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October 8, 2022

Logging, forests and sustainability – What are the right questions?

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Firefighters battling flames on the Woombah to Iluka road in November 2019 during the Black Summer fires. Photo Ewan Willis.

A serious look at the way NSW forests are managed for logging, supporting native wildlife, and the ongoing climate emergency, particularly following the Black Summer fire of 2019/20 is needed. But the ability of the Upper House committee examining the long-term sustainability and future of the timber and forest products industry to do anything more than ‘prop up’ the logging industry has been questioned. Shooters and Fishers MLC Mark Banasiak is chairing the committee which starts visiting regional NSW communities with its first hearing at Riverina today, 7 February. 

View the hearing at: www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Pages/webcasts.aspx

Burnt wildlife habitat following the Black Summer fires of 2019/20. Photo David Lowe.

North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh said that they ‘welcome an inquiry into the future of the NSW timber industry’ though he says they are ‘not asking the right questions’ and that they ‘intent on identifying how to spend yet more public money propping up clearly unsustainable logging of public native forests’.

Mr Banasiak in a media release stated that ‘The committee recognises that there are a range of factors placing significant pressure on the timber and forest products industry, including the impacts of the 2019/20 bushfires as well as the ongoing pandemic’. 

‘We have gathered evidence on the issues from the many submissions received and the Sydney-based hearings held to date. We are now looking to go out into the regions to meet and listen to the people who work with timber and forest products everyday’.

Mr Pugh agrees that the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires had a massive impact on our state forests. ‘We lost billions of animals, millions of trees and a third of our rainforests in the drought and fires, revealing the developing threat of climate heating and the precariousness of our forests’. 

‘Since the fires tens of millions of dollars of public money have been spent propping up the timber industry, and last year the Forestry Corporation lost $20 million logging public native forests,’ explained Pugh.

Dailan Pugh. Photo Jimmy Malecki.

More than just logging

‘An honest appraisal would show that continued logging of public forests is not in the community’s best economic, social or environmental interests as far greater benefits can be generated by protecting forests and allowing them to mature: increasing carbon capture and storage, increasing water yields to streams and providing increased recreation benefits and tourism opportunities.’

Mr Pugh pointed out that ‘a 2021 study by the University of Newcastle found that protecting 175,000 ha of State Forests between Coffs Harbour and Grafton as the Great Koala National Park would, over the next 15 years, generate additional regional economic output of $1.2 billion and create more than 9,800 extra full-time jobs compared to logging.

Save $60m

‘A 2021 study by Frontier Economics found stopping logging of public native forests in southern NSW would produce a net economic benefit to the state of approximately $60 million, while also reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by almost 1 million tonnes per year over the period 2022-2041, compared to logging.

Retrain the industry

‘Rather than an inquiry to identify how to spend more public money to prop-up an environmentally damaging and uneconomic industry, what we need is an inquiry to determine how best to rapidly transition the 900 people throughout NSW employed in logging public native forests into alternative employment.

I don’t have much faith in the process as when the Shooters and Fishers chaired the 2012 inquiry into public lands they recommended opening up national parks for logging, and the local National Party members supported them,’ he explained.

For further information about the inquiry, including committee membership, and terms of reference, visit the inquiry webpage.

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  1. Dailan Pugh , I take my hat off to you !
    Ever the voice of reason and sanity on these perverse and insane practices. The over-riding, ongoing threat, putting ” significant pressure on the timber and forest products industry” is the incompetence and pork-barreling of this not only unsustainable, but positively dangerous vandalisation of public assets for private gain.
    Not only the perpetrators of this vile destructive industry, but the numerous governments and politicians that have catered to this insanity, should go before The Hague for their crimes against humanity, and more importantly their crimes against nature, in areas that have never even been studied before their extermination.

  2. State Forests from my own experience of using them over many years are generally very well managed.
    Locally have been sustainably harvested for well over 100 years now, providing timber for building/homes etc.
    The contrast between SFs and National Parks pale in comparison regarding fire-management practices.
    The recent bush-fire ‘atrocities’ were a tragedy, but this had been predicted for over 25 yrs- even more so after the infamous NEFA.
    Ground fuel-loads must be controlled to stop another such disaster, both for the timber interests, wildlife and residents.
    This simply has not been done over the intervening years due to activist-inspired political campaigning.
    Banning grazing and forestry management in State Forests increases fuel-loads and thus the distinct possibility of serious wild-fire events yet again.
    Then of course the blame-game will start all over again – skillfully ignoring the past political pandering to people like NEFA that caused this problem in the first place !

  3. The sustainable harvest of high value timber products from our timber production forests is not zero.

    Failure to use our timber production forests to obtain timber for housing means using timber from tropical rainforests, with much higher ecological impact, and/or doing more irreversible mining and burning of fossil fuels to obtain alternative building materials (gyprock, steel, fibre-cement, aluminium, etc), which worsens the number one threat to our forest – climate change. Both of which are happening now; just have a look at Bunnings to see it.

    No amount of counting carbon sequestration in the short term (and assuming it works; that the carbon is not again lost in bushfire) changes this. The carbon emitted from creating those alternate building materials will remain in the atmosphere for millions of years.

    All of this I have explained to Dailan Pugh and NEFA, multiple times, and it is fundamental knowledge of the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources. Primary school kids from Bristol explain it on ABC’s Ecomaths program several times each year.

    But Dailan continues trying to completely shut the forestry industry, not reform it but completely shut it, locking in ongoing irreversible CO2 emissions at an even higher rate than current and thereby locking in the ramping up of the biggest threat to our forests and most of the wildlife in them – climate change.

    He further demonstrates that he really isn’t interested in addressing climate change, by suggesting that increased tourism is the thing to replace forestry with – a completely unnecessary industry that has a very significant irreversible carbon footprint.

    This is destructive zealotry that harms the environment and the community.

    For what? Just to indulge his lifelong hatred of an industry, with long term ecological outcomes becoming collateral damage.

    This is shameful

    • Too true Shane ,
      “The sustainable harvest of high value timber products from our timber production forests is not zero.”…..because if it was these forests would be in the healthy productive state that they were before being raped and destroyed by ‘the forestry industry’. Sustainable forestry is no longer possible as the resource has been destroyed and over- allocated to mills, timber that no longer exists and won’t be available until it regrows in about one thousand years ( The age of the mature trees )
      Perhaps you could learn a little from those kids in Bristol, who I presume understand that ” the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources” is that you don’t destroy the forest in a renewable system. Cheers, G”)

      • Ken, your thinking seems to be that because forestry practice has been unsustainable, therefore it cannot be done sustainably. Because that is what you are saying.

        And it is utter rubbish.

        Sustainable forestry is possible, and necessary. As I explained.

        • No, Shane. What ken is clearly trying to point point out is that you are right, but only if you can practice some restraint for a thousand years. You are clinging on to a fantastical version of “sustainably”.
          Empire destroyed the prospect of an abundant local supply of timber for romantic woodcrafts, just as it had done abroad…
          That is unless you are privileged enough to own a private estate with old growth. We’re only talking about public forests, which are easier to regulate.

  4. Ken I totally & completely agree with your passionate comments (I think I love you Ha!). Dailan is a living legend & has persevered with limitless courage , intelligence and persistence. THE CORRUPT /UNSUSTAINABLE /AGGRESSIVE & LETHAL FORESTRY INDUSTRY has been unaccountable & diligently covert within it’s shameful operations for decades upon decades. Does the Australian public really care though ? IF they did , they would be aware that not only have Govt’s wasted billions of tax payers dollars, BUT that they have destroyed OUR once magnificent native forests & murdered millions of OUR precious wildlife. I for one will never forgive our Govt for this (all knowing engineered ) crime against nature. Yet still mediocrity are content, not to mention ignorant & keep voting for these dangerous, disgusting career politicians . Recently witnessing Scomo cuddle a Koala nearly gave me a seizure. He & his A moral Govt has done EVERYTHING to thwart even the most moderate of protections for Koalas. At least Labor supports The Great Koala National Park . In NSW we witnessed the Nats ( driven by Pork Barilaro) ready to desert the Coalition over minor but positive changes to conserve Koalas on private land. I lose sleep worrying if Labor will have the guts to take on the Forestry industry & I’m not feeling hopeful. How much more incompetence & hubris are the Australian public prepared to accept from these dinosaurs in power ?? Now I’m really despairing ..Sigh 🙁

  5. Ken, your thinking seems to be that because forestry practice has been unsustainable, therefore it cannot be done sustainably. Because that is what you are saying.

    And it is utter rubbish.

    Sustainable forestry is possible, and necessary. As I explained.

    • The nuance is in the difference between one version of “sustainability” another then, surely.
      I would love to know what “selective logging” means to you, while we’re here.

  6. “because forestry practice has been unsustainable, therefore it cannot be done sustainably”
    You are not alone in your despair, Shane.

  7. Where are all the hipsters in Byron going to get their lovely hardwood floors? I guess the forests of Sumatra are a bit less inconvenient for them…Never mind about the vulnerable and less regulated ecosystems there. Not as fun to bang on about though.


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