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Byron Shire
December 3, 2022

No ‘real’ parliamentary debate on logging NSW public native forests

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The aftermath of logging in the Girard State Forest. Photo Dailan Pugh

Last Thursday, October 13 in Sydney the public gallery in the lower house of NSW parliament was packed with citizens hoping to hear their representatives support the community’s calls for an end to the logging of our public native forests.

The debate was forced by the success of a petition with over 21,000 signatures that called for a rapid transition out of logging our native forests. Yet the audience was left severely disappointed with the lack of debate by their representatives on the issue. 

Sue Higgins MLC says we need to change our perception of native forests. Photo supplied.

Greens spokesperson for the environment and agriculture Sue Higginson MLC said that tens of thousands of people from across the state have come together to call for an end to public native forest logging. ‘The case has been made that our public forests are worth more to us standing.

‘The government has made no plans to transition out of this destructive industry and into sustainable plantations in the full knowledge that communities and workers will be left behind by their policies.’

Ms Higginson said that much public native forest estate has been impacted by drought, fires and floods. 

‘We need to change our perception of native forests to recognise them as a vitally important line of defence against both the climate and the extinction crisis, but this senseless government is determined to destroy them.’

The petition

The parliamentary petition called on the NSW parliament to: 1.Transition towards sustainable plantations by 2024.

2. Immediately place a moratorium on public native forest logging.

3. Urgently protect high-conservation value forests.

4. Ban biomass fuel, made from native forest timber.

North East Forests campaigner Sean O’Shannessy. Photo supplied.

Common ground

North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) campaigner Sean O’Shannessy said the debate revealed a remarkable degree of common ground across the chamber with supportive comments from Liberal, ALP, Greens and Independent representatives. 

‘The only substantial dispute with the petition came from the National Party – Minister Dugald Saunders denied that there was logging in state forests.

‘Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis heckled his Liberal Party colleague Shelly Hancock as she introduced and spoke for the petition.’

Mr O’Shannessy said there is a rapidly dawning realisation among all rational participants in the discussion that we should not log native forests.

‘Sustainable plantations will supply our timber needs and our forests will be protected in properly managed reserves. We can not afford to keep subsidising the destruction of our carbon sinks, water catchments and koalas’ homes,’ said Mr O’Shannessy.

NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh. Photo Tree Faerie

Failure of debate

Yet it was the lack of debate on the issues the community had put forward that left NEFA’s Dailan Pugh disappointed.

‘They did not give this petition due consideration; all they had was an incoherent debate about whether to note it,’ he told The Echo. 

‘It was disappointing that the four propositions were not considered individually and debated on their merits.

‘There was no real debate about the propositions put forward in the petition, just a variety of statements by various members, before a vote was taken on whether to “note the petition”.

‘They invite the public to make representations through petitions and then ignore what they are about. I would have welcomed and informed debate about these issues.’

Mr Pugh highlighted that there are two inquiries that recommend stopping native forest logging. The upper house inquiry said it was ‘urgent’ to stop logging NSW State Forests after the Black Summer fires of 2019/20.

‘The position of the most recent upper house inquiry is that the ban on logging should be implemented by the end of this year yet in the lower house they wouldn’t even consider it. 

‘There have been all sorts of questions by ALP and the Greens that have demonstrated the need to stop logging yet almost a year-and-a-half after the report and three years after the devastating Black Summer fires they are not taking the “urgent action” recommended,’ he said.

Logging native forests is not sustainable and the petition called for it to stop. Bob Brown Foundation.

Sustainable?

Ms Higginson said the government claims that sustainable native forest management includes cutting down critical habitat and hollow-bearing trees for threatened species, including koala habitat, clear felling areas of our forests.

‘Bizarrely, the government claims that cutting down our forests is good for the climate crisis in complete contradiction to scientific consensus. Old trees sequester more carbon than young trees, which on its own should be enough for us to be doing everything we can to protect them,’ she said.

‘Parliament could do this [stop logging native state forests] tomorrow if the government would stop blocking this important reform and develop a plan that delivers economic security for communities and protects our precious forests,’ said Ms Higginson.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Q: If this emotional activist petition wins – where will the Community get all the essential hardwood timber for renovations/new housing after our disastrous recent floods?
    A: From overseas of course, with far more damage to their environment and flora and fauna.
    Oh dear, so it’s exactly how NOT to be a good and responsible South Pacific neighbour.

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