed in June. Since then the Government has resisted multiple efforts by the NSW Legislative Council to make the report public claiming ‘cabinet secrecy’ Mr Fields explained.

‘It is a slap in the face to the community that the Government fought so hard for almost six months, to keep this document, paid for by taxpayers money, secret.

Call to stop clearing koala habitat in Cherry Tree State Forest. Photo supplied

‘The report called for an urgent response in June, including immediately stopping logging in some areas and putting in place significant additional protections in many others. Some of these areas are still being logged today without those additional protections in place, undermining forest and species recovery from the fires,’ said Mr Fields.

‘This is another example, like the Koala wars, of the ongoing fights over natural resource management within the NSW Government, between the Liberals and Nationals, which ends up in a political stalemate and policy inaction.

‘The Government commissioned this report to mediate a dispute between Matt Kean and John Barilaro’s departments over post fire logging rules and then, either because they didn’t like what it said or because it is too hard to deal with, they’ve just tried to bury it.

‘The failure of the Government to respond to this report in a timely fashion is unacceptable given the precarious ecological state of the forests and the ongoing uncertainty being felt across the logging and timber industry.

Logging Dieback the Premiers Department does not want to see. Photo NEFA

‘The community and industry deserve to know the truth about the impacts and risks of ongoing logging in our native forests and to be part of the conversation about what should happen next.

‘There needs to be an honest conversation with the community about an industry restructure to exit native forest logging and a plan to manage our state forests for ecological recovery, future fire mitigation and resilience,’ he said.

‘Whilst this report will no doubt be devastating to some, it also presents an opportunity for long-term reform to reimagine our state forests as ecological and recreational reserves for the future, to unlock the economic opportunity for nature based tourism while managing the forests for their immense carbon potential as well as their intrinsic importance as critical habitat for wildlife increasingly under pressure from compounding climate threats.’


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8 COMMENTS

  1. So Justin Fields thinks we should do more mining and burning of fossil fuels to replace all timber use with use of non-renewable resources for construction materials, and then do even more mining and burning of fossil fuels to use our public forests for tourism.

    In a climate emergency which is the biggest threat to our forests, as any demonstrated by the bushfires.

    No wonder the logging industry says “the only true wilderness is between a greenie’s ears”. Clearly, they are right about this

  2. I think it is disgusting the way the government are ignoring the plight of the Koalas and every other life form that live in the forest and keep on logging and are ignoring the fact that half the forest went through the terrible bush fires and lost most the the trees.

    • Joan koalas do well in regrowth forests, where there are ample young Eucalyptus shoots for them (and they don’t need nesting hollows).

      It is other species, especially those reliant on nesting hollows, that need areas of unlogged forests

  3. WTF WOULD WE DO WITHOUT THE LIKES OF JUSTIN FIELD ? He is a legend and what all politicians SHOULD BE, but I shall dream on. Europeans have been raping & pillaging our native forests since settlement & still this crap persists. For decades & decades a few honourable pollies & a whole load of environmentalists have been battling/ lobbying/ protesting/ organising citizen scientists / tying themselves to our dwindling native trees & risking their lives BUT yet the logging industry still has the ear of our corrupt Govt. Illegal logging practices in Vict was aired only last night (not for the first time ) on ABC and I have to ask what will change ? Again in NSW a multiplicity of illegal practices has been recorded by ecologists & environmentalists who have to physically take the trouble of actually going into forests to map & identify breaches. THIS should not be necessary as Govt departments SHOULD be doing this, but turn a blind eye. HOWEVER, EVEN WHEN THESE ONGOING BREACHES OCCUR & PRIME CORE KOALA HABITAT WAS LOGGED STILL LOGGING ISN’T STOPPED OR PENALTIES APPLIED??? Our political system is broken , which is bloody heartbreaking BUT we still must be involved otherwise the forces of evil will escalate. Our precious wildlife can not afford for us to just look away. Mediocrity is ecologically illiterate & don’t give a rats otherwise they’d not be voting LNP…VOTE GREEN OR AJP.

  4. “Non renewable ” that’s right Shane.
    Forests are not renewable when continually
    Over harvested , ‘clearfelled ‘.
    …and nothing is as thick as those that can’t comprehend an alternative to the destruction of forests, that are our only hope of reversing the global threat of frying the planet, largely caused by the slash and burn mentality of our knuckle dragging forest ‘industry’.
    Cheers,G”)

  5. The present logging after the fires highlights again the high value of the timber trees provide and the obvious failures of Forestry Depts and many governments to slow the pillage or put in more eucalyptus plantations to supply future timber, difficult as it might be. Timber is highly sought after and getting more expensive by the month as supplies dwindle, but those in charge and those cutting it are going hell for leather to take the last bits before it all gone …. Its panic harvesting: what sort of bandits plunder as if there is no tomorrow? Ones who create no tomorrow …

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